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Animals Talking

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SUBJECT: HBO’s talking-monkeys ad.

SYNOPSIS: Gorillas in the Mist meets Babe. Anthropologist Jane Goodall watches with amusement as simians in Africa’s Gombe Reserve quote classic movie lines from films such as The Godfather, Forrest Gump, and Star Wars.

BACK STORY: After securing the rights to a number of Hollywood catchphrases — such as Network‘s pissed-off mantra, ”I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” — director Joe Pytka (Space Jam) flew to Africa to meet with Goodall, who lent her name and old footage of herself. (Contrary to what the commercial says, Goodall is not an HBO subscriber. After all, to pick up the cable channel in the jungles of Tanzania, says Don Schneider, an executive with ad agency BBDO, ”you’d need a really huge satellite dish.”) Pytka then filmed Goodall’s primates in their natural environment and applied the same computer-generated lip-synching technology used in Babe.

CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE: ”People like animals being witty,” says Pytka. Apparently, so does Madison Avenue. TV has recently boasted a veritable menagerie of conversational critters: A rooster gabs for McDonald’s, raccoons chat for La-Z-Boy, and a mutt converses with his owner for Pizza Hut. With all the babbling beasts, it would be only natural to credit a certain talking hog, but not everyone’s thanking last year’s big pig. Says Pytka, ”I actually thought Babe was kind of dull.”

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