Playlist TED Conferences

The best animals at TED

Posted by: Jessica Gross

War-HorseHorses, parrots and mosquitos: oh my!

TED2013 will commence in just nine days, and the TED Blog is gearing up for our live, minute-by-minute, coverage. One thing we can’t wait to see: which speaker will bring an animal onstage with them? (Our money is on ornithologist Kees Moeliker.) Sometimes, speakers arrive with a live animal, other times they have a very convincing imitation. Either way, it’s always a fun moment when a member of the animal kingdom makes an appearance in the auditorium, as this playlist reveals.

Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War HorseHandspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse
Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse
TED2011
Puppeteers Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, who created the horses featured in War Horse, explain the mechanics and artistry of making and manipulating their puppets. “An actor struggles to die on stage, but a puppet has to struggle to live,” Kohler says. When they bring a horse, three puppeteers, and a rider on stage, it’s almost impossible to remember that it’s not an animal breathing, strutting, prancing and whinnying right before our eyes.
Einstein the Parrot: A talking, squawking parrotEinstein the Parrot: A talking, squawking parrot
Einstein the Parrot talks and squawks
TED2006
On stage, Einstein, an African grey parrot, oinks like a pig, makes laser noises, yells “OH MY GOD!,” dances, and even sings “Happy Birthday” to Al Gore. Hilarious, charming and truly uncanny.
Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?
Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?
TED2008
In a talk about how she creates whole people and worlds from her imagination, Amy Tan credits not only her beliefs and thought processes, but also her “muse”—her sweet, tiny dog, who emerges from her handbag to strut across the stage.
Robert Full: Learning from the gecko's tailRobert Full: Learning from the gecko's tail
Robert Full: Learning from the gecko’s tail
TED2009
Biologist Robert Full brings to the stage a gecko robot that mimics the animal’s incredible foot structure and movement, which allows it to climb—only, though, with the added (and quite surprising) functionality of its tail.
Bill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and educationBill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and education
Bill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and education
TED2009
In a talk in part about malaria, Bill Gates releases live mosquitoes into the audience. “There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience,” he says, to laughter. (These mosquitoes are not, of course, infected.)
Nellie McKay: "The Dog Song"Nellie McKay: "The Dog Song"
Nellie McKay sings “The Dog Song”
TED2008
Is that a dog pitter-pattering and panting? In a tribute to her own dog, singer and pianist Nellie McKay does a fairly convincing (and pretty adorable) impression.

Tune in to the TED Blog for live coverage of TED2013 beginning on February 25. And read much more about “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered” »