Saskatoon StarPhoenix, 21 September 2000

Big-time movie star lands in Saskatoon

2,600-pound elephant making feature film debut in locally produced, filmed movie

by Betty Ann Adam

A feature film being shot in Saskatoon could be Picolo's big break in the movies.

The five-year-old Indian elephant has acted in commercials and television shows, such as Kratt's Creatures, but this is the first time the playful pachyderm has demonstrated her talent in a full-length feature, her trainer, Charlie Gray, said Wednesday.

The pair were at the Broadway Embroidery and Clothing Company on 14th Street, which was a location for The Impossible Elephant, a film being produced by Edge Entertainment Inc. of Saskatoon.

The picture, with a budget in the $4- to $5-million range, is the most expensive of three films shot in Saskatoon by Edge this year, said Bill Braaten, director of marketing.

Picolo, who will be a male in the film called Lumpy, will play the harmonica and slam dunk a basketball in the film about a lonely boy, Daniel Harris, played by Mark Rendall of Toronto, who wishes on a star for the coolest possible pet.

The 2,600-pound star has impressed her co-workers with her gentle temperament and work ethic.

"It's pretty cool. She's so well trained," said Jordy Becker, a 14-year-old from Rosthern, who plays a bully called Butterbutt and who straddled Picolo's hairy, leathery back for a ride during shooting on Wednesday.

Patrick Dubois, a Saskatoon actor whom the elephant lifts by one arm, said he was excited to be working with the gentle giant.

The elephant even seemed gentle as she obediently tossed a bicycle into a garbage dumpster.

Gray is responsible for that obedient behaviour. He has devoted the last 18 years to training elephants and is protective of his young charge, whom he has cared for since her birth at the African Lion Safari Park at Cambridge, Ont.

Animal co-ordinator Kirk Jarrett says the bond between animal and trainer is too strong to be a part-time effort.

"Charlie will be a motherly figure to this animal for the rest of its life," Jarrett said.

"Fatherly figure," Gray interjected with mock indignation.

Gray ensures Picolo receives her daily allotment of 75 to 100 pounds of hay, 10 or 15 pounds of carrots, grain, sweet potatoes, oranges and apples. He also takes her wherever she is needed in a custom-made trailer hauled by a semi he drives himself.

The production company has invited the local SPCA to observe the care and treatment of the elephant during the shoot to allay any possible concerns, Jarrett said.

The Impossible Elephant will star Mia Sara (Timecop, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Legend) as Molly Conner, a family friend; Nicholas Lea (Vertical Limit, The X-Files) as Daniel's father and William Taylor (Romeo Must Die, Life) as the zoo's animal keeper.

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