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The Sets And Costumes
The filmmakers prepared from the beginning to build the main zoo set. Producer Todd Garner says, "We needed to build a set that felt like a ‘neighborhood.'” They began scouting zoos – it would be useful to have access to a real, working zoo, even if they were building their own enclosures. They found the perfect setting at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo. "As we were scouting we realized that there was a perfect area to build our zoo. It actually felt like it was waiting there for us. And The Franklin Park Zoo organization was very good to us – we are grateful to them.”

"It's a beautiful place,” says Kirk Petruccelli, the film's production designer. "It's in an old park, so they have these little knolls and hills where each of the animal enclosures could exist, but each in its own zone. We could give each of the enclosures a personality – the animals would be cute, of course, but we could help give some indication of who they are, what they are, where they're from.”

Of course, the enclosures would have to be designed in such a way that the set looked like a real zoo. "We always had a design that implied that the animals could not escape,” says Petruccelli. "We designed water features or some distance between the enclosures and the public walkways – not only did it look beautiful, but it would keep the animals safe.”

But Petruccelli also had to keep in mind that it was not, of course, a real zoo – there would have to be some way to get the animals from their resting places to the set easily, avoiding cameras, lights, and other moviemaking equipment. "It was always a logistics exercise, especially with the larger animals,” he says.

Lighting was also an important part of the design. "Our zoo transforms itself into a magical place at night,” he notes. "It was a great experience working with our director of photography, Michael Barrett, to come up with a concept that would help him achieve his goals.”

Petruccelli also designed a new gate for the zoo, which serves as the main entrance in the film. "In real life, it's the rear entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo, but it's set in such a beautiful way, on a long esplanade. What we came up with was two elephants would greet you at the gate. As you walk through, there are a pair of giraffes in a fountain, and beyond them, a family of elephants that leads you into the rest of the zoo. The whole metaphor of family is tactile – you can come up close to these animals and enjoy their presence, and understand them.”

Costume Designer Mona May, who re-teams with Frank Coraci after collaborating on The Wedding Singer, says Zookeeper was a unique experience: "It was my job to dress the actors and extras and, in this case, even animals from head to toe, including accessories.”

As Griffin goes through the film, his transformation can be seen in his clothes, May says. "He starts out as a pretty hip guy in his cargo shorts and khaki shirt uniform,” she laughs. "He changes entirely, until, at the end, he's in a super-sharp Italian suit, beautiful fabrics, shiny ties. It's fun, because the wardrobe helps shape the character – he's in the best clothes money can buy, but he's not comfortable in them, because he doesn't like who he's become.”

It was fun to dress Dawson and Bibb as well -- May was able to take some liberties with the Zookeeper uniform to express the character's fun attitude, while Bibb's character dresses in the latest styles and hottest brands. But perhaps the most fun was Bernie, the gorilla – May dressed him in his yellow polo for his big night out at TGI Friday's. "We got a lot of fabric in a lot of different colors – we knew we needed something that would contrast with Bernie's dark fur, and we ended up with a very funny shirt.”

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