Freshwater eels in media

This came from a series of posts I made to the EelTown.org Facebook group during Christmastime, freshwater eels in movies, television, cartoons and video games. There are many more examples like these, but not every example has a convenient YouTube clip. I will work on posting more, but it will take some time to extract the clips with Adobe Premiere, plus I have to make sure I’m following the law re: “fair use”. If you have more clips to add, or additional information on any of these examples, please post a comment. This is the longest original article I’ve posted here yet, hope you enjoy!

Note: There are thousands of examples of other kinds of eels in media, especially marine eels (moray, conger, wolf, gulper and other eels), electric “eels” (which are actually knifefish), lampreys, etc. Since this site focuses on freshwater eels I am not including those, except for one example at the very end that I couldn’t resist. Also, quality varies from one video to the next, but this is unavoidable unless the copyright holders decide to post a higher quality version.

Eels in Film

Zlati Uhori (1979). Title literally translates to “Golden Eels”. There is a European eel (Anguilla anguilla) at about 42:10. According to IMDB, this was adapted from a novel about life in Czechoslovakia during WWII and made into a TV movie.

From 1984, here’s the “Dinner of Doom” scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  It’s hard to see exactly what kind of eels these are, but since the cuisine is from India, it’s likely they’re supposed to be Indian mottled eels, Anguilla bengalensis bengalensis.

“Excuse me, could we have an eel?”. From the movie Withnail and I, 1987.

Eels mentioned in Rush Hour, 1998. See also this part where Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) finds out he is eating eel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAmeMF1b_jU. (Would have liked to organize these clips a bit better, but I don’t own the movie and these were the best I could find.)

The “Lake Scene” from Love Actually (2003). Although no eels are actually shown, it does include the dialogue: “There better not be eels in here!”
“Don’t disturb the eels!”

“Why are there so many fish in France?”

From the TV movie Temple Grandin (2010). Eels are mentioned at the end and even included in Temple’s sketches.

Made in China is a Korean film released in 2014. According to the description on IMDB:”It’s David versus Goliath when a man, Chen, uncovers a corporate conspiracy involving eels tainted by mercury. As he sneaks into South Korea to investigate, Chen finds a connection with a woman named Mi.”

Eels in the film A Cure for Wellness (2017). No audio in this clip. Probably not good for people with a fear of drowning. I have not seen this movie and have no idea why this guy was locked in a tank with eels, but according to one reviewer, the eels are the best thing about this movie: http://www.horrorhomeroom.com/eels-best-thing-cure-wellness/. I’m told they show up in a few other scenes too, including one involving a bathtub, but thus far there are no clips of this on YouTube.

Eels in television

“Quick, Niles! Start killing eels!”

“The Innkeepers” episode of Frasier, originally airing on May 16th, 1995. This is not the full episode, just a series of clips, possibly for copyright reasons. Several mentions of eels, the chef’s specialty is Anguilla and a table full of restaurant critics want to try it. One of the funniest eel-related clips I’ve ever seen.

Friends. “The One with Unagi” episode, originally airing February 24th, 2000. (No eels are actually shown, but Phoebe is the one character who knows that unagi means freshwater eel). Only the first scene shows the discussion of the word, the rest of the clip is more about Ross’s false sense of situational awareness.

The “Wildboyz” go to New Zealand and discover some longfin eels at about 1:20 in. This episode originally aired on December 7th, 2003. The on-screen text shows the wrong name for New Zealand longfin eel, it should say Anguilla dieffenbachii but instead they put Anguilla reinhardtii, which is actually the scientific name for Australian longfin eel.

The clip purports to show an eel biting down on this man’s finger but there is no “death roll” by the eel, I would guess these fish are regularly fed at that location and only looking for a morsel of food, not to actually attack him.

 

The Extreme Halloween episode of Chopped on the Food Network. Originally aired October 6th, 2013. More on this episode here: http://chopped.wikia.com/wiki/Extreme_Halloween. See also the After Hours content here, to see how the judges handled the eel: http://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/shows/2014/08/chopped-after-hours-ultimate-champs

Cold River Cash (2014). Photo courtesy IMDB.
Cold River Cash (2014). Photo courtesy IMDB.

The TV show “Cold River Cash” followed three teams of eel fishermen in Maine (Season 1, 2014).

River monsters, season 3 (April 17th, 2011). New Zealand Longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii) migration.

Another clip from the same episode.

An episode in season 7 (May 10th, 2015) features Anguilla marmorata.

“In this story, a fishing community lives near a lake and has depended on eels from time immemorial. A fishing corporation has gained a monopoly on the eels in the lake (probably a sound, not a lake). A local group of men are caught poaching eels and go on trial.” (H/T Paul Thompson for this description.)

