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Funny story...

Michael Stumpf

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So, some of you may know, but in November and December of 2003, I was down in San Diego shooting a feature called "Hairy Tale" (well actually reshooting about 35-40% of it because it was...well to be blunt...pretty much horribly done the first time around, don't tell Warner Bros. but because of our time constraits, only a fraction improved this time). The story revolves around a Chimpanzee, Matthew Modine, and a boy he meets. No, this is not a Michael Jackson type story. :P


Anyway, one of our shooting days took place at the San Diego zoo. The part of the story there was that Matthew Modine's character takes the Chimp there to leave it in the hands of a zookeeper (played by Tommy Davidson) who is a friend of Matthew's character. (People were trying to steal the chimp so he figured the Zoo was a good safe place for a bit).


Well, in the story, the Chimp gets loose and wants to leave. Tommy of course, makes an announcement that a chimp is on the loose, but not to worry. Only to say, "if they only knew how dangerous this chimp can be" while the microphone was still on.

This, of course, wreaks havoc in the zoo. People running, the chimp supposedly chasing them. (This is where I nearly got mauled by one of our male Chimp's while in low mode running all over the place doing "chimp vision" and what I call "steadicam held," you know when the director asks for your steadicam shots to be "less steady and a bit more like handheld." That's another story).



While doing these shots, I noticed we were never amongst ANY other animals. we were near the entrance of the zoo in a "jungle" like environment. We sent a 2nd unit crew back up to LA to shoot cut away shots of other animals.

So curiousity guides me to ask the producer, "why aren't we just shooting the animals here?"

His response, "San Diego zoo doesn't want to be affiliated with a story where an animal gets loose." I said, "did you tell them it's a MOVIE and not a documentary?" And he said, "yeah, you know that, I know that, the audience will know that, but they seem to think some people won't."


So, off to the LA Zoo we send the "B" Camera Operator to shoot 2nd unit.


And lo and behold, I turn on the news last night to see.

"Gracie, the chimp, has escaped her compound for the fourth time in less than 4 years. 9,000 people were evacuated from the LA Zoo for safety measures."


How absolutely funny is that. I guess the San Diego Zoo people had a point. And I guess the LA Zoo people figured, "well, since it takes place here from time to time, why not portray it in a movie."


Anyway, I got a kick out of the irony.

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This is where I nearly got mauled by one of our male Chimp's while in low mode

Beware them Monkeys! While filming "Tarzan and the Great River", Dinky the chimp lashed out at star Mike Henry and ripped his jaw open, requiring twenty stitches to close and giving him a 3 day case of Monkey Fever delirium that required 3 weeks to recuperate from.


Unfortunately, Dinky didn't have a SAG card so when he subsequently had a nervous breakdown he was given "The Big Sleep".


Jim "primate-a-phobe" Bartell

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That's one tiny chimp in that shot. We had males that were nearly twice that size.


You know, I thought chimps were nice and cuddly. They are to an extent, but when they get upset or "amped" up they are a handful.


When I made the comment to the trainers, glad they aren't Gorillas, he said, "why, they are easier to work with than chimps." I said, "really, why is that?"


He said, "because Gorillas have nothing to prove, they know they are the king when they are around, chimps on the otherhand, especially the males, want to challenge people/other animals to see whose boss."


He went on to say, Chimps are "much more" aggressive than Gorillas.

Chimps, like humans will kill there own kind, and in a gruesome way (by literally tearing their limbs off and EATING them while the invading chimp is still alive.)

He said it was the most disturbing thing he (the trainer) has ever witnessed.


The 3 chimps we had, (two big males and a smaller female) were great, but the males went off the handle a couple of times. Ellie, the female was an absolute doll. As loveable and affectionate as a pet dog.


But yes, when a chimp flies off the handle, look out, things will get broken, and you just hope it ain't YOU!!


All three trainers stopped Jonah from laying me on my back with my rig in low mode. Jonah was about 5 feet (or about 1/2 a second) away from pummeling me.

I was moving backward and he was in a full run forward. He was chasing extras (the back two of which were trainers of course) and I had a trainer on each side of me. When we got to the stop point (at which I had about 3 feet before a railing) Jonah didn't want to stop!! He was so amped up like a rushing running back and headed DIRECTLY at me!


The female trainer (who I immediately afterward expressed my deepest thanks and newfound love for her) grabbed the chimp and she went straight down on her BACK. She tackled him like a linebacker. The two male trainers at my side were right on top of the chimp a split second later.


Needless to say, I had NO problem giving the trainer a backrub later after she mentioned she was sore after that take down.


It's amazing the strength those "little" suckers have. They could rock their truck back and forth (a full size Ford Van) with ease.


If I knew how to put pictures up, I'd post a couple. They aren't great pictures anyway.

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If I knew how to put pictures up, I'd post a couple. They aren't great pictures anyway.


Hey Michael,


When you create a post you will see that it says "File Attachements" at the bottom. Take a picture that you scanned or from your digital Camera and open it in PhotoShop save it as "Webimage" and resize it to be under 75k. I try usually to make it smaller then/or around 30k, makes for a quick upload on the forum and the size is not to big.


I'm a quick learner... okay, okay... my wife told me...

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