The last time we saw Britney Spears perform with an animal on an MTV awards show, it was an albino boa constrictor. Now she’s graduated to an 8,600-pound elephant. But don’t worry, there will be no French kissing involved. MTV just premiered a series of promotional spots for the upcoming 2008 Video Music Awards, one of which finds the host, British comedian Russell Brand, having a casual, if slightly awkward, chat with the beleaguered pop star, as a massive elephant paces around the room. Spears got the joke and loved it, a source who was on the set tells “It was totally unscripted, just them interacting, and she really did screw up [Russell’s] name.”

Filming on a soundstage at Paramount Studios, where the VMAs will be held September 7, the MTV crew cleared the set completely for the two-and-a-half hour shoot. Spears was “a little nervous” to ride the elephant, as was planned, says the source, but otherwise had no issues being around the animal. It didn’t hurt that Tai, an 8-foot-8-inch-tall female, is a seasoned pro. “She’s the best elephant,” says a representative from Worldwide Movie Animals, which rented her out for the day. “She’s really mellow, easygoing, very intelligent, and well-trained.” Hmmm, can the same now be said of the other female in the ad?