TNB Night Owl–Cane Toads: An Unnatural History

Cane toad, photo by Brian Gratwicke

A conversation in our house tonight:

Alien Motives: Do you have an idea of a movie we could do for the Night Owl tonight?

Me: Ooh, I could do something on ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II. I swear, that was the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever seen.

AM: I was thinking more along the lines of something they’d actually enjoy watching.

Me: Oh. How about that cane toad documentary?




And that is how I came to present to you tonight’s cult movie suggestion, CANE TOADS: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY (1988).

CANE TOADS tells of how, in the 1930s, Australian sugar cane farmers had troubles with the cane beetles eating their crops. Word had spread that Puerto Rico and Hawaii had success with the cane toads eating cane beetles, and it seemed like a natural idea to import the amphibians to the Australian continent to take care of things. There was a problem, though–the Australian cane beetles lived at the top of the sugar cane stalks, and cane toads can’t climb. However, what they did have was a great climate and other bugs for the toads to eat. Instead of taking care of the grubs they multiplied–exponentially. Soon the cane toad became the real threat to the Australian ecosystem.

So what makes this such a cult hit that the DVD commands $50+ on EBay? It has a great combination of fantastic editing and a unique Australian sense of self-parody. History is combined with the toads fans and detractors talking about the joys and terrors of the animals, which are also combined with sequences shot from the toad’s point of view so by the time the movie ends you both pity the Australian farmers and empathize with the toads.

The entire 47 minute film is available to watch on YouTube:

Question of the night: what’s your favorite animal movie?

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