Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2016 by Blake Harris
Following an unexpected success with the ’80s rom-com Mannequin, the reasons why a sequel were made are about as interesting (and artistically-driven) as one would imagine. But one aspect of that sequel—Mannequin 2: On the Move—that’s especially interesting is the film’s director: Stewart Raffill.
Stewart Raffill is a guy who broke into the business by training lions, tigers and bears. A guy who directed an award-winning sci-fi film and then, three years later, took home the Razzie for worst director. And also a guy who wrote one of my favorite childhood films, although the version I saw was much different from the one he had envisioned. I sat down with Raffill to discuss all those things and, of course, get the inscape scoop on Mannequin 2.
How Did This Get Made is a companion to the podcast How Did This Get Made with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael which focuses on movies This regular feature is written by Blake J. Harris, who you might know as the writer of the book Console Wars, soon to be a motion picture produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. You can listen to the Simply Irresistible edition of the HDTGM podcast here.
Synopsis: A young department store employee falls in love with a female store mannequin who, as it turns out, is actually a gorgeous peasant girl who’s been cursed into a frozen trance for a thousand years.
Tagline: A Lively Comedy about a Living Doll
Part 1: A Lion Walks Into an Elevator
Blake J. Harris: Stewart, before we get into Mannequin 2, I was curious to hear how you first got into film and television.
Stewart Raffill: Well, I didn’t really do too much television. I really went straight into film.
Blake J. Harris: Sorry about that. I thought you got your start on that Tarzan TV series from the ’60s.
Stewart Raffill: Oh, ah yes. I used to have a company that rented wild animals to the studios. That was my first business. I used to do the stunt work for Tarzan. A couple different Tarzans. In Brazil and Mexico and a couple different places where they filmed them. Then I got into independent filmmaking after that.
Blake J. Harris: Wow, I didn’t realize you rented out wild animals. How did that happen? Or rather, before that, how did you even know how to train animals?
Stewart Raffill: Well, I grew up on a farm in England. We used to have horses that we raced and everything. So it was a natural for me to be around animals. And I got my degree in agriculture. Then, when I was 18 years old, I came here on the Queen Mary. I never had any connection with film or TV until I went into the business of supplying animals. It’s an interesting business because you spend every day of your life on set watching other people directing and producing. It was an eye-opener.
Blake J. Harris: What types of animals did you train?
Stewart Raffill: Lions, tigers, elephants, chimpanzees. All those creatures. Grizzles too.
Blake J. Harris: Did you have a favorite animal to work with?
Stewart Raffill: No, I liked them all. The chimps are the most interesting, but the most dangerous. Elephants are pretty nice to work with. Big cats: they’re all individuals, so you need to figure out how to work with them. And big bears are usually pretty smart and nice to work with too. It just depends on the story.
Blake J. Harris: How did you used to prepare the animals for being on camera?
Stewart Raffill: You have to get them as cubs and raise them. You know, this was a long time ago. Nowadays, it’s pretty hard for anybody to get any cubs of any kind. There’s all sorts of restrictions. Game department gets involved with everything. The whole thing changed. I mean, there was a time I used to walk down Hollywood Boulevard with my lion on a chain.
Blake J. Harris: Really?
Stewart Raffill: Used to drive into town with him in the back seat of the car. Took him up until a building. There was a guy called Sy Weintraub that was going to do the original Tarzan television series. And he was in the last office building on Sunset. And myself and a friend. Do you remember Grizzly Adams?
Blake J. Harris: Yeah.
Stewart Raffill: Yeah, Dan Haggerty, he worked for me in those days and we took the leopard, the lion and a big chimp and we stopped at this big high rise at the end of Sunset Boulevard. The last building before you go into Beverly Hills. And we pulled up in front—got the cats and the chimp out—walked into the lobby. People just…they didn’t know how to react. Got into the elevator. Went up to the 11th floor. Walked into the guy’s office and said if you’re doing a new TV series about Tarzan these are the animals you need. And he hired him.
Blake J. Harris: That’s so amazing.
Stewart Raffill: It was kind of funny because when we left, the elevator stopped at a couple of floors. And most people just stopped and said, “Oh man! Are you kidding!!” One guy, who was like too tough to react, he got in there and just stood there kind of sweating and pretending it wasn’t happening.
Blake J. Harris: That’s a great visual.
Stewart Raffill: It was a very great visual.
Blake J. Harris: So I’m assuming at some point along the way you stopped training animals, right?
Stewart Raffill: [laughing] Yes. Right now I have a little Shih Tzu, that’s the only animal I have left.