Rocket

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY hits cinemas on Thursday and we at THN couldn’t be happier about its imminent release. Why? Because you, our loyal readers, finally get to see the film, a film that we think is something truly spectacular; we gave it a glowing five-star review (which you can see here).

The first in Marvel‘s planned ‘phase two’, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY sees the Marvel world expand to encompass the entire universe. We have followed the project at every step and have kept you up-to-date with all the latest trailers, posters, featuettes etc. We attended the press conference and managed to get Michael Rooker (who plays Yondu) on the phone. We even managed to track down the reference raccoon for Rocket.

In February we brought you our interview with handlers Sallie and John Brent of Oreo and  Friends. We have stayed in touch with the couple and their cuddly companion who, as you may have seen over the last week, have been very busy. Oreo, the real-life Rocket attended the European premiere of the film as James Gunn’s ‘date’.

Oreo & James

To commemorate the forthcoming release we have re-jigged our original article (which can still be found here should you want to read it) adding some new information as we have been back in contact with the team to find out how the premiere went.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was shot entirely in the UK and, although not native creatures of England, the raccoon used is indeed British, and is called Oreo. Oreo is the star attraction of animal encounter company Oreo & Friends. He didn’t have the easiest start to life with Sallie and John rescuing him when he was only days old. What followed was a long process of hand-rearing the animal to the vibrant and happy creature that he is today.

It isn’t just Rocket that gets the accolade of being a hero as Oreo is somewhat of a hero himself. He takes part in a lot of charity work and has helped raise money for various charities including Help For Heroes. He also frequently visits children’s hospice’s where he brings a great deal of joy. Since we first met Oreo he went and spent time at a rehabilitation site for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

Since the news that Oreo was involved in the production broke via James Gunn, the company have been inundated with requests to meet him. Thankfully Oreo’s owners Sallie and John managed to squeeze us in for a chat, and tour around their headquarters:

How did you get involved with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?

SALLIE: James’ researchers found Oreo on our websites. When they were looking for a raccoon they wanted a dark one. You’ll notice the others we have are slightly more grey whereas Oreo has quite a dark face. That’s what they were looking for as it makes him look younger.

What exactly did you have to do?

SALLIE: We were in Shepperton for a couple of days. They studied everything about Oreo. He did a lot of standing and eating like he is now. They wanted to see how his hands and mouth work, they wanted to see his ears twitch. They soaked his fur so they could see what it looked like when wet.

Just so many people had to come and see us whilst we were down. So many people, they all have different roles, they were parting his fur and looking at the base layer of his fur and the different layers, pulling it apart. It was just amazing, so many people – about 250.

How was Oreo?

SALLIE: He was an angel all day. We took the grapes and the kibble, we took boxes and they were filled with food so that they could watch him take it all apart and eat it. We had bowls of water to put things in and do the whole water thing with him (raccoons like to put their food underwater before eating it). Just all sorts of things. But Oreo’s really well behaved – the best behaved of all of them (they had seven raccoons whilst we were visiting). You can take him anywhere.

I was trying to explain to them that a raccoon can do one thing with its hands and it could be doing something else with their hands. So he can be looking at something over there but he can be seeing with his hands as well. They were very interested in that concept. So we were saying he could be flying the the spaceship but could be doing something else as well. Their dexterity is completely amazing.

Oreo 2

JOHN: The scientists reckon that within each of those fingers there’s 150 nerves and each one goes to a different part of the brain. so while they’re looking at something and they touch it, they see the shape 3D in their brain.

SALLIE: If they’re in a river and they feel the shapes of the stones, they’ll remember where they were for three years. Very, very intelligent creatures. There’s a lot of research going on at the moment (on communication) between the brains and the hands of the raccoon. The hands are just amazing. They can manipulate so many things; they have a great amount of strength in them as well .

JOHN: You have to be careful where you put the bolts (on the enclosure).

SALLIE: They’re fantastic with locks and doors.

JOHN: (Laughs) Definitely! They’ve locked me out more than once.

James has posted a lot of pictures of Oreo and his friends over the last few months. What was he like as a director?

