Lemmings have been getting a bad rap for 50 years. We all “know” that lemmings are rodents that periodically throw themselves off a cliff because, well, because all the other lemmings are doing it. “Lemmings” has become synonymous for sheeple willing to follow any leader, invariably to a cosmic doom.
The truth is that lemmings don’t do anything of the kind, and that we’ve all been poisoned by the Disney machine. All that “lemmings off the cliff” b.s. was manufactured for dramatic effect and fed into our shared consciousness by the miracle of television.
Lemming suicide is fiction. Contrary to popular belief, lemmings do not periodically hurl themselves off of cliffs and into the sea. Cyclical explosions in population do occasionally induce lemmings to attempt to migrate to areas of lesser population density. When such a migration occurs, some lemmings die by falling over cliffs or drowning in lakes or rivers. These deaths are not deliberate “suicide” attempts, however, but accidental deaths resulting from the lemmings’ venturing into unfamiliar territories and being crowded and pushed over dangerous ledges. In fact, when the competition for food, space, or mates becomes too intense, lemmings are much more likely to kill each other than to kill themselves.
Disney’s White Wilderness was filmed in Alberta, Canada, which is not a native habitat for lemmings and has no outlet to the sea. Lemmings were imported from for use in the film, purchased from Inuit children by the filmmakers. The Arctic rodents were placed on a snow-covered turntable and filmed from various angles to produce a “migration” sequence; afterwards, the helpless creatures were transported to a cliff overlooking a river and herded into the water. White Wilderness does not depict an actual lemming migration — at no time are more than a few dozen lemmings ever shown on the screen at once. The entire sequence was faked using a handful of lemmings deceptively photographed to create the illusion of a large herd of migrating creatures.