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Hollywood Gets a Boost From Its Animal Instincts at L.A. Zoo

Kids, Hollywood and the zoo seem like a ready-made mix for a good time. That’s the way 20th Century Fox and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. saw it this summer when they collaborated on an event that stirred together the three main ingredients around Fox’s “Rio 2.”

Family Jam night, part of the zoo’s effort to revitalize its summer evening programs to appeal to parents and children, featured costumed characters from the Fox film greeting visitors, along with live music, pictures in a “flap your wings” photo booth, and a scavenger hunt in the zoo’s recently opened rainforest exhibit that focused on the range of wildlife living there. The first 250 participants were also treated to a screening of “Rio 2.”

While the event was a new one, the partnership between the zoo and a movie studio was not. Because of its proximity to several studios and the perennial releases of animal-themed movies, the L.A. Zoo is a prime location for the Tinseltown collaborations. The association, the non-profit organization that seeks financial support for the zoo, sees the relationship as a benefit to all participants.

“Our mission is both education and entertainment,” said Kait Hilliard, the zoo association’s vice president for marketing and communications. “We want kids to have a good time and associate learning about animals with having fun.”

The zoo, which welcomes thousands of people daily, has the largest membership of any cultural organization in the city. In fact, actress Betty White is a co-chair, and for her 90th birthday, TV Land made a donation to name the zoo’s baby orangutan “Elka” after White’s character in “Hot In Cleveland.”

“It is an absolute privilege to work as closely as I do with the Los Angeles Zoo,” said White. “We are so lucky to have such a beautiful zoo right here in town. It’s an honor to be able to continue to spread the word about how the LA Zoo and other major zoos contribute to conservation efforts that make a difference all over the world.”

“The zoo is a place where people from all ages, socioeconomic classes and education levels can come,” Genie Vasels, GLAZA’s vice president for institutional advancement, said. “Having these movie-themed events provides a more intimate family setting to reach more people.”

The zoo is hoping to establish the Family Jam night as an annual summer happening.

Zoo’s Clues

*The lions, meerkat and jaguar from “Lion King” were based on animals in the L.A. Zoo.

*Paramount Pictures employees annually volunteer at the zoo, taking on tasks like weaving hammocks for gorillas

*The precursor to the L.A. Zoo, the Selig Zoo, was built by William Selig, at the same time he constructed a movie studio next to it in the early 1900s.

*The MGM lion is said to have gotten off to its roaring start at the Selig Zoo.

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