Dr. Dolittle 2
In this sequel to the 1998 comedy Dr. Dolittle, we again find Dr. John Dolittle (Murphy) conversing with the animals and being enlisted by his furry friends to help them save a forest habitat from a greedy logging industrialist. Dolittle's scheme is to reintroduce a family of native bears into the habitat so that environmental laws will protect the area from deforestation and his friends from extinction. Of course, his first problem is to introduce the bears to each other and get the romance started.
- Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, Raven-Symoné
- Director(s): Steve Carr
- Producer(s): 20th Century Fox
- Screenwriter(s): Larry Levin
- Distributor: 20th Century Fox
- Release Date: Friday, June 22, 2001
- Rating: Acceptable
Featured Animal Action
A Large Cast of Critters:
Generally, when a large variety of animals appear in a scene together, like the animals rallying in the woods, the individual species were filmed separately using a technique called motion control. A camera was set up and ran continuously as animals of each species were brought into the scene and placed on their mark by a trainer, then removed so that the next species could be set into position. When editing was complete the scene appears as if the camera was merely panning a single area filled with all manner of wildlife, standing in harmony at their union meeting.
Along with this technical facility, the large variety of animals required months of pre-production planning and patient training to achieve the carefully conditioned compatibility necessary for the story to unfold. Trainers used natural training methods that involved studying the behavioral characteristics of each species and the unique traits and temperament of each individual animal. The animals learned to respond to voice, sound and hand commands and were rewarded with their favorite foods. Lots of rehearsal time was spent to get the animals accustomed to working together.
As many as 45 trainers were present for a single scene to provide adequate care and focus for the animals. Awareness of natural predator/prey situations was always given special attention. Along with the live animal actors, the movie utilizes movie magic techniques including animatronics, puppets, blue screen, split screen and computerized digital effects.
For a variety of reasons, such as predator/prey situations or for scenes where the animal appears to be in a dangerous place, like a bear on a precarious log, the blue screen or split screen techniques are used. With the blue screen technique, animals are individually filmed against a blue background on a sound stage that may include a major prop element. During editing, this image is superimposed into the desired setting. Similarly, the animals, or animal and the animatronic double, or the animal and the human actor can be separately filmed in the same environment. During post-production, the two halves are seamlessly edited together to make it appear as if everyone was filmed together at the same time. This technique is called split screen.
On with the Show:
As the film opens, we are re-introduced to Dolittle's medical practice now thriving with patients of all species. The Doc is not only a general practitioner and surgeon but also a psychotherapist who leads troubled dogs in a group stray-therapy session. His canine patients sit in chairs and participate in dealing with their individual and collective issues. Trainers placed the dogs in chairs and stood off camera using hand signals to get them to stay and look in various directions. Close-up shots of reaction faces were filmed separately and edited together in post-production.
Reprising his role as Dolittle's trusty sidekick and sometimes his voice of conscience is Sam, the shelter rescue, multi-cultural canine star, who plays Lucky. Lucky appears throughout the film and is trained to do a variety of behaviors and steal scenes with his expressive face. He makes his first appearance giving Doc his schedule for the day.
The Doc is a popular guy and makes time for everyone. He counsels two huge tortoises that are having problems as a couple with their sex life. The trainer placed the two huge tortoises on their marks and scattered some food on the ground to get them to move.
The Doc is so famous by now that he even gets interviewed by Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Steve is describing how he will sneak up on an alligator. We get a chance to see the alligator tell us his plans. There is a close-up of the gator, a shot of Steve lurching for the animal followed by a quick turn, black screen and finally a gator burp. The alligator was placed on a platform that was camouflaged with leaves and a brown thick mat. Trainers surrounded the gator that was secured to the platform with a safety cable while a water machine above the platform sprayed it down for comfort during the scene. A trainer stood off to the side and used a long stick to carefully touch the alligator's side prompting it to respond by turning and opening it's mouth.
People with all kinds of pet problems reach out to the Doc with everything from a skunk to a small dog. Back at home it still never ends. Along with Lucky, the family now has a Camelion named Pepito who can't quite seem to blend in and a Capuchin monkey who loves wine but is on the wagon. The trouble is, all the critters know where the Doc lives!
