MONKEY BUSINESS

The story behind those office monkey GIFs that are suddenly everywhere

In the past week or so, you’ve probably seen a few GIFs like these floating around the internet:

They’re from a Getty stock video series of baboons in an office, doing, well, office stuff. They’re relatable and the internet loves them.

The footage was created back in 2003 and it’s unclear why it’s taken off right now. Hart Productions, the San Francisco-based husband-and-wife team that produced the series, had no idea the baboons had achieved their recent fame before friends started calling and emailing them. The last time the baboons had such a large audience was in 2010, when one of the clips made a brief appearance during the film Dinner with Schmucks.

The originally envisioned customers for the footage were business types looking to spice up a presentation, but social media has found other uses for it.

“People have come up with the best ideas, it’s really great,” Vikki Hart told Quartz.

G.K. Hart compared it to the way their ad clients typically pair stock photos with simple phrases to create evocative messages. The couple said this tweet was one of their favorites:

The idea for the series came up while the Harts were shooting stock photos of executives in San Francisco.

“Man, this would be funny if we transferred it to the same setting but with animals,” G.K. told Quartz. “Then we came up with baboon idea and got in touch with a trainer.”

After about two months of prep, which included painting the set and printing a tiny newspaper, they met the stars of the shoot: Daffney, Dagmar, and Kazoo. It was a reunion with the latter, with whom they had worked previously.

The Harts said they enjoy working with animals for their stock work because they’re more spontaneous. Humans tend to be self conscious, worrying about their posture, how they look, or doing the right thing.

“All of that is taken away, and you come up with something pure,” GK said.

But that spontaneity can wreak some havoc. The clip where a baboon throws cash into the air with glee? It was real money—mostly $1 bills—taken out the Harts’ bank account, and the baboons ate or destroyed around $100 of it. The one where a baboon throws a computer off a table?

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This was not a prop. (G.K. Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images)

That was Vikki’s brand new laptop, which one of the trainers managed to save with a last-second diving catch.

“The trainers were so good and so intuitive on the set,” Vikki said. The baboon “was so focused, and he went for the laptop and knew what to do. That was really nice because the baboons could have gotten upset.” One of the main rules on set was that anything handed to the baboons became theirs.

The Harts have been creating stock images for Getty since 1999, when it acquired Image Bank, where they had been working since 1987. Their first concept video for Getty was a rat running on a wheel, which they would take in as a pet.

Andrew Delaney, Getty’s director of creative content, said the company has always offered stock videos, but they’ve become increasingly popular among clients.

“Over the last five, six years it has skyrocketed,” he said.

Unfortunately for Getty and the Harts, the popularity of the baboon clips likely won’t mean much for their bottom line. For one, the images making their way around the internet are often pirated. Stock photo is also a tough business, thanks to competitors like Shutterstock and Fotolia. And Getty has been struggling since being taken private three years ago, though a spokesperson said the company has seen improved growth recently.

The Harts said one of the things they liked about joining Getty was getting involved with them during the early days of the internet.

“We make the images here, then they go off and make somebody laugh in another country,” Vikki said. “Anything that makes someone laugh is such a thrill for us.”

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