Monkey is top dog among animal actors
A monkey who's starred in 25 movies over two decades was top dog at the sixth annual Pawscars. It is the animal version of the Oscars. Those are the annual awards given to best human actors in movies.
A beaming Crystal accepted the "lifetime diva achievement award." She waved a statue over her head in triumph.
The monkey looked every bit the part. She wore a pink, floor-length gown and necklace during the show. It was streamed online.
Crystal is a Capuchin monkey. She played a Ben Stiller-slapping, key-stealing primate in "Night at the Museum." The primate also played a drug-dealing monkey in "Hangover Part II." Crystal is "the Angelina Jolie of animal stars," said "NCIS" actress Pauley Perrette. She hosted the show with teen actor Lou Wegner.
Holding her tiny hand, Perrette asked the primate a question.
"So Crystal, you have starred with some of the top leading men of all times Bradley Cooper, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon, Robin Williams. Did you have a favorite?"
Crystal nodded. Her "answer" appeared on screen.
"Robin did call me his favorite leading lady. But my favorite leading man has to be my trainer Tom Gunderson."
The show honors other animal actors in various categories.
Animal award shows have grown in popularity. Pets already took the limelight at the World Dog Awards, the Puppy Bowl and Kitten Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday. And, of course, the Westminster dog show.
Unlike the Oscars, the Pawscars are low-key. The hosts announced the awards from armchairs in Perrette's guest house. That is located in Hollywood, California. Crystal perched on a nearby ottoman. Other winners were sent an official Pawscars certificate and special treat.
Praise for animals on set doesn't come without detractors. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says live animals don't belong in film and TV work.
The American Humane Association is the group that hosts the Pawscars. It has a 75-year-old program that ensures the safety of animal actors. The association gives its approval by allowing the familiar "No Animal Was Harmed" tagline in movie credits.
Other Pawscars include:
BEST YOUNG ANIMAL PERFORMER
A trio of pit bull puppies won. The dogs appeared in "The Drop." It took T, Puppers, Ice and a makeup artist to bring to life Rocco. Its the name of the dog that appears in the mob drama. Puppies grow so fast that the film needed three. Non-toxic makeup was used to make them match.
BEST SUPPORTING EQUINE
The award went to Dale. He's a horse in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." He carries the apes' leader. It looks like the apes ride bareback. That is thanks to special-effects markers on the saddles. The markers are removed in post-production, Perrette said. In scenes where the horses appear to be jumping over fire, they are actually jumping over a foot-high bar with flickering lights.
BEST AQUATIC PERFORMANCE
The honor went to Savannah, who plays a dolphin that dies in "Dolphin Tale 2." She avoided having to learn a death scene thanks to animatronics. As for the other marine life, the American Humane Association made sure no animal worked more than an hour without a break.
The animals of "Wild" prevailed. They include Muffet the horse, Dharma the fox, Fred the rattlesnake, Tess the dog, Sport the rabbit and Taiga the llama. In the film about a woman's hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, 40 frogs covered a sleeping Reese Witherspoon. A foot-high barrier surrounding her meant no single frog was lost, Wegner said.
Critical thinking challenge: In "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," why didn't the horses actually jump over fire?