Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Franklin Park Zoo

The upcoming movie -- Zookeeper -- prompted us to finally visit Boston's Franklin Park Zoo where the movie is supposedly set. Now you would think that this type of thing would be a boon to a zoo. A major kids movie released all about talking animals in a zoo at your zoo. It would be time to roll out all stops, spruce it all up and prepare for the hoards. Alas, that was not the case and so begins this blog post which is designed to ward all and sundry away from this particular zoo. If you live in Boston or are visiting Boston and are thinking of making the Franklin Park Zoo a stop because you may see or (if you read this in a month or so) have seen this movie, don't.

The movie's premise is that the animals talk. But the fantasy is that the Franklin Park Zoo is anything like what is in the movie. It isn't. It is large enough to be sure but you can map the budget cuts. The first obvious cut is clearly in gardening. Very little attempt has been made there and the whole set-up in a mess. The next obvious cut is in the animal environment. There aren't any elephants that appear to feature prominently in the movie. And many of the habitats look depressing. There were zebras sitting there seemingly desperate for someone to let loose a lion into their area just for some excitement. But then if you look at the lions, it was pretty clear that in that event there would not be much excitement provided. Yes I know the whole zoo -- animals in cages and whatnot -- may never be appealing on lots of levels. But the more successful zoos at least make some attempt to ensure an illusion of contentment in the air. What else? Oh yes, don't eat anything. These attractions are pretty dodgy at the best of times but this one was far from what you want. 

But it wasn't all bad. For starters, there was ample parking and nothing was crowded. 

And there was a tropical pavilion that was quite good, if a bit old. The gorillas and monkeys were out and about and so that provided something you may not see everyday. There was also an 'Aussie Aviary' with a whole lot of budgies, some cockatoos and a kookaburra or two. Of course, as Australians know, that means you are mainly concerned about being pooped on. Then again, it was not like we were going to be eating soon.

To my mind, what was offensive is that nothing had been done to leverage the movie. The movie clearly is set in some different and more interesting zoo. But that shouldn't have stopped some marketing person at the actual Franklin Park Zoo from cashing in. Try to make it all look like the movie and lavish the park with movie references. Instead, there was the same small Kevin James poster on the light posts but that was it. No attempt to pretend animals were talking or anything. Here was opportunity to get a faded glory back on track and it was passing them by. And surely there was something coming from the use of the whole name in the movie? Where is all that going? A bad look for the actual Franklin Park Zoo is a bad look for the movie too. The complementarity runs both ways and so Hollywood would pay for the Zoo's poor showing. None of my kids wanted to see the movie anymore after visiting the zoo.