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Eddie Murphy is terrified of live animals, and insisted that as many as possible be superimposed digitally in scenes. When he couldn't avoid acting in the same room as an animal, the shots frequently ended with Murphy screaming.
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At one point, Eddie Murphy is watching the original Doctor Dolittle (1967) on TV.
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Very few elements from the original Doctor Dolittle (1967) film or books were used in this film. The few notable exceptions are John's stay in a mental hospital, John giving the horse glasses (made of magnifying glasses), and the Pushmi-Pullyu in the background at the circus.
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Albert Brooks voices Jake the tiger. Ellen DeGeneres voices the dog that John owned as a child at the beginning of the movie. They would later star together in Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016).
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The clever animal actor named Sammy, aka Lucky, wasn't always living in the lap of stardom. Sam was discovered by a trainer from Birds & Animals Unlimited, at the East Valley Shelter in Los Angeles. Sam was approximately five to six years old at the time and is a multi-cultural canine. One of his trainers, Mark Forbes, claims that Sam has exceptional intelligence in that he was able to learn behaviors in a very short amount of time. "Not that all dogs aren't capable of learning these things", noted Stacy Basil, one of Sam's handlers. "Most dog owners have a diamond in the rough right in their backyards. All they need to do is polish it up." Sam was trained to go with the actor and simultaneously look back and forth and move his jaw as if speaking. Stacy compared this, in human trick terms, to walking, talking, nodding, chewing gum, rubbing your stomach and patting your head all at the same time. Applause for Sam! Dolittle is the newest version of the delightful premise that humans can actually talk to animals.
The large variety of animals in the film, required months of pre-production planning and patient training. Trainers use natural training methods that involve studying the behavioral characteristics of each species and the unique traits and temperament of each individual animal. The animals learned to respond to voice, sound and hand commands and were rewarded with their favorite foods.
Special equipment such as unique harnesses, were designed to create some of the illusions. One of these was fashioned for the dog that appears to be dragged by the collar into the vet's office. This harness was created to distribute the dog's weight between the area at the back of his neck and his hind area as he was pulled in a seated position. The dog was conditioned to this action and equipment in pre-production. Another special harness was developed Lucky to safely ride in the passenger seat of the car.
Awareness of natural predator/prey situations prompted special attention. In scenes where the owl appears to be in the same area with natural prey, such as small rabbits, birds or rats, the owl was filmed separately for maximum safety.
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One of the newest technological innovations 2-D imaging, was used to create the illusion that the animals are actually talking. The animals are filmed moving their mouths naturally and in post production the movements were manipulated frame by frame to make it seem as if the animal is forming the words with its own teeth, lips and tongue. This differs from the imaging done on the film Babe (1995) where all the animal mouths were 3-D images. For Babe, computer generated mouths were superimposed on the animal actors. Although that technology was advanced for its day, the newer, more precise 2-D imaging in Dolittle takes the animals to a new level of photo-reality.
Several scenes required a large number of animals to be present on set together. Weeks prior to filming, these animals were prepped to become accustomed to working together. As many as 45 trainers were present for a single scene to provide adequate care and focus for the animals.
For a variety of reasons, such as predator/prey situations or for scenes where the animal appears to be in a dangerous place like the tiger on the ledge, the blue screen technique is used. The animals are individually filmed against a blue background. During editing, their image is superimposed into the desired setting. Similarly, the animals, or animal and the animatronic double, can be separately filmed in the same environment. During post-production, the two halves are seamlessly edited together to make it appear as if the animals are together on screen.
When John is persuading Jacob not to jump from the Coit Tower, by mentioning how everyone loves tigers, Lucky mentions "Tony the cereal tiger", until John mentions, 'Eye of the Tiger' from Rocky III (1982), the same year Eddie Murphy made his film debut in, 48 Hrs. (1982).
One of three movies Eddie Murphy starred in 1998, the others were Mulan and Holy Man
Howard Stern was offered the chance to voice a hamster, but turned it down.
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Disney Channel aired a slightly edited version of the film on Friday, November 25, 2005. Promos stated that it was for one time only.
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This was Eddie Murphy's second movie remake in which he played a character was previously played by a Caucasian actor. He had remade The Nutty Professor (1963) two years earlier.
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The novelization contains eight pages of full-color photographs from the film in which actors' names were added to the characters they played. However the pictures state the tiger was voiced by Martin Lawrence instead of Albert Brooks, and Lisa Dolittle is played by Corrine Boucher instead of Kristen Wilson. Lawrence worked with Murphy on Boomerang (1992), and would co-star with Murphy in Life (1999), released a year later.
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Many of the scenes called for an animals double, when Rodney (rides on top of the moving vehicle while in his cage which h is tied to it, or has a mishap in the ladies room almost flushed down the toilet) an animatronic guinea pig was used, Rodney was well-trained and did many behaviors to his credit- biting his cage, moving to specific placement marks and sitting up on cue, he also had live guinea pig doubles too, several of them were trained so that each one specialized in a different behavior.; Other animals which had specially designed matching animatronic doubles included Lucky, the two rats, the owl, Jacob, and the pigeons, they also had multiple live doubles allowing them to be rotated and rested often.
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Ossie Davis's characters name, is only mentioned in the credits.
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After the surgery, Mark describes Dolittle as "the straw that stirs the drink" to Calloway. In The Bronx Is Burning (2007), Oliver Platt plays New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who deals with Reggie Jackson's controversial statement about Jackson being "the straw that stirs the drink."
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John's car is a, 1996 Nissan Pathfinder [R50]
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A January 1997 LA Times article on upcoming films stated that Doctor Dolittle would be released in the fall of 1997.
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