Acknowledgement of Country

The NFSA acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways across Australia. We pay respect to their Elders, past and present.



WARNING: The Storm Boy online exhibition contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Navigating the exhibition

You can navigate through this exhibition using the dots and chapter headings left of screen.

The arrow controls at bottom left and right of screen allow you to move back and forward between slides within each chapter.

You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate.

We hope you enjoy this exhibition!

Wild things should be free.

Hide-away Tom

Book to screen

The book Storm Boy by Colin Thiele was published 12 years before the film was made. Writer and producer Sonia Borg adapted the book for the screen. She was told that Thiele's only requirement was that the novel wasn't turned into a sex comedy.

Oral history with screenwriter, Sonia Borg, 1978

'Recreating what the author felt'

Author, Colin Thiele

Storymakers: Colin Thiele


David Gulpilil and Greg Rowe formed a friendship on the set of Storm Boy and called each other big brother and little brother.

Storm Boy

Greg Rowe was 11 years old and a relative unknown when he played Storm Boy. He was discovered by a talent scout at a shopping mall in Adelaide. Forty years later he says 'It was a life shaping moment for me and it'll always be a part of me.'

Greg Rowe interview

The Mike Walsh Show, 16 May 1978

Greg Rowe

Looking back 40 years later

Fingerbone Bill

David Gulpilil, a Yolngu man from Arnhem Land, says 'Pelicans are my totem so it was a special film. We sing and dance to the pelicans.' Adelaide Advertiser, 9 October 2015.

Pelican dance by David Gulpilil

Storm Boy

David Gulpilil interview

The Mike Walsh Show, 2 November 1978

The pelicans

Three pelicans named Sandwich, Carpenter and Dum Dum played Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival. They were raised from chicks by animal trainer Gordon Noble and for a time they lived at the South Australian Film Corporation's swimming pool. Noble's dog Rupert befriended them and the pelicans enjoyed trying to swallow his head for fun.

Greg Rowe

How to keep pelicans happy

Behind the scenes

Filming began on 24 May 1976 and it was primarily shot in the sand dunes near Goolwa, South Australia. Although completed on time and budget, the crew were kept busy retrieving props from freak waves and pulling sunken vehicles out of the sand.


The magical sequence where Mr Percival and Storm Boy are dancing on the beach was unscripted and the crew just happened to capture it.
The three pelicans almost flew off with a flock of wild pelicans in the middle of the shoot. Fortunately their trainer's dog barked after them and all the wild pelicans flew away.
The film screened on the Queen's royal yacht Britannia, in the White House for President Jimmy Carter, and at the palace of Emperor Hirohito in Japan.

The end

Pelican proper number one, special bird.

Fingerbone Bill


Special thanks to the South Australian Film Corporation and Greg Rowe.

Excerpts of The Mike Walsh Show courtesy Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions.

  • Exhibition producer: Beth Taylor
  • Curators: Belinda Hunt and Jennifer Coombes
  • Multimedia producer: Tara Fedoriw-Morris