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The Many Antics of Hollywood Animal Actors

Updated on June 10, 2012

When it comes to bringing in big bucks for doing things like napping and trotting across the screen, these pampered pets have made it big in Hollywood. But don't be too impressed. You maybe surprised at some of their untold stories from the set.

Benji and Zax
Benji and Zax

Benji

Boasting a loveable pooch with the courage of a lion, the 1974 blockbuster Benji was never expected to be a hit. However, the brave little dog that rescued kidnapped children between naps made a whopping $40 million in the United States alone. Two Sequels and four prime-time television specials later , few viewers realized that Benji was not one talented pup,but four. After watching Lady and the Tramp, writer Joe Camp, the mastermind behind the series, came up with his idea for the family friendly doggie flick and embarked on a seemingly endless search for a cute little puppy to play the lead role. He searched animal shelters across the country, and finally found the perfect Benji.

Tiger with Ann B. Davis
Tiger with Ann B. Davis

Tiger

Unfortunately for the cast and crew of THE BRADY BUNCH, fluffy family dog Tiger was hit by a car and killed early in the taping of the show's first season. When a replacement dog wouldn't cooperate on set, producers decided to write the pooch out of the script and only bring him for an occasional cameo. This worked for a while, but it wasn't long before the replacement Tiger got tossed a pink slip in lieu of a Frisbee. Regardless of the fact that a dog would never again grace the Brady home, the doghouse remained throughout every season because it covered the holes in the artificial backyard

It was once rumore that Kermit the frog was named after sesame street muppet designer Kermit Love. Kermit was named after one of Henson's childhood friends.
It was once rumore that Kermit the frog was named after sesame street muppet designer Kermit Love. Kermit was named after one of Henson's childhood friends.

Kermit the Frog

With an official celebrated birthday (May 9, 1955) and an honorary doctorate of "Amphibious Letters" from the SouthHampton College ( he gave a commencement speech the same day he gave his acceptance speech). Kermit the frog is one of the most famous amphibians of all time. One of the puppeteer Jim Henson most famed figures, Kermit hasn't always been so glamorous and pampered. In fact , the original vision for Kermit's design came from a bunch of garbage - a dirty green jacket Henson found in the trash and two eyes made out of old Ping-Pong balls. Not only was Kermit once ratty and in need of a serious dry cleaning, he was also supposed to be a lizard. He didn't appear as a frog until the 1969 television special Hey Cinderella!, but Kermit's extreme makeover was a hit ,and Henson hasn;t turned back since. So just how did a stuffed amphibian rise above the likes of Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear to steal the show as Henson's Premier Puppet? He was simply the lightest, making him easier to operate to long periods of taping.

Big Bird and Snuffy BFF
Big Bird and Snuffy BFF
Although Big Bird could roller skate, ice skate, write poetry, and ride a unicycle, producers at Sesame Street deemed him only six years old
Although Big Bird could roller skate, ice skate, write poetry, and ride a unicycle, producers at Sesame Street deemed him only six years old

Big Bird

A giant ,golden-feathered puppet who promotes goodwill through sharing and saying please and thank you, Big Bird has caused quite a stir on children's television for his long list of lies. First, young viewers everywhere were confused when Big Bird made a special appearance in the Mister Roger's Neighborhood Land of Make Believe and proceeded to tell X the owl that he was a golden condor.However, for years, the bird ( by the prompting of his producers) had been describing himself as a giant canary.

Next, there is an issue about Mr. Snuffleupugus, whom most of the other characters believed to be imaginary because he only came along when Big Bird was alone. The elusive friend was modeled in part on imaginary friends that many of the show's viewers created. Many adults believed that Big Bird used "Snuffy" as a scapegoat to excuse unexplainable mishaps, which tapped into the issue of believing sometimes incredible truths that children say.

Creators of the show considered all of these factors against a backdrop of stories where children had not been believed when they reported incidents of abuse and assault that only they had witnessed. In the end, Snuffy, was proven to be real, the other characters apologized for their unbelief, and all was well on sesame street.

Rin Tin Tin was named after a puppet  called Rintintin, which a French child gave to American soldier Lee Duncan  during WW1 for good luck.
Rin Tin Tin was named after a puppet called Rintintin, which a French child gave to American soldier Lee Duncan during WW1 for good luck.
Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck
1924: Rin Tin Tin, the Warner dog star, comforting his master, William Collier.
1924: Rin Tin Tin, the Warner dog star, comforting his master, William Collier.

RIN TIN TIN

If there ever was a pampered pup, Rin Tin Tin was it. He dined on choice cut steak to soothing sounds of classical music. He died in the arms of Jean Harlow ( or so legend says). His remains are buried in a Paris Suburb in a renowned pet cemetery called Cimetiere des Chiens.

A sharp German sheperd with a knack of barking on cue, the original Rin Tin Tin was found with his tail between his legs in a bombed out animal shelter in France near the end of WW1. Not long after the dog'srescue, American serviceman Lee Duncan flew him home to Los AngelesAngeles,taught him a few tricks ( he had a thirteen -foot long jump), and nicknamed RINTY. While leaping for a Frisbee at a California Dog show, Rinty caught the eye of Darryl F. Zanuck, who recruited him to take the place of the stubborn wolf he had been trying to film in "The Man from Hell's River" (1922). His popularity took off as he became one of the first animals to launch a highly successful movie career.

He filmed " Where the North Begins" (1923), "Shadows of the North" (1923) and an array of other doggie rescue flicks. After "hosting" a radio program called The Wonder dog ( He did his own barking), Brave Rin Tin Tin earned his right to Hollywood Stardom and became the Hero on ABC's The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin- but what most people do not know that the original star of the show was only one of the three dogs in front of the camera. In fact, the other German sheperds ( Rin Tin Tin 2 and Rin Tin Tin Jr.) were of no blood relation to the original at all.

Lassie and Roddy Mcdowall
Lassie and Roddy Mcdowall

LASSIE

Known around the world for the playing friend to a curious little boy named Timmy, Lassie played by a young collie named Pal and a number of his (yes, His) offspring by the same name. Although Timmy referred to his animal pal as a girl, most dogs who played the role were male because their coats were fuller and shinier. Male dogs were also stronger and able to complete the difficult stunts on set.

Filpper for president
Filpper for president

FLIPPER

The role of Flipper, the famous bottlenose dolphin, was actually filled by several different dolphins. The first one was Mitzi, a female who was the first pupil of famed dolphin trainer Milton Santini. Mitzi did all her stunts except for the famous tail walking, which is done by a male dolphin named Mr. Gipper. Mitzi died of a heart attack when she was going fourteen, and is buried at the Dolphin Research Center. Her grave is the first stop on a tour for visitors ,where they read a simple plaque in Mitzi's honor, it says:

Dedicated to the memory of Mitzi the original flipper 1958-1972

The last dolphin to serve the famous role was Bebe, who specialized in high-jumping tricks, and was the longest survivor following the series. She was born at the Seaquarium, where she lived for forty years ,giving birth to a calf just months before her death.

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