The Plot Thickens:
The situation in the woods is getting serious and both the Opossum and then Joey the raccoon are sent to summon the Doc. The opossum perches on the fence at the Doc's house giving him the first summons from the Don aka the Godbeaver. Later, the raccoon scratches on the window for Dolittle to come outside so they can have a chat. Dolittle obeys the raccoon and comes outside onto his porch where we see the back of the raccoon's head in the foreground as Dr. Dolittle converses with it. The opossum was placed on a small platform to help him appear to be balancing on the fence. The raccoon was placed on his mark and paws at the window because it sees a trainer showing some food from inside. When Dolittle talks to the animal outside, an animatronic animal head is used and appears in numerous other scenes of this nature. Animatronic heads were made for almost every animal in the film so that the many conversations could be filmed from different angles and retain continuity.
Before the Doc can deal with any other crisis, he must attend to his daughter's birthday. However, party-animal rats fly out of the birthday cake, soar up in the air and land back on top of the cake. Dolittle carries them by the scruffs of their necks and drops them out the window into a dumpster. The rats that pop out of the cake and fly into the air are fake. In fact, the cake is also fake, only the icing is real. One trainer stood on a ladder over the cake and gently plopped the rats onto the top of the cake. One rat was handed a candle with some icing on it and naturally began licking the sweet icing. The rats that were carried to the dumpster by Dolittle were handed to him by the trainer. The rats that were dropped in the dumpster were fake.
An Audience With The Don:
Dr. Dolittle drives with Joey the raccoon to the woods for a meeting with the head of the animals union, THE Boss, "Don", the Godbeaver. Joey rides in the passenger seat of the car and along for the ride in the back seat is the small opossum fastened into a child's car seat. Joey jumps out of the car and follows Dolittle. Trainers carefully secured the opossum in the car seat and the raccoon sat comfortably on the passenger seat of the car. The trainer hid in the back seat and a green screen was used, which meant the car never actually moved. The trainer released the raccoon from the front seat and it followed Dolittle out of the car and into the woods where another trainer retrieved it and rewarded it with a treat.
The Don offers the Doc a dead fish and Joey advises the Doc that when the Beaver offers him a fish, he should take it. This is a serious, organized, Critter Mafia. There are several dead fish on a log that were purchased food product.
Dolittle realizes that to get the environmental laws in their favor, endangered species need to be living in the woods, targeted for development. Already residing there is a lovely young Western Pacific Bear named Ava, but she is in need of a mate. If he can save her, he has a chance of preserving the entire habitat. He seeks advice from his friend the Zookeeper.
As the Doc presents the dilemma, he strolls with the Zookeeper who is holding a baby orangutan in his arms. They pause by the giraffe exhibit and the young giraffe whispers a secret to the Doc. The giraffe was a seven week old baby named Leonard and the orangutan was a two year old named Bam Bam. Both were only allowed to be on set for a short time and some of the filming was done against a blue screen. The zoo location was actually the old zoo at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA.
The Bear Facts:
The Zookeeper tells Doc of the perfect love match, Archie, a bear raised in captivity, who currently is living in an urban environment and working for Klondike Brown's Wild Animal Show. The prospective suitor is a city dwelling, wise-cracking, fast food loving, circus performing Western Pacific Bear. The real challenge will be to convince Archie that a rural, natural lifestyle is what he wants and his bachelor days are over. AND to convince Ava that Archie is the bear of her dreams.
Several Bears appear throughout the film: Archie is played by a bear named Tank; Ava is played by Betty; Sonny was played by Allyopp; and Smithy, a stunt double for Archie in the scooter scenes. There was also a human stunt double who stood in for Murphy when the scene called for close Bear/Doctor contact. Only expert bear handlers worked with the Bears at close range. A bait stick with food was used to get the bears to look or move in a certain direction. Hot-wire was placed around the set during filming but was never turned on – the bears understood the meaning of boundaries. When it appears as if Murphy and the bear are on screen together it was actually filmed as split screen – for the safety of all involved.
