Dolittle: A Potted History

From his first appearance in a series of World War One letters to Robert Downey Jr.’s upcoming big-screen take – in ODEON cinemas from 7 February – the character of Doctor Dolittle has quite a history. Here, in handy Q&A format, we reveal everything there is to know about the animal-loving physician.

Robert Downey Jr. and friends set sail for adventure in Dolittle – in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.

WHO… is he?

Doctor John Dolittle is a character created by English author Hugh Lofting for a series of early 20th-century children’s books.

He is thought to be inspired by the real-life surgeon John Hunter.

With Rex Harrison, Eddie Murphy and others playing the eponymous Doctor in the past, we're excited to see the latest interpretation led by the enigmatic Robert Downey Jr. 

WHEN… did the character first appear?

Dolittle first appeared in a series of illustrated letters from Lofting to his children, which he sent from the trenches during World War One.

In 1920, The Story Of Doctor Dolittle was published, the first of 12 books about the animal-loving physician.

One hundred years later, the much-loved character lives on.

Robert Downey Jr. is the eponymous doctor in Dolittle – in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.
Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson plays talking parrot Poly in Dolittle. See the film in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.

WHAT… is he known for?

Doctor Dolittle is famous for his ability to talk to animals - and when we say talk, we mean ‘really’ talk...

Taught by his parrot friend Polynesia, Dolittle talks to creatures great and small, from his pig pal Gub-Gub to his monkey mate Chee-Chee.

They live together in a fictional town in the West Country known as Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.

WHICH… actor is playing him this time?

Dolittle sees Robert Downey Jr. donning the doctor's elegant hat, in the Iron Man actor’s first non-MCU movie since 2014’s The Judge.

The two-time Oscar nominee plays the role with trademark panache – even if that meant handling a Welsh accent. Downey Jr. has been quoted as saying the lilt is “the single hardest accent on Earth”.

Robert Downey Jr. sports a Welsh accent as Doctor John Dolittle in Dolittle. See it in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.
Join Robert Downey Jr. and friends on the adventure of a lifetime in Dolittle – in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.

WHO… stars as well?

Dolittle boasts an extraordinary supporting cast of Oscar winners – Rami Malek, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Octavia Spencer and Marion Cotillard – and Oscar nominees – Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes and Kumail Nanjiani.

This illustrious group play a mix of live-action characters and CGI animals - the results are eye-poppingly real.

Robert Downey Jr. talks to the animals in Dolittle – in ODEON cinemas from 7 February.

Set in 19th-century England, this big-budget update of the popular Hugh Lofting stories sees an eccentric doctor with the ability to talk to animals embarking on a perilous adventure to find a cure for the desperately ill Queen Victoria.

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