The True Story That Inspired The Globally Renowned TV Drama ‘Animal Kingdom’

It was inspired by events in Australia.
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Television series Animal Kingdom was quick to attract buzz following its release in 2016—and five seasons later it remains a global hit. 

But interestingly, it wasn’t the first time the crime-filled narrative had appeared on-screen. The television series itself was based on a 2010 movie of the same name. Even more interestingly, that very movie was inspired by real life events—and they happened right here in Australia. 

While the television series is based in the US, its narrative runs a similar synopsis to its predecessor film, written by David Michôd. 

The story follows a teenage boy who, after the death of his mother, moves in with his estranged relatives named The Codys. 

The family, spearheaded by a female leader, Smurf, are embroiled in the underworld of crime. It’s here that our main character also becomes involved in the dark and murky criminal world. Loyalties are tested, while violence and suspense is at every corner. It all makes for one intriguing watch.

So what exactly happened in real life that lead to the creation of such a narrative? Here, the true story that inspired Animal Kingdom. 

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Is Animal Kingdom based on a true story?

While the series’ narrative itself isn’t based specifically on a true story, its origins certainly have a real life connection to events that unfolded within the 1980s and 1990s  in Melbourne, Victoria. 

David Michôd, writer of the 2010 Australian film that led to the US television series told The Guardian that he was inspired the infamous gangland crimes and more specifically, the Pettingill family. 

The writer also told the publication that some of the narrative was inspired by 1988’s Walsh Street shootings. 

He began writing the script at age 18, citing his interest in true crime and finding crime books “a strangely useful cultural and geographical guide to the city”.

If you haven’t seen the film, let the cast alone convince you—Australian legends Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Dan Wylie are standouts. 

And while the characters are fictional, the storyline of both the movie and the US series stems from true crimes in Australia’s history—no small feat considering the show’s global following. 

(Credit: TNT)

What is Animal Kingdom about? 

The television show centres on protagonist Joshua ‘J’ Cody, who lives with his relatives and grandmother, also known as Smurf. 

The fifth season has largely covered the aftermath of Smurf’s passing and how J and the Codys have forged ahead to maintain their coalition without a leader.

Of course, Smurf hasn’t been cast out of the series for good, throughout the season we’ve seen her flashbacks, slowly piecing together clues and references in relation to her family’s position today. 

It was announced earlier this year a sixth and final season is in the pipeline—so expect that to tie up any loose ends. 

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