At first encounter, Archie is shown riding a bike across a stage during one of his performances. A special seat was built on the scooter to accommodate the rather large rider. Archie was placed on the seat by a trainer and told to stay. This was filmed and the bear was removed from the set by the trainer. Smithy, a performance bear that has lots of scooter experience was Archie's stunt double and brought in to film the part of the scene where the bear is actually riding the scooter across the stage. The trainer placed the bear on the comfortable seat and cued the animal and it happily rode across the stage to where another trainer was waiting with a treat.
Doc is trying to sell the idea of wooded bliss to the urban thesbian bear, but Archie prefers the creature comfort of his bathtub. Archie soaks and the Doc talks. For the scene, the tub was filled with warm water and the set was cleared except for several trainers and the camera crew. The bear got into the tub, sat down and was cued by a trainer who stood off camera. Dolittle was filmed separately and the two scenes were edited together later.
Relocated in the woods, Archie tries to learn some survival skills – from TV. Then he gives the real thing a try. He forages outside the Doc's cabin trying to get grapes from the trees and falls down a cross basement – outdoor stairs descending into a basement under the cabin. The trainer stood on a platform to cue the huge animal from off camera. The trainer tied one of the bear's favorite toys up in the tree and it naturally tried to get it down to play. In the following shot, a stuntman in a bear suit actually took the choreographed fall down the steps.
Archie and two other bears in a jail cell give new meaning to "captivity" as they sing and dance a chorus of "Copacabana". The trainer put the bears (Tank, Diamond and Misty) on their marks in the jail cell and cued them to move paws and legs back and forth. The singing and CGI mouth movement was added in post-production.
When the Doc tries to teach the two bachelors, Archie and Lucky to get in touch with their Alpha Male energy they follow Dolittle walking on their hind legs. Trainers verbally cued the dog and the bear to walk on their hind legs and a bait stick with a marshmallow on the end of it was used by the bear's trainer to get him to follow. Of course they were filmed separately.
Archie tries flirting with Ava and hangs out on a tree branch chatting her up as Ava stands below. The branch begins to break and Archie lands on the ground on his back. A special platform was built to have the bear perch in comfort and this was filmed against blue screen. The branch was added in post-production. We never see the bear fall and a subsequent shot had the trainer cuing Archie to lie on his back.
Later Archie exits the cave to talk to Dolittle. As the discussion heats up, the Doc pokes at Archie who paws him back and knocks him down. For this scene the trainer was in the cave with Archie and released the bear that then walks out of the cave. A split screen was used, so when the bear part was being filmed, the trainer stood in for the actor.
Archie and Ava end up dating and playfully romp in the lake. This is one of the few scenes were the bears were actually together in the scene. A huge circle of meadow was hotlined off and greens were placed to hide the wires. Bears were walked onto the location and then released to play and act like bears. The couple just played naturally and loved it, but two canoes were in water with trainers and treats just in case the bears decided to wander - they didn't because they were having fun.
When the Doc and Archie have an emergency conference in a small public bathroom, Archie sits on the commode. We understand the reason for his tummy ache through a brief flashback of Archie eating a container of ice cream after he has ravaged the refrigerator and made a mess of the kitchen. Split screen was used with the trainer filling in for the Doc and the bear sitting on the toilet. A bait stick was used for reaction shots and the sound effects were added in later.
Archie plans on giving Ava a gift of honey and climbs up a tree branch after a hive. The bees are miffed and swarm to attack him. For this scene, the bear was guided up a ramp that led to a log stretched out in front of a blue screen. The trainer used hand signals to get the bear to crawl, sit, lay down, raise its' paws and play "peek-a-boo" on the log. Later in post-production, the blue screen was turned into a cliff side and the bear's actions were edited to match the computerized bees as they attacked.
The villains catch on to Doc's plan and capture Archie by shooting him with a stun gun. The big guy falls over. For this no real bear was used. A stuntman in bear suit actually doubled for Archie.
When Archie gives the Doc a bear hug it was really the trainer who is quite bonded with Tank the bear. The scene was done using split screen and a man in a bear suit for one point of view.
