Working on Zookeeper: Like a Zoo!

07/07/2011 at 09:00 AM EDT

Zookeeper Movie's Animals
Kevin James in Zookeeper
Tracy Bennett
How does a trainer deal with nearly 75 animals on a movie set? Have a well-catered craft service, for starters.

And on the set of Kevin James's new comedy, Zookeeper, animal trainer Mark Forbes had just that.

"It not only took a lot of food [to feed all the animals] but many different kinds of food from many different sources," Forbes tells PEOPLE. "My assistant Ryan spent about half his day running around ordering food and picking it up for the animals."

The lions, bears, wolves and various birds of prey were fed meat from a butcher in downtown Boston; the elephant, horse, and other barnyard animals enjoyed hay and grain from a race track supplier; while Crystal the capuchin monkey and the porcupines ate fruits and vegetables from a grocery store.

Working with so many animals (ranging from the heroes in the film to the day players who only worked in a few scenes) was "quite an undertaking," Forbes says. It involved coordinating not just feeding the animals, but housing, transporting and training them.

James, who plays the film's title character, had to work with the animals as well – no small feat when there were so many.

"Kevin was great," Forbes says. "He wasn't afraid, which is half the battle, but he also was very respectful and listened to the trainers on how to act around each different species. I think Crystal the monkey was everyone's favorite, but he also spent time with the elephant – and, believe it or not, the wolf."

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