SALLIE: He’s lovely. He is very nice and the animals just love him. He’s really good with them, he just has that empathy with animals.

He spent a lot of time around here with all of our animals, and just fell in love with them all, especially Betty (one of the coatimundi’s), and Timone (a meerkat). He’s posted so many pictures of them all. I’ve just inherited so many Rocket raccoon fans on Facebook, because Oreo’s got his own Facebook.

Oreo is obviously the influence for what Rocket will look like, with Bradley Cooper providing the voice. Is he happy with this choice?

SALLIE: (Laughs) My daughter is VERY happy! I’m sure he’ll do a really good job.

How do you feel knowing that, although you took Oreo in, Rocket will be computer generated?

SALLIE: It will be weird. It’s him, but not him. It’s a combination of him, James’ vision and Bradley Cooper.

Will you be going to the premiere with Oreo?

SALLIE: Well, we’ll be going. I don’t know about with Oreo though. We wouldn’t be able to watch the film with Oreo. Not with old big pest.

olgaAs we all know from the photos all over the internet Oreo did indeed go to the premiere and whilst he may not have stayed to watch the film, he did host an after-party which, if Twitter is to be believed, saw him partying with Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (see picture). Sallie and John however did watch the film and we thought it only right to get their thoughts.

So how was the premiere?

Well Oreo is snoring his famous little head off in his posh suite!!! We are exhausted, but it was just an amazing evening. Oreo behaved 100% and was not phased one bit by the noise, flashes etc, he hadn’t forgotten that he loves James and went straight onto his shoulder for photo shoots at both ends of the red carpet. James and a few others came back to our hotel afterwards to play with Oreo which was just lovely, looks like we will get a few more visitors at home as well!

What did you think of the film and how Rocket came to life on the screen? How much of Oreo did you see in Rocket?

The film was incredible, he has taken Marvel into space in more ways than one. Loved the characters, loved the reluctant team spirit that developed into true camaraderie and loyalty. For me Star Lord and Rocket stood-out, but loved them all. The filming was beautiful and the mix of comedy and touching moments was brilliant, the characters had warmth; I wanted to pluck Rocket off the screen and hug him at one point! Rocket was a true raccoon with his deft little fingers and super smart leadership brain. We saw so much of Oreo in him from his fur to the flick of his tail.

Everyone is already in love with Rocket and they haven’t seen the movie yet. This popularity is set to increase after release, leading to a surge in people wanting to own their own furry friend. I imagine they are a lot of work and responsibility and shouldn’t be got on a whim. What advice/warnings would you give to people thinking about purchasing a raccoon?

Hopefully it won’t spark off more people wanting raccoons as pets as the word ‘pet’ could only be used loosely. Raccoons have a mind of their own and should never be underestimated. They need space, secure space outdoors to climb and explore, enrichment to prevent boredom and so much more!

Rocket

Should you find yourself with the ‘I want a raccoon’ desire post-viewing may we suggest the safer option of either visiting an event with Oreo and Friends, or better yet, book them for a function. We have. The company lead a very hectic life of school and hospital visits alongside various parties, weddings and other functions. Just think, you could be shaking paws with a real life Rocket Raccoon!

And it’s not just raccoons, they are called Oreo and Friends after all. Other animals on the team include Meerkat Timone (who also befriended director James Gunn), a skunk called Boodle, a rather lively kinkajou named Obi, and a coati called Betty with whom James Gunn fell in love. That’s not the end though as the committed duo also look after snakes, porcupines, foxes, armadillos, creepy crawlies, small furries, amphibians and lizards.

Unfortunately Oreo isn’t the only animal that came to them via rescue, with pretty much all of their lodgers either being an unwanted pet or having been acquired from Zoos and Wildlife Parks that have had surplus. Having spent time with the couple and seeing just how happy all the animals are we couldn’t be happier that Oreo and them are getting their time in the spotlight. We would also like to personally thank them for being so accommodating with us THN folk.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, directed by James Gunn, and staring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, John C.Reilly and Lee Pace, is set for release on 31st July 2014.