Magazine article American Cinematographer

Lions and Tigers and Practically Everything

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Lions and Tigers and Practically Everything

Article excerpt

Fierce jungle beasts that rage and fight their way across the screen for "DR. MOREAU" are actually much-loved gentle pussy-cats off camera

If "THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU" proves to be a box office hit, part of its success will have to be credited to the magnificent animals that appear in the film and to their skilled and patient trainers. The animals were provided by the Enchanted Village in Buena Park, California, which is owned and operated by Ralph and Toni Heifer.

The comments which follow detail some of the problems of working with the animals on this picture and the methods used to solve those problems and get the spectacular action required:

RALPH HELPER

Animal Supervisor

We've been in the business of working with animals for about 26 years and, during that period of time, we've done about 5,000 motion picture and television productions.

Many years ago when I was quite young, I was doing stunt work and working animals in movies for other people. I was doing it their way - which was referred to as "Fear Training" - and that method kept putting me in the hospital, because it was the wrong way to do it. The animals didn't enjoy it and neither did I. It was nothing but fang and claw, which I believe was largely an ego trip in those days.

It was at that time that I developed a new concept, a new way to go, and I called it "Affection Training". It is a type of training based on the emotional relationship between man and animal. It's also based on love and respect, plus patience and understanding. That procedure has revolutionized the motion picture and TV industries, in that it permits them to do things that never would have been possible with Fear Training. It has made possible such shows as "DAKTARI", "GENTLE BEN" and "COWBOY IN AFRICA".

Because of the way "THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU" is written, it could not have been done without Affection Training. Fear Training could not have accomplished what this script called for. The whole concept of love with respect, we now know, is the way to go, and we hope other people will pick up on it. We would like to see it used in conservation programs and veterinary medicine and progress to a point where it will help animals to survive. As it is today, most animals are not Affection Trained and they are leaving the earth very fast.

There is what we call the "wall of fear", and under those conditions animals do not breed. You walk into a zoo and there's a wall of fear between you and the animals. That's a horrible existence for an animal - knowing that during every waking moment the enemy is walking around him. With Affection Training, that's not the case. There's a great emotional love between the people and the animals. Therefore, the breeding programs are good. It's a whole new outlook on how man should work with animals, and we are very excited about it.

"THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU" is a unique project in that the producer, Sandy Howard, said to me: "Ralph, would you literally write the last ten minutes of the film for me? I want a cataclysmic ending with a lot of animal action, but the scriptwriters couldn't be specific because they are not sure what your animals can do."

Well, they can do quite a lot of things. For example, in that final sequence we have a Brahma bull jumping through a simulated solid wall with a Lionman on his back. We have tremendous tiger fights. We have a black leopard falling off a two-story building. We have a wild boar that charges out of the barn dragging a man. We have a man being mauled by a 500-pound lion. All sorts of things like that are cut together at the end of the film to make it quite a finale. It could end up as a classic of its type.

The producers are super people to work for. They have given us everything that was needed to make a picture of this type. My wife, Toni, has been here during the entire time of shooting. I've had to go back and fourth quite a bit, but she's literally baby-sat the whole production. …

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