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Emailing an Exotic-Animal-for-Hire Service

In the lesser moments of my busy schedule, I recently emailed a Hollywood animal-for-hire service in an attempt to answer a little debate with my flatmate about how much it would cost to rent a panda for a week, and received a serious answer back about dressing up grizzly bears. This struck me as very silly, and so I decided to see how far I could push the matter. All emails are completely genuine.

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From: Henry Burton To: info@hollywoodanimals.com

Hi,

thank you for getting back to me so quickly. how large are the grizzly bears in question? the bear wouldn't have to do a lot, we are producing a film trying to promote awareness of certain charities (e.g; WWF, NSPCC) so would need the bear to stand still for about 8-10 seconds next to some school children. would this be possible? several of the children are ill.

thanks again,

Henry

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From: info@hollywoodanimals.com To: Henry Burton

We have two bears, the smaller one being closer to the size of a panda. They would have to be shot separately from the children and as far as them being still, they could stand on all four paws or even sit on the ground or on a seat but they would move their head and paws while doing so, so they would not be perfectly still.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Wendy

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From: Henry Burton To: info@hollywoodanimals.com

Wendy,

thank you again. I’ve been talking to my colleagues, and we think we might just go ahead and dress up one of the larger children in a panda outfit, try and hit the cutesy angle. in the meantime, do you have any dolphins and badgers that work well together as a double-act? I was thinking about re-making A Few Good Men with animals in key roles, it sounds slightly strange but they recently test-screened a version of Thirteen Days filmed entirely with geese and it went down amazingly. Do you have any creatures that would look good in suits? Matthew Fox has expressed an interest in the project, and I was ideally looking for an animal that he would have a good rapport with, possibly a chaffinch.

Thank you very much for this! I know it is a slightly strange request but that's the line of work we are in!

- Henry

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From: info@hollywoodanimals.com To: Henry Burton

Hi,

The panda suit is probably a good idea.

Sorry, no dolphin and badger team… there is one sea lion available. We do have some amazing tigers and leopards that work together (which is extremely rare), or lions (male and female)….a white male lion…a spotted hyena and some monkeys or chimps (which always look good in a suit). As for the smaller animals, there are raccoons, ferrets, squirrels, ground hogs, skunks, etc… and of course, all the farm animals, horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens….

We have many birds available, parrots, swans, flamingos, crows, pelicans, etc… even little finches…what would you need the chaffinch to do?

If you have a script or something that includes the action required of the animals it may be easier to see which animals would work best.

Hope to speak to you soon!

Wendy

From: Henry Burton To: info@hollywoodanimals.com

Wendy,

what a fantastic array of animals. The use of a chimp in a suit would be fantastic, I think it could work really well. The problem we face though is that the role the chimp would be playing has a small number of dialogue scenes, including a very dramatic moment with a dying walrus. would this be a problem? is there any way the chimp could be trained to mime along to the dialogue, with the lines to be filled in later by a voice artist? Here is a quick example of one scene earlier in the film, I wonder if you could run these lines by the chimp and see if he works well with them.

Chimp: My God, Colonel! It was you all along! Badger: That's right McSweeny. I'm sorry. Chimp: And to think. I trusted you. Badger: Trust is often misplaced. Chimp: So is hate.

There is a deadly silence.

Matthew Fox: I guess neither matter down the barrel of a gun. (Beat). Is that why you killed him? Badger: You can believe what you want. I wasn't there the night Timmy died. Chimp: I don't know what to believe anymore.

Hopefully this is something you think your animals would be suitable for. I'm very excited about this project, but as you can imagine, there are quite a few realistic difficulties! On that note, I have a few quick questions which I was wondering if you knew the answer to:

1) For the scenes involving the chaffinch, would it be possible to get the bird to nod and smile at certain objects, i.e; the clues that are vital to the investigation? 2) Do you have any animals with beards? 3) Is there any animal that can (without causing distress to the animal) sit in a motorised wheelchair? If they could learn to operate it that would be ideal, but not essential.

Again, I can imagine how strange these requests must seem, but this is not an ordinary movie! I expect in years to come this genre of live-action-animal-thrillers will become very popular, which can only mean good things for both our companies.

Sincerely, Henry

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From: info@hollywoodanimals.com To: Henry Burton

Hi,

Are the walrus and the badger going to be CGI? Or are you thinking an animatronics type thing? We can certainly do all kinds of things with this, but we will need very specific actions that you are looking for, for example, in the dramatic moment with the dying walrus, what is the chimp doing? Holding the walrus, or holding his own head in his hands? Is the walrus moving? We would need that information to know how to prep the chimp.

In response to specific points:

“Is there any way the chimp could be trained to mime…”

The chimp has what we call a “talk que” which means he opens and closes his mouth with a sort of slight smile on his face, it looks as though he is talking and that is what you would use for the talking scenes and dub in the voice. Or you could have cloths made for some of the other animals (pigs, dogs, horse, donkey, etc)

“Badger: ...I wasn’t there the night Timmy died. Chimp: I don’t know what to believe any more”

Again we would like to know what the chimp is doing, would he be standing and moving his arms, like he is talking? Holding a briefcase or a gun or anything? Are they inside a studio, outside? What is going on around them?

"1) For the scenes involving the chaffinch, would it be possible to get the bird to nod and smile at certain objects?"

The bird would probably move its head around but they cannot smile, you would have to CGI that . I think a bigger bird like a parrot would be better to actually see the movement of his head. Or maybe a raven? You may be able to get one of the bigger birds to pick something up in its mouth as well.

"2) Do you have any animals with beards?"

How about a Billy goat? Or a fake beard on a horse or a donkey or a pig or something like that?

"3) Is there any animal that can (without causing distress to the animal) sit in a motorised wheelchair? If they could learn to operate it that would be ideal, but not essential."

The chimp or how about a Capuchin monkey, or maybe a raccoon – any one of these could put its hand on the controls. The chair should really be radio controlled, in order for it to be controlled and safe for the animals. We would definitely need to prep any animal with the wheel chair for this.

The very best way to figure this out is to send us a script so that we get the full picture of what is going on and we can make suggestions on which animals would work best and what it would take for us to do it.

I hope this helps….

Wendy :)

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To: info@hollywoodanimals.com From: Henry Burton

Wendy,

Yes, the walrus would be still, and the scene would take place on a Broadway stage in Lisbon while several bearded lemurs dance around it to the tune of "When Will I Be Loved" by Linda Ronstadt. At this point a mongoose dressed as Sigmund Freud makes his way to the front and begins to yodel remorsefully, while the suited chimp holds the head of the walrus and says, "Joey, why-a-you-cry?". Dramatically it's a winner, but it is quite a complicated scene and we are not sure we're going to go ahead with it as it might be a bit too abstract. It's meant to represent Jimmy the Chipmunk's subconscious fears about his failing marriage, but at the moment we're not sure it makes sense. Also we would need about 400 children who look like Marlon Brando to fill the audience and we are not sure this is possible.

As for your other points, Matthew Fox expressed a particular interest to work with a chaffinch, but I’m sure a raven will be fine. Between you and me he is quite a simple man and I’m not sure he would know the difference. The dialogue I showed you would be filmed entirely in the back of a Volvo 340. Is this going to be a problem for the badger? If you would prefer we could use a Volvo 360 instead.

Thank you again,

Henry

P.s: The racoon in a wheelchair will no longer be necessary, we gave it a test-run with one here and it looked silly.

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