Lucky And Wolf:
In scenes where Lucky and the wolf are seen together, the dog and the wolf were never on the set at the same time. The wolf was put on a mark by a trainer and was cued to stay. Another trainer laid down where Lucky would be and was holding some food to get the correct eyeline. The dog was filmed in the same way using a trainer acting as the wolf and the scenes were edited together in post-production. In some scenes the wolf appears to be standing above Lucky on the rocks or on a log. A special platform was built for the wolf to stand on so it was not precarious.
Pepito, The Chameleon:
Pepito, the chameleon is inside a box that Dr. Dolittle presents to his daughter, Charisse. Although it looks as though Charisse is taking the chameleon from inside the box, the shot of the chameleon was taken ahead of time and was actually sitting on a branch. The trainer handed the actress the chameleon and she pretends she is lifting it up from the box. The trainer retrieved the animal after the scene was over. When Charisse shakes the unopened present, the box is empty.
For almost all of Pepito's scenes the trainer put the chameleon inside the prop or on the couch, floor, table, etc. and the actors would pick the animal up and set it down. The trainer was waiting off camera to retrieve the chameleon and reward it with an edible treat and his own comfortable cage.
The almost always inebriated Capuchin monkey is dressed up and drinks from a flask, appearing to be a bit tipsy at times. The trainer dressed the monkey in the cute outfit that it was very used to wearing and filled it's flask with water. The trainer stood off camera and used hand signals to get the monkey to react.
When it appears that all is lost the animals are rallied by the Doc to go on strike. Horses refuse to race at the track, dogs refuse to play Frisbee, cows stop producing milk, Shamu won't jump and other dolphins won't play - the word goes out worldwide that the animals form a united front.
The villainous industrialist eventually gets cornered by some determined rats, bomber birds and extremely angry wolves. Rats scurry through a doorway and the greedy developer tries to stomp on them with his feet. The trainer was standing off camera telling the actor where to step and the angle of the camera made it look like the actor's feet were closer than they really were.
When the developer and his sleezy attorney try to make a run for it, snarling wolves trap the attorney outside the building, attacked by bees and bombarded by birds. The developer believes he is safe inside only to be confronted by a growling bear and a determined raccoon. Clearly their hand is being forced and the animals are getting the upper paw.
When Dolittle goes to meet the Godbeaver at the dam..it was man-made on a sound stage. Clearly the set department employed some busy humans.
The evil industrialist is portrayed as a true enemy of the animals since his hobby is trophy hunting. In several scenes some of his taxidermy prizes adorn his headquarters. These stuffed and mounted animal replicas were purchased for the production from a prop house.
Ava and Archie do eventually have offspring – two bouncing baby bears, played by "Little" Bart the Bear and Honey Bump Bear. These two were approximately five months old and rather rambunctious. All their scenes were shot on stage and their favorite pleasure was to rip up the greens.
Care, Housing and Playpens On the Set:
The studio provided an on-set area for the animals so that they did not have to travel far for their on screen work. There was a ramp leading to a gated entrance and an area exclusive to the animals with a fence line set up and a gate for human access. A separate small trailer was set up for food storage and an area for the trainers. Another section was designated for the bear's housing trailers. The largest part of the area was set up with real grass for the bears to work, train, play and exercise. Another gate had rolling capabilities so they could drive the trailers in and transfer the cages to transport the bear's houses onto the set. Across the studio lot, were fenced facilities and housing for the other smaller animals near-by the set.
Interesting thoughts to ponder….
"The fate of bears in many areas of the world will be decided in the next 10-20 years. The future of several species is in serious doubt. The elimination of bears from 50-75 percent of their historic range has already occurred and the remaining range will decrease unless serious efforts are focused on bear conservation."
- Dr. Chris Servheen, biologist (1990 Report on the Status of Bears)
"If the human race is to survive, then we must respect the rights of other species to survive. Sharing bedroom space with a grizzly bear is not practical but sharing wilderness space is. We must therefore, restrict human activity in spaces where threatened or endangered species live. We must stay out of their bedroom. Set aside some wild spaces while they yet exist. Closing the wild spaces after all of the wild things are gone will not work."
- Bob McMeans (member, Virginia Outdoors Writers Association)
"And we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves, to inhabit the land"
- Sitting Bull
"Our task must be to free ourselves—by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."
- Albert Einstein