Technically, maybe it’s correct to say no animals were harmed during the filming of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
But away from the set, when the cameras weren’t rolling, 27 animals signed up to take part in the production died, and more were injured – mostly at a New Zealand farm where they were being kept.
Animal wranglers involved in the making of “The Hobbit” movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths because it kept the animals at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other “death traps,” according to an Associated Press report.
Despite that, the movie’s credits do carry the American Humane Association’s “No animals were harmed” stamp of approval — the exact wording of which is “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.”
The AHA says its monitoring of animals is limited to the actual filming of a movie or television show, and that it lacks the manpower, funding and authority to police animals when they are away from the set.
But others, PETA included, think that’s splitting hairs.
“How can something like this happen when the unit production manager was warned and the production was monitored by the AHA,” asks PETA, which has been critical of AHA in the past, and which was involved in breaking the story.
PETA also wonders why — given the state of the art of computer graphics — live animals had to be used at all:
“This movie was directed by Peter Jackson, a master at computer-generated imagery (CGI). In a movie that features CGI dragons, ogres, and hobbits, CGI animals would have fit in perfectly. Jackson could have made The Hobbit without using a single animal—and he should have.”
AHA called the deaths “needless and unacceptable,” and said they show that there are shortcomings in the oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek December 4th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 27 animals, aha, american humane association, an unexpected journey, chickens, deaths, director, entertainment, filming, goats, horses, making, movie, movies, new zealand, no animals were harmed, peter jackson, sheep, the hobbit, trilogy, warner bros, warner brothers, wellington
Another movie about a supernatural dog has been released — this time, a vampire dog – but apparently it has skipped theaters and gone straight to DVD.
From the trailer, you can maybe see why.
Given that movies with dogs that talk, and movies that portray dogs as monsters (even lovable ones) are not among our favorite genres, you may ask why even post about “Vampire Dog?”
Partly because, having written a non-fiction book on dog cloning — a practice I see as selfish, ill-conceived, fraught with animal welfare concerns and maybe a little supernatural itself — I feel the need to stay on top of both the real world attempts to make dogs eternal, and any artsy representations thereof in the entertainment industry.
Partly also because we spot a trend, or maybe the beginning of one, or maybe just two of something.
Coming out next month, in theaters, is Frankenweenie — a remake by Tim Burton of his short film about a dog who is reanimated by his young owner.
“Frankenweenie” looks to be a lot more enthralling, and artsy, than ”Vampire Dog,” whose storyline begins when a boy named Ace inherits a dog named Fang from his grandfather in Transylvania.
Fang is not just a “vampire dog,” but also a talking dog (voiced by Norm MacDonald). I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually survive on blood (either Fang or MacDonald), and that he (Fang) is more comedic than scary.
According to a synopsis on IMDb, Fang arrives as Ace, the boy, is working to fit in at his new school. There’s a mad scientist involved, named Dr. Warhol, who along with her bumbling assistant tries to capture Fang and steal his DNA in hopes of developing the latest anti-aging technology.
Fang, while evading his pursuers, forms an enduring friendship with Ace and the two discover that together they can face their fears and be unstoppable.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cloning, dog cloning, dogs, entertainment, eternal, fang, forever, frankenstein, frankenweenie, movies, norm macdonald, pets, reanimated, resurrected, supernatural, tim burton, trailer, trailers, vampire dog, vampires, video
As is now known by fans of Irving the talking dog — and I’m not one of them, at least when it comes to the talking part – the Boston terrier didn’t make it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.”
Still, in terms of the exposure alone, it was a win for ventriloquist Todd Oliver, whose Branson, Missouri-based act has become more popular than ever.
Branson features three dogs in his performances, all equipped with flapping contraptions attached to their lower jaws. He controls the devices remotely, making the dog’s mouth move in time with the words he supplies, via ventriloquism.
In other words, Oliver uses his dogs for dummies.
No, I don’t think Oliver’s act should be banned. I don’t think we need to get PETA on the phone. I don’t think the appendages attached to the dogs for the act are hurting the dogs, or even bothering them to any great extent.
I am merely saying that it’s another example of us putting words in dogs’ mouths, of our humanization of them — solely for our own amusement.
I don’t like that Pedigree’s DentaStix ad campaign, featuring dogs with human dentures, either — for the same reason. In addition to the TV ads, the campaign allowed us to, with help from our computers, put not just human dentures, but the words of our choice, into dog mouths.
I’m not one of those to unnecessarily sound the anthropomorphization alarm — mainly because it’s too hard a word to say — but I do believe we should enjoy dogs as dogs, and not try to transform them into us.
Oliver seems like a nice guy who does a lot for dogs and animals, and as far as what he does to them for the act, it’s probably not abusive and even somewhat cute, at least for the first few minutes.
He says on his website that the device was developed with a veterinarian.
“Todd is just a true animal lover. He often assists local shelters and rescues dogs from unfit environments,” the website says. ”Everything in Todd’s act is 100% safe and registered with the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.”
I know that, again, I will be criticized for being overly sensitive, but in my opinion we’ve already tinkered with dogs too much — by shaping them, over the centuries, into breeds whose looks please us; by using them in lab experiments and, in recent years, cloning them; by dressing them up, teaching them to dance, and all the other things we do for our own amusement.
They’re pretty amusing and animated just as they are, without our help. Our attempts to make them more amusing, I think, are often both dopey and disrespectful. But who’s going to listen to me?
If only I could get a dog to say it.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 4th, 2012 under videos.
