Following Taiwanese filmaker Ang Lee’s (李安) winning of the his second Oscar award for best director for Life of Pi (少年PI的奇幻漂流) at the Academy Awards in Hollywood on Sunday night, the Taipei Zoo is seizing on the “Ang Lee craze” and putting up signs to introduce tourists to the “animal stars” of the 3D adventure film.
The majority of the animals starring in the movie ─ more than 70 percent of which was shot in Taiwan ─ came from Taipei Zoo, except for the Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker, that in the movie drifts at sea in a lifeboat with the film’s protagonist, Pi, after a shipwreck.
Thanks to the film’s huge popularity in Taiwan and overseas, the zoo has been inundated with tourists and movie fans, particularly since the ceremony in California, where the film won four Oscars.
“Featured in the film’s opening sequence were the zoo’s flamingos, which can be found at the entrance square, as well as our Formosan sika deers, whose grassy habitat amazed Lee when he inspected the site for the movie,” Taipei Zoo spokesman Chao Ming-chieh (趙明杰) said.
The wounded zebra, which in the movie is stranded on the boat with Pi before being killed by a hyena, is a Chapman’s zebra from the zoo’s African Animal Area, Chao added.
Recalling the zoo’s collaboration with the globally renowned director, Chao said Lee spent about five months between December 2010 and April the following year shooting the film at the zoo.
“Zoo employees often had to lure the animals to the right spot with food for them to play their parts in the film,” Chao said.
When Lee was awarded the Oscar, the zoo’s staff were extremely thrilled, Chao said, adding that the zoo was putting up signs to introduce the animals and their role in the film to tourists.
Meanwhile, the Greater Taichung Government, which helped Lee make the movie possible, set up several 2m tall golden “Oscar trophy” statues on the first floor of the city government building to honor the “glory of Taiwan.”
The city government has also invited fans of Lee’s movies to be “photographed” with the director using an instant photo machine, which can produce lifelike photomontages featuring an image of Lee holding the Oscar.
“People who write down words of encouragement to Lee on their photomontages by Friday can have the chance to win an iPad Mini, a limited edition Life of Pi movie poster or a T-shirt,” it added.
Calling on the city government to capitalize on the “Ang Lee frenzy,” the Greater Taichung Government Watch Alliance said the city government should allow the public to visit the wave tank at the shuttered Shuinan Airport, which Lee used to film most of the movie’s ocean scenes.
However, the city government said that because the tank was located on a larger plot of land reserved for the Shuinan Trade Zone (水湳經貿園區) development project, the site could not be opened to tourists.