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Originally published July 22, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Page modified July 22, 2010 at 2:20 PM

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Trigger's taxidermist now busy with TV werewolves

Werewolves and roadkill keep business brisk these days at the taxidermy shop that preserved Roy Rogers' horse Trigger.

Associated Press Writer

BURBANK, Calif. —

Werewolves and roadkill keep business brisk these days at the taxidermy shop that preserved Roy Rogers' horse Trigger.

Take a walk through Bischoff's Taxidermy and Animal FX, one of the largest animal prop rental warehouses on the West Coast, and you might recognize a black cat from "Mars Attacks," a polar bear rug from "Blades of Glory" or a bloated horse from the Jack Black movie "Envy." Little foam and silicone "Stuart Little" mouses can be found here and there.

It was here that retired taxidermist Everett Wilkensen preserved Trigger, "the smartest horse in the movies," along with Dale Evans' horse Buttermilk and the singing couple's German shepherd Bullet.

Christies in Manhattan auctioned off Trigger last week for $266,500, Buttermilk for $25,000 and Bullet for $35,000.

That may or may not be a record for taxidermy - it's not clear if anyone keeps records, said Christie's spokeswoman Sung-Hee Park.

Wilkensen, who is nearing 90, has trouble remembering a lot of the details these days, but Bischoff's owner Gary Robbins said they have talked at length in the past about how he preserved the famous horse.

Robbins estimates it cost $10,000 to $12,000 to mount Trigger in 1965. Wilkensen had to make the foam core by hand.

So that six-figure selling price? Robbins calls it "over the top."

"It belongs in a museum," he said.

A spokesman for buyer RFD-TV, a cable company in Omaha, Neb., that bought Trigger said they hope to build a Western museum around the horse.

These days, Robbins' business is 90 percent movie work and commercials, like the early Aflac duck commercials, a breakfast Taco Bell chicken and Frankie the singing fish for McDonald's in the eastern United States.

There are four "Seabiscuit" heads and a mold on the second story landing. Robbins had to make his own mold for the soft foam heads, then use a special gun to cover them with synthetic flock fur, layer it and comb it. The heads were mounted on springs, then on a riding trailer.

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If you have seen "Men in Black," "The Scorpion King," "The Ring," "War of the Worlds," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Blades of Glory," "Mouse Hunt," "Unforgiven" or "Wyatt Earp," you've seen the shop's work.

There is a big yellow tuna fish from Bischoff's in "Dinner for Schmucks," due out July 30.

Wolf and werewolf gore are the company's most requested props these days, from shows including "True Blood." "Lost" needed a wild boar and water bottles made of hide.

Last week, they got a call for a deer whose heart had to be ripped out. Most werewolf work is done by makeup artists on the set, Robbins said, then he gets the fallout calls. "We make some scary creatures to go along with it, the real wolves and dead deer, rabbits and rats."

With latex and silicone, Bischoff's can add blood, tire tracks, intestines, hearts, gore or anything else a catastrophe could conceivably cause, he said.

They have a large selection of roadkill and drawers full of animal parts.

Kelly Pardekooper handles most of the contracts for the company. Repeat TV customers include "Dexter," "The Mentalist," the CSI and NCIS shows, "Criminal Minds," "Bones," "House," "Scrubs," "Hannah Montana," "ICarly," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Jay Leno Show," he said.

What about that other crime show staple, the bloody human body? "We don't do bodies," Robbins said.

And some props are made never to return, said Robbins' wife Mary, who is also the company accountant.

"We did 'War of the Worlds' with Tom Cruise. We did a cow. When they destroyed the earth, he (Cruise) was hiding underground, then he came out and there were dead animals and one was our dead cow and he actually walks over it," she said.

"Frank, the (stunt double) pug in 'Men in Black,' was destroyed in production," she said. "It's because of the things they do to the animals. Those things happen."

---

Online:

Bischoff's: http://www.bischoffs.net

Christies: http://www.christies.com

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