Tags: act, america's got talent, amusement, animals, anthropomorphization, dentures, dog, dogs, dogshaming, dummies, dummy, entertainment, funny dogs, humanization, humans, irving, irving the talking dog, mouth, pedigree, pets, talking dogs, tinkering, todd oliver, ventriloquism
Leave it to director Tim Burton to get across the point — in his characteristically gothic manner – that I’ve been trying to make for two years now:
You can’t bring your dead dog back to life, at least not without running into some trouble.
At least that’s a point I selfishly hope his new full-length, 3-D animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” will make when it comes out in October.
As the author of a book on the brave new world of dog cloning, and being generally opposed to the practice, I’ve got some confused feelings about Burton’s new movie, which comes out — unlike his 1984 short film of the same name – at a time when dogs, deceased and otherwise, are being “re-created” in South Korea.
Science has caught up with science fiction, it seems, and sometimes brings equally scary results.
In the movie, a boy named Victor, grieving the death of his beloved dog, Sparky, conducts a science experiment to bring him back to life “only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.”
Based on that summary, Burton’s new movie, like the classic work of literature upon which it is based, could have a few things in common with today’s reality, in which the cells of dead dogs are merged with egg cells from donor dogs, zapped with electricity and, after being implanted in surrogates, come to life. The going price is $100,000.
Do bereaved pet owners get the same dog — a reanimated version of their deceased one? Of course not. Do they think they are? Sometimes.
When I started researching “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the first book I read, or re-read, was “Frankenstein” — given all the parallels between that classic story and cloning.
Both featured grief, selfishness and laboratories, borrowing parts from one being to assemble another, and plenty of mistakes and deformities along the way. Both relied on a zap of electricity to spur things on. Both related to the stubborn refusal of humans to accept death, and the powerful drive, among some, to bring a being, or at least a semblance of it, back to life.
Burton’s new movie itself is a reanimation. “Frankenweenie” was originally a 30- minute short film. Now he’s done what he originally wanted to do — make it a full-length feature. Here’s the official synopsis:
From creative genius Tim Burton comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
While much has been written about the making of the movie, and about the stars providing the voices — Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, among others — what message it delivers hasn’t been written about much. (Not that it must have one, or that it must be the one I’d like to see.)
The original short film — we’ve posted it here — was fantastical and charming. In it, the reanimated dog, though humans outside of his immediate family fear and misunderstand him, goes on to save Victor’s life and become beloved by all.
“The reason I originally wanted to make ‘Frankenweenie’ was based on growing up and loving horror movies,” Burton explains in the new movie’s press materials. “But it was also the relationship I had when I was a child with a certain dog that I had.”
“It’s a special relationship that you have in your life and very emotional,” he adds. “Dogs obviously don’t usually live as long as people, so therefore you experience the end of that relationship. So that, in combination with the Frankenstein story, just seemed to be a very powerful thing to me -— a very personal kind of remembrance.”
The original short film didn’t go into the folly and dangers of attempting to bring the dead back to life, and — being fictional, being fanciful, being art — it, and it’s lengthier animated 3-D remake, shouldn’t be required to.
It should need no “don’t try this at home” warning.
It should be allowed to just be fun, and not be subjected to hand-wringing reminders that resurrecting dead dogs, or at least what’s portrayed as such, is actually going on, or the moral and ethical issues surrounding it, or the sometimes horrific results.
And, or course, not being my movie, it shouldn’t have to make my point — one that wasn’t even necessary to make in 1984:
A dog’s death is final, and cherishing a dog’s memory (not to mention the dog while it is still alive) is a far more meaningful pursuit than trying to artificially recapture its essence in a laboratory.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 3d, animals, back to life, book, clone, cloned, cloned dogs, clones, cloning, death, director, dog, dog inc., dogs, entertainment, experiment, fantasy, frankenstein, frankenweenie, gothic, grief, horror story, message, moral, mourning, movie, pets, reality, resurrection, science, science fiction, sparky, tim burton, victor
Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who co-starred in the Oscar-winning movie, ”The Artist,” became the first dog to sink his paws into cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
In a ceremony yesterday that also marked Uggie’s retirement from show business, the terrier arrived in a fire truck, performed tricks for photographers, trotted down a red carpet and slapped his paws into wet cement on what was proclaimed “Uggie Day” in Los Angeles.
“The main message that Uggie would like to send to everybody out there is to please adopt,” Uggie’s trainer, Omar Van Muller, told the crowd. “He’s adopted. He made it. If you guys can adopt a dog, even if they don’t make it on the big screen, they’ll be big stars at your house.”
Van Muller said Uggie, while retiring from the movie business, will continue to appear at charity events and other functions.
While Uggie is the first dog to be showcased at Grauman’s courtyard, three dogs — Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart — have stars on the nearby Hollywood Walk of Fame, according to the Associated Press.
His retirement party, inside the theater, was attended by ”Lassie” and “Rin Tin Tin,” or at least their modern day namesakes, and “Artist” actor Ken Davitian. Cake was served, including one in the shape of a fire hydrant, made by Duff Goldman, the star of the Food Network series, “Ace of Cakes.”
Uggie won the 2011 Palm Dog Award and was named as the best dog in a film in February at the inaugural Golden Collar Awards for his portrayal of silent movie star George Valentin’s companion in “The Artist.”
(Photo by Joe Kohen/Invision/AP)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cement, dog, dogs, entertainment, first, footprints, graumans chinese theatre, hollywood, jack russell terrier, lassie, movies, omar van muller, pawprints, pets, prints, retired, retirement, retiring, rin tin tin, the artist, theater, uggie, uggie day
Remember when the truth about Santa Claus slowly started dawning on you? With me, it was when I started seeing him too many places at once — more places than any one person could be, and looking slightly different each time.
Now the same thing has happened with the canine star of “The Artist,” and it