“Hardly a Hostile Takeover”: Animal Performers, Venice Beachgoers Share Access at LA County Beach

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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
It’s easy to be entranced by the spectacle of three majestic horses, seemingly ridden by a trio of apes, walking along Venice Beach. And yet, that was exactly the view these animal performers gave onlookers while filming their cameo appearance in Disney’s blockbuster “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” Many beachgoers stopped in their tracks to record this unexpected sighting of apes on horseback for their social media reels. At the same time, it’s a sure bet that those marveling at this rare occurrence against a well-known beach backdrop didn’t realize what it took to pull off this stunt.

Let’s start with the animal actors…

Handled by accomplished riders, the horses used in this scene spent two full days in preparation, which included acclimating the animals to the ape costumes. Horses are prey animals, so it was crucial that during the shoot the horses never felt threatened by their rider’s appearance to allow the stunt rider to mount/dismount and ride safely without incident. Their trainer, Scott Davis, said the horses were chosen for their temperament, experience in a public setting as parade horses and trained to ensure the safety of the crew and talent.

While trainers are hired to make sure production gets the desired performance out of the animal actor, the American Humane or Animal Protection Agency (APA) consultants look out for potential hazards and become the voice for the animal. According to Jone Bouman from the APA, “When you’re there to protect the animal you are also protecting the cast and crew who work with them.” Because the beach remained open to the public during filming, additional safeguards were put in place, such as having extra handlers on location, and guide-horses in front of and behind the picture animals.

So, how did it all come together?

First, production searched for the ideal landscape which served as the vision of the project. For “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” production representatives reached out to FilmLA Reservations regarding any restrictions LA County Beaches might have that would prohibit horses on the beach. Since Los Angeles County considers horses to be domesticated animals, LA County Animal Care & Control doesn’t require an animal permit for domesticated or “farm” type animals only for exotic animals such as big cats and birds of prey.
However, Venice Beach is also located within the City of Los Angeles, which requires all working animals on film sets to have an Animal Film Permit, so the production company obtained one through the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.

Once a date was selected, a reservation was booked through FilmLA’s Reservation System, then a walk through was scheduled with the Venice Beach lifeguard captain, the team from Experiential Supply who produced the shoot, and the locations team to map out the logistics and safety plan for the day. This was essential since LA County requires all productions to allow public access to their beaches during filming.  For more information on rules and restrictions when filming at Venice Beach visit our "Area Requirements" page.

A reservation confirmation was issued by LA County Beaches & Harbors, so production could submit their FilmLA permit with plenty of time to iron out any issues in the planning process. FilmLA permit deadlines for both the City and County of Los Angeles are 10am -- three full business days prior to filming. (Additional time is needed for high impact activities. Holidays will also affect deadlines.) A FilmLA production coordinator was assigned to handle this project which required approvals from the LA City Film Unit (LAPD), LA County Beaches & Harbors and LA County Public Works. There were some safety specific terms added to the permit in compliance with the requirements from both jurisdictions.

Fast forward to shoot day…

The Horses arrived from Piru, CA. in a trailer and were saddled up and ready to go just before 10am. While the riders were being fitted in their ape costumes, APA site representative Jami Lovullo spoke with FilmLA about her duties, which involved being the voice for the animals, making sure they sustained no cuts or injuries, and keeping a keen eye that the animals seemed comfortable in their surroundings. She was on set to make sure the animals willingly partook in the filming activities. Production’s approved plan was to have the riders in ape costumes on horseback for one hour, with an hour-long break in between rides.

Then, off they went…

As the horses and riders calmly took their sandy stage, you could sense the excitement from the film crew as well as the faces in the crowd, everyone eager with anticipation for… what would happen next?

After safely crossing the bike path, the horses walked leisurely along the beach with the ocean breeze wafting through their manes. As Venice Beach patrons delighted in being a part of the background in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” you can be rest assured that “No Animals Were Harmed” in the making of this movie!

Photo Courtesy of Experiential Supply

Cindy Matta

About the Author: Cindy Matta

Cindy Matta is a member of the Production Planning department at FilmLA. She received her BA in Political Science and Communications from the University of Pittsburgh (PITT) and a Master's Degree in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles, and earned two finalist awards for her TV pilot, The Mad Queen - No One Trusts a Traitor. Coming from a production background, Cindy was a field director/producer at FoxSports Net covering the NBA and NFL. She is an avid skier and cinephile and seeks to direct a border western as her first feature.

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