Getting animals to dazzle on screen is a wild job Uggie the dog starred in the film "The Artist." At left, Jeremy Irvine appears in a scene from "War Horse." (AP photos)
Getting animals to dazzle on screen is a wild job
Lexile

For animal trainers on film sets, the job can be wild. Getting snakes on a plane takes a bit of heat or light, but cajoling a bear to perform for the camera can require buckets of fried chicken.

Casey the bear, seen in "Evan Almighty" and other movies, had that demand written into his contract. KFC was his favorite, and it had to be fresh. Sometimes, on remote locations, it would take a 90-minute drive to get to the nearest fast food outpost, his trainer said.

The story is among those in the book "Animal Stars," a behind-the-scenes look at how trainers get species from badgers to bears to safely do what dazzles. Set for release Sept. 25, the book is co-written by the head of the American Humane Association, whose entertainment unit is the industry's only sanctioned animal welfare program. The book celebrates the unit's 75th anniversary this year.

The group will come on set for a fee to ensure animal safety. If all goes well, it allows the familiar tagline "No animals were harmed in the making of this film" to roll in movie credits.

But for another animal welfare group, the efforts are not enough. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it opposes the use of live animals in film and television work. And if animals appear on camera, there are ways to make the work more humane, said Kathy Guillermo, a PETA senior vice president.

"A behaviorist would be very helpful, and somebody who can enforce the law should be there, too," she said about film sets. The American Humane Association recently required all of its on-set representatives to be veterinarians.

The book features quotes from actors and directors like Quentin Tarantino, who says animals need an advocate.

"They need somebody saying, 'No, it's too much.' 'They're too tired.' 'It's too scary for them.' 'Something could happen,'" the "Django Unchained" director said in the book. "You can do amazing, eye-popping things. You just need the time to train the animals and get them ready so they don't get hurt."

Trainers like Nicholas Toth also offer their insights. Toth divulged that besides Casey's KFC fix, the bear refused to leave his trailer if it rained.

It's a bit easier for Jules Sylvester, a snake wrangler and herpetologist for nearly 45 years whose 18-foot Burmese python was the star of "Snakes on a Plane." He also provided 450 other snakes.

Snakes can't exactly be trained, he says, so if you want them to move in a certain direction, you work with light, height and heat.

The book features a poignant passage about a monkey on the set of "Night at the Museum" and the late actor Robin Williams.

Williams preferred to spend time between takes with Crystal the monkey, trainer Thomas Gunderson wrote. When the monkey's scenes wrapped, Williams and the rest of the cast gave her a big card and a cake.

"Laughter filled the soundstage when I let her dive headfirst into the dessert," Gunderson wrote.

Critical thinking challenge: What do the American Humane Association and PETA disagree opon, and why?

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COMMENTS (18)
  • raynac-Koc
    9/22/2014 - 11:43 a.m.

    Seems like it would be very difficult to train an animal to do the amazing things that they end up capturing on camera. Patience and a good trainer are crucial to having these animal cooperate successfully

  • MJade-Sti
    9/25/2014 - 09:33 a.m.

    Wow! I would love to be someone that works with animals and trains them! That would be the best job ever!! I think waiting for an animal to be read is good for some people that don't have patience. I wounder if you have to have a perfect record, would you still be able to work of do that job??

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    9/25/2014 - 01:12 p.m.

    Animals and movies go together like vanilla ice cream and hot fudge... they belong together! As long as they are well trained, not being abused, and getting proper respect, there is no reason that they shouldn't be allowed to "act" in movies. Half of the time, my favorite part of a movie involves an animal.

  • josiem2
    9/25/2014 - 01:18 p.m.

    The wild dog can actor very good! when the monkeys sceses wrapped, Williams and the rest of the cast gave her a big card and a cake. The Robin Williams are actor very good and funny! he taught to the wild dog and the dog can understand what they says about.

  • haileyr-Koc
    9/28/2014 - 11:53 p.m.

    I think this articles brings out the best of both sides of trained animals being in movies or shows. I believe that it is not right because what if the animal doesn't want to do the excessive training it takes to be in a movie for as little as five minutes. I believe that they should stop training animals for movies or shows since now we have the ability to make animated animals, so why not just do that? It would save a lot of time, money and effort.

  • Maryj-Lam
    9/30/2014 - 12:01 p.m.

    Wow!! I have always wondered how you get animals to act so perfect in movies. It is very fascinating learning about that. It is amazing what animals can be trained to do.Animals are a lot smarter than some people think!

  • brianfantana
    9/30/2014 - 01:53 p.m.

    I think they disagree with having the animals keep working and filming even if they are to tired or having them do something that the animal could get hurt. I think they are worried about this because animals are just like humans, they get tired and they can get hurt easily just like humans.

  • tevinb3
    10/10/2014 - 09:55 a.m.

    Why do they want animal in cameras? TO ME animals are ugly so they shouldent be in cameras.HOW its a wild job? can youll handle the animals

  • diamondj4
    10/10/2014 - 10:28 a.m.

    This is about animals that play in movies and how hard it is to get them to coopriate. Sometimes the trainer of the animals have to give them pieces of fresh chicken from KFC. So that makes it easy for them to listen and keep the animals safe.

  • patrickellis
    10/10/2014 - 10:43 a.m.

    Animal traniers with animals trying to get animals to preform for the cammera.It takes an amount of heat to get the snakes on the plane to preform for the camera. The other animals it takes bukets of chicken for them to perform.

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