Dunston Checks In

Dunston Checks In is a comedy about an orangutan, Dunston, who is forced by his owner, Mr. Rutledge, to be a cat burglar and a little boy named Kyle, who saves him from a life of crime. Seven year old Kyle and his fourteen year old brother Brian live at the Majestic Hotel with their father, Robert Grant, the hotel general manager. Kyle and Brian devise games and practical jokes to amuse themselves, but unfortunately for their father, the amusement sometimes causes chaos for his hotel guests. Life at the hotel really becomes chaotic when Mr. Rutledge checks in with Dunston who starts entering the suites to steal the guests' valuables. After Dunston's first heist, Mr. Rutledge is mean to the orangutan causing him to run away. Dunston and Kyle become friends and after seeing the way that Rutledge mistreats Dunston, Kyle decides to hide him until he can convince his dad of the orangutan's existence. However, it is not going to be easy because at every turn Mr. Rutledge is close on their heels. It is not until Robert sees Dunston in the flesh and observes Rutledge's mistreatment of the orangutan, that he is convinced of the sincerity of Kyle's story and agrees to help. Robert even jeopardizes his job by helping the orangutan to escape Rutledge during the hotels most important event, the Society Ball. What is suppose to be an evening of style and elegance for the elite, becomes one of mayhem as Dunston goes from looking up ladies dresses to jumping off a chandelier as he dodges the clutches of his owner.

  • Starring: Faye Dunaway and Jason Alexander
  • Director(s): Ken Kwapis
  • Producer(s): 20th Century
  • Screenwriter(s): John Hopkins
  • Release Date: Monday, November 06, 1995

Featured Animal Action

The orangutan, Dunston, is seen throughout the film doing a variety of tricks, such as jumping on furniture, cuddling in bed with Robert, doing somersaults, playing Frisbee, riding in a wheel chair, playing hide and seek, opening drawers, drinking, throwing things, dressing, etc. The orangutan was trained in pre-production for all of these behavioral stunts. During filming his trainer merely placed him on his mark and gave him hand and voice commands with food as a reward. There is also the use of two dogs in a number of scenes. The dogs are seen being carried through the hotel by an actor, being walked on a leash, dried with towels after a plunge into the hotel fountain, drinking out of the fountain and running down the hallway. For all of these scenes the trainer merely placed the animal and used voice and hand commands with food as a reward. Also a fish aquarium is seen as background in one apartment scene. In the opening scene, Kyle and his brother, Brian, are trying to amuse themselves and it causes a chaotic scene in the lobby as a guest, Lionel Spaulding and his dog, Neil, are checking in. Lionel is standing in front of the desk with Neil in his arms as the lobby fountain sprays an enormous jet stream of water which hits Lionel and causes him to toss the dog into the air. Neil sails through the air and the woman standing behind Lionel catches the dog in her arms. The force of the dog landing on her throws the two of them backwards into the fountain. The dog is seen sitting on her chest soaking wet. He then jumps out of the water and runs out of sight. The scene was shot in cuts. For this scene a real and a stuffed dog were used. A real dog was used for the portions of the scene when the actor walks in holding him and for the shot of the lady in the fountain with the dog. For this the trainer merely placed the dog in the actors arms and he walked from point A to point B. For the scene in the fountain, the trainer merely wetted the dog down and placed him in the arms of the actress. From off camera, he called the dog, causing the dog to jump out of the fountain and run off camera. A stuffed dog was used for the shot of the dog shooting out of Lionel's arms, sailing through the air and landing in the arms of the woman behind him. In another scene with Neil, Kyle is walking the dog on his leash along the roof dog walk. The dog senses something by the edge of the roof and he runs over to take a look. Upon seeing Dunston sitting on a ledge below, he leaps over the side and lands in a dumpster. The scene was filmed in cuts. For this scene a platform, two and a half feet high and five feet long was specially built for the dog. The dog actually ran on the platform, jumped off and landed on the ground. This portion of the scene was filmed in front of a blue screen and was later combined in post-production with the actor and background. The trainer cued the dog from off camera using voice commands. Earlier in the scene when the dog bolts off his leash, the trainer used voice commands to call the dog to him as the actor let go of the leash. A fake dog is used for the shot of the dog when he lands in the dumpster. In the scene when Dunston is making his way to his first heist at the hotel, he is seen climbing up a pole on the side of the building to get to the targeted window. This scene was also filmed in cuts. For this scene a padded stunt mat, approximately twelve inches thick, was placed below the pole. A special safety harness fitted to the orangutan's body was used with a safety cable attached and secured at the second story window. One trainer was waiting where the cable was hooked at the window and used voice commands to cue the orangutan to climb up, while a second trainer was positioned below the pole. When Dunston opens the window, he enters the room and goes to his trainer who is waiting just inside. There is another scene of Dunston climbing the outside walls of the building when he runs away after Rutledge angrily yells at him. Dunston runs to the window, exits and climbs onto a drain pipe. He then enters an outside vent leading to an air shaft. The scene was shot in cuts. For this scene, a scaffolding and stunt mats were set up just below the area where the orangutan would be climbing up the pole. The orangutan was assisted in his stunt by three trainers. The first trainer released the orangutan at the window, while the second trainer stood below on the platform to spot the animal, along with giving him voice commands. The third trainer retrieved the animal at the completion of his climb. There is a scene when Dunston jumps at Kyle and they fall through a laundry chute. This scene was shot in many cuts. The portion of the scene where Dunston lands on Kyle knocking them into the opening of the chute was filmed with a stunt dummy in place of the actor. The orangutan was prepped for about two weeks prior to this shoot. A pit approximately three feet deep with mats about two feet thick was constructed for this portion of the scene. The orangutan was placed on his mark by the trainer and then cued with voice and hand commands and food as a reward. For the shots of the orangutan and the boy in the chute, an animatronic and a real orangutan were used. A special set was constructed for the part of the sequence that called for the real animal and actor. A three sided structure was built to look like a laundry shoot. The structure was built horizontally instead of vertically and was eighty feet long. A sled was built for the actor and animal. The sled was three and a half feet long and three feet wide. It was made out of heavy steel with a foam pad for the orangutan to lie on and was secured to a specially made track that moved only in two directions. The sled was on a platform approximately four feet off the ground, controlled by a magnet, motor and cables with a technician controlling the speed. The sled had two levels, the top for the actor and the bottom for the orangutan. The child actor was placed on his stomach on the top portion of the sled with the orangutan being placed on the bottom on his back. The animal and child put their arms around each other, making it look as though they are hugging one another. The camera was set up on a dolly that moved in front of the track with the trainer following, close to the animal's side. For the final portion of the scene where the two appear to be moving at high speed down the chute, an animatronic orangutan was used. The actor held onto the puppet while speeding down the chute horizontally on the sled. There is a scene in the kitchen during the society ball where Dunston tries to escape Rutledge. The orangutan swings from heat lamp to heat lamp before landing on a table. This scene was also filmed in cuts. The light bulbs in the lamps were low heat bulbs and they were not turned on until the camera started rolling. The lamps were secured by heavy duty hooks. Trainer number one placed the orangutan on the first lamp while the second trainer, positioned at the last lamp, used voice commands to call the animal to him. For the portion of the scene where Dunston lands on the table and jumps to the ground, the child actor merely reached out his hand and helped the orangutan jump off the table onto a pad that was placed in the area where the orangutan landed. When Dunston is running from Rutledge in the ballroom during the society ball, he climbs up a pole and onto the chandelier. There is an animal control officer as a character in the film who attempts to shoot Dunston with a tranquilizer gun. The dart misses Dunston and hits the prisms on the chandelier. The scene was filmed in several cuts. A real and a stuffed orangutan were used. For this scene the chandelier was lowered to approximately twelve feet from the ground with a padded platform directly underneath. For the portion of the scene that called for shooting a dart at the orangutan, a stuffed dummy was used. When the real orangutan was used, the trainer stood on scaffolding and placed the orangutan on the chandelier and then cued the animal with voice and hand commands to do various behavioral tricks during the scene. The chandelier was lowered for the shot of Dunston jumping off. The orangutan was merely jumping into the arms of his trainer. When Dunston jumps from the chandelier, he appears to land on Mrs. Dubrow and both fall into an enormous cake. We see Dunston sitting on Mrs. Dubrow after the fall into the cake. For this scene, the trainer placed sugar-free icing on the orangutan's arms, legs, and head. He then placed the orangutan on top of the actress chest and moved off camera. While off camera he used voice commands to cue the orangutan to come to him. The icing was immediately washed off of the orangutan after the scene. Before getting up Dunston licks some cake off of Mrs. Dubrow's face. Sugar-free icing was used in case the orangutan ate some of it. Sugar is particularly bad for orangutan's teeth. There is a scene in a greenhouse in the hotel where Robert sees Dunston for the first time. The actor is running back and forth in several shots and Dunston is seen riding on Robert's back. To accomplish this scene, the trainer merely placed the orangutan on the actor's back and used voice commands. For scenes where the orangutan is doing behavioral tricks, such as giving someone raspberries, waving, walking from A to B, drinking, eating, standing on the dresser, in the dumb waiter , getting dressed, etc., the trainer merely placed the orangutan on his mark and with voice and hand commands cued the animal. When Rutledge gets upset with Dunston and yells at him, two trainers were close by off camera to assure the orangutan that everything was all right. There is a scene where Dunston's hand is bleeding. Brian holds the orangutan's hand and applies first aid. For this scene, candy glass and fake blood were placed in the orangutan's hand. The trainer placed the orangutan on his mark and using voice and hand commands cued him to hold it out. Then the trainer showed the orangutan a stuffed animal cueing him to throw up his hand.