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4 legs good, 2 bad in Wicklow

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN – “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others, “was the final commandment in George Orwell’s biting satire “Animal Farm.” This is certainly the situation in Wicklow, where more than 100 four-legged and winged stars are preparing to make their TV debuts.

For months, two-legged trainers have been carefully preparing horses, pigs, donkeys, goats, cats, dogs, hens, ducks and geese for a movie version of the classic tale of a revolution that went wrong.

Filming of the $21 million adaptation is due to begin in August. John Stephenson, whose box office hits include “Babe” and “Pinochio,” is directing the movie, which will be shown on Turner Network Television and may also get a cinema release.

The “actors” will be backed up not just by real animal doubles but also by robot animatronic doubles, who will do the “talking.” Napoleon the pig will in fact have seven doubles, each trained to do a specific job.

Animal coordinator Karen Bennett has been recruiting trainers and suitable animals since Christmas.

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The robot doubles will be exact replicas and constructing them involves about 200 measurements, even down to their eyelashes.

She finds the animals easy to work with, provided you have patience with them and win their trust.

All the animals are insured like human actors. “The actors and the cast are the animals,” she pointed out.

Bennett is an expert on casting animals for films but this is the first time her charges will have “talkie” parts.

“Four legs good, two legs bad,” as Orwell’s pig Snowball said. It was man’s hand that caused all the mischief.

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