Eels in Animation

Animated eels in The Water Babies 1978. (They first appear about 8 minutes in, I think their last appearance is at around 11 minutes.) Seems kind of dark for a kid’s movie, although I haven’t seen the entire film. Based on the art style and accents, these appear to be European eel (Anguilla anguilla).

Unagi Inu from Tensai Bakabon
Unagi Inu from Tensai Bakabon

Unagi Inu (literally “eel dog”) from the anime series Tensai Bakabon (1999-2000). Read more about him here: http://tokyomango.com/tokyo_mango/2010/01/the-legend-of-unagi-inu-explained.html

Dino the eel in
Dino the eel in “Flint the Time Detective”.

From the show “Flint the Time Detective” (shown 2000-2001; based on the Japanese manga-turned-anime Jikū Tantei Genshi-kun (時空探偵ゲンシクン), Dino (the eel) and Mite (the frog) are the henchmen of Petra (right).

The “Dueling Eds” episode of Ed, Edd and Eddy. At 8:40 in, join Rolf with the eels of forgiveness. This was a rather bizarre show for kids, with this episode originally airing on December 14th 2001. Video is only 1/4 screen, presumably because the uploader does not hold the copyright.

Spongebob and Patrick play a game of “Eels and Escalators” (basically Chutes and Ladders). This episode originally aired on March 21st, 2003. In one episode Patrick says this is his favorite game, although in another episode he says it is Parcheesi.

An eel on Spongebob (courtesy spongebob.wikia.com).
An eel on Spongebob (courtesy spongebob.wikia.com).

An earlier episode of Spongebob (Your Shoe’s Untied, November 2nd, 2000) featured what appeared to be a yellow-stage Anguillid eel inside the Krusty Krab. Spongebob asks her for help in tying his shoes, but she says she is an eel and doesn’t wear shoes. (Photo only as I could not find a decent quality clip to share).

Eel pie on The Simpsons, from Treehouse of Horror XV, November 7th, 2004. Quality is not great, looks like someone filmed it off their TV. Eel pie references at 1:30 and 5:40 in, turns out this is Chief Wiggum’s favorite food.

Eels on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If you’ve never seen this show before, it’s the kind of humor geared to appeal to teenage boys and will probably seem stupid/offensive to everyone else. This episode originally aired on December 13th, 2009. The eels show up near the end.

The Eel, The Weasel and the Vulture. This was a short film that premiered in NYC in 2017.

This was made in Germany for Christmas 2017, featuring many jokes on the word “aal” (German for eel). H/T Aquaflo Steinovic for posting this one.

Eels in Video Games

Eel boss from
Eel boss from “Apidya”. Taken from a YouTube video by Ironclaw.

An eel is the end-level boss in stage two of the Commodore Amiga game Apidya, (C) Play Byte (1992). The artwork makes species identification ambiguous but the water lily (genus Nymphaea) confirms this is freshwater. Screenshot from a YouTube video by Ironclaw of longplays.org.

Starting in 1996, Nintendo has featured eels in their Mario games. It’s questionable what kind of eels these are however, because their appearance and behavior suggest a Moray eel and Nintendo has referred to this character as “Maw-ray” in some places. On the other hand, Nintendo has also called it Unagi (Japanese for freshwater eel, Anguilla japonica) so perhaps they have taken some creative license here. There’s a few other eel-like characters in the clip too, so decide for yourself what they represent.

American eel (Anguilla rostrata) are featured in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series. There are many games in this series, but it appears the eel first appeared in Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest) for the N64 in 2001, (which was re-released as Animal Crossing for the Game Cube the same year) followed by Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005), Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008) and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012). It may appear in other games too, please post a comment if you know more.

Catching an American eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Rapala Pro Bass Fishing for the XBox 360, released September 28th, 2010 by Activision.

In 2015, Sega used eels to promote the game Alien: Isolation.

Eels in the video game Prey, (C) 2017 Arkane Studios. It takes place on an alien planet, but they are listed as being in the genus Anguilla at one point. (They are also available as sushi or in jellied form.) See a discussion about them on the Steam Community forums here and more gameplay footage here.

The eels seem to be a kind of inside joke at Arkane, who also included characters known as the “Dead Eels Gang” in the 2012 game Dishonored. They also talk about the eels in their Reddit “Ask Me Anything”: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/691ze4/hi_reddit_we_are_arkane_studios_creators_games/

And finally, an honorable mention:

Here’s the Bay Watch “Eel Nino” episode (November 10th, 1997). This does not actually feature a freshwater eel, it looks more like a moray but is described as an electric eel (which, long time eel residents will recall, is not a true eel at all). But isn’t it worth it to see David Hasselhoff save people from a 20ft long, killer eel?

-Nick Walker

Nick Walker
Nick Walker

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