Without network backing in the beginning, however, the show's budget was extremely tight. During the filming of the pilot episode, production costs mounted as the recalcitrant horse cast as Mister Ed refused to perform on cue (if it performed at all), resulting in large expenditures to cover the costs of additional training fees and wasted footage.
The producers of the show were ready to throw in the towel and write off the venture when one of the putative Mister Ed's trainers came up with a solution: the nearby Jungleland animal park in Thousand Oaks, California, had a trained Grevy's zebra that was being used in live shows for the park's daily tour visitors. The zebra (a female, called "Amelia" by its Jungleland handlers) was trained to perform many of the same actions (e.g., opening and closing its mouth, stamping its feet on cue) required in the Mr. Ed role, and Jungleland consented to lend her out for a few days' filming.
Amelia worked out fantastically well, exceeding everyone's expectations, and the pilot was quickly wrapped up and sold to the syndication market. The producers made a generous donation to Jungleland in exchange for continued use of Amelia, and she appeared in all the syndicated episodes as well as all the shows comprising the series' entire five-year run on CBS. Amelia retired to Jungleland when Mr. Ed was cancelled after the 1965-66 season, where she lived for three years before being sold at auction when Jungleland closed in 1969.
COMPLETE. AND UTTER BULLCRAP.
- So, they're saying that because a zebra is black and white, it wouldn't show up on black and white film? Horsefeathers! You'd still be able to tell if he was a zebra, even in black and white, just like you can tell shading and distinctions.
- You can tell Mister Ed has a blaze, which is impossible for a zebra to have.
- Ed is undoubtedly a palomino. Did they paint the zebra?
- Mr. Ed is obviously taller than an average zebra. (Heavier, too. Zebras can commonly be an average 500lbs while a horse is well over 1,000lbs.)
- His ears are smaller than a zebra's.
- Mr. Ed's head was too dished to be a zebra's.
- Notice a zebra's mane versus a horse's. Zebras do not have forelocks, and their mane stands straight up like a mohawk.
- Notice the difference between the tails of a zebra and a horse.
- Zebras ARE wild animals; one has yet to be truly domesticated. Recently, they filmed a movie called Racing Stripes about a racing zebra. They used a real zebra for a few scenes, but they eventually had to paint a pony because the zebras were so mean. If you stand by a zebra at his shoulder, they can still reach with their hindlegs to kick you.
- A zebra would be much more expensive and need strictly expertise handling.
- The horse that played Ed was Bamboo Harvester.
- There isn't even a picture to show of Ed as a zebra.
- They say the zebra that played Ed was a mare. Ed has a penis!!!!!
The logic is inconsistant. They were on an extremely tight budget, yet a zebra is less expensive than a horse? Please.
And why would they would hire Bamboo Harvester (that happened to look exactly like Ed) just for promotions (instead of training him to paw and move his mouth to replace the zebra)?
The only way I'd find this story feasible is that he was a zorse (horse/zebra cross), which were popular in the 60s. Yet even then they'd have to paint Ed to get his untarnished (and unstriped) palomino coat.
Let's take coloring out of the question. Still, does Mr. Ed even resemble an average zebra? Mane, tail, muscling, size, ears, head... The only similarity is that they have the same genus.
It's amazing that that could become an urban legend.