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Big cats, some of them Hollywood stars, will prowl the Grape Festival

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Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2008 10:00 pm

You've probably seen his wild animals on popular TV shows like "CSI" or in movies including "Evan Almighty" and "The Jungle Book," but now Hollywood animal trainer Brian McMillan is bringing his big cats to Lodi.

At this year's Grape Festival, the Wild World of Tigers entourage will be on display, with educational shows held daily. The shows will feature tigers romping with one another and doling out affectionate "hugs" to their trainers.

McMillan, an animal trainer for more than 30 years, has a special touch with lions, tigers and other wild animals. He owns Lufuno, a rare white lion who loves to "kiss" and "smile." He can also sit on command.

The trainer has raised each of his animals since they were cubs, even bottle feeding most. Some, like Lufuno, have become stars thanks to Hollywood.

Aside from his film production background, McMillan's experience in live entertainment and educational programs spans from producing new animal shows for Six Flags to becoming the youngest animal director for Resorts International, where his impressive creation of a mixed animal pyramid, with an elephant, tiger and hawk, instantly became the main stay for all their advertising, according to his company Web site.

At this year's festival, McMillan promises to give attendees 30-minute shows three times a day showcasing each animal's natural beauty and grace, as well as an audience question-and-answer session.

He'll also provide behind-the-scenes anecdotes and demonstrate how he captures the seemingly impossible shots with animals on camera. Look for him to explain his unique "affection training" method and demonstrate some training techniques.

In addition to the shows, three Bengal tigers will be on display throughout the four-day festival. Check it out at the General Mills Kidzone area.

Wild World of Tigers at a glance

Brian McMillan, the company founder and owner, has been training animals for more than 30 years. He is also owner of Hollywood Animals, which connects TV and film producers with wild animals.

To, date he has provided exotic animals for some 150 films, TV shows, documentaries, commercials and videos.

The company, a traveling off-shoot of "Walking with Lions," and African-themed ranch is based in Santa Clarita, outside of Los Angeles.


Lodi Grape Festival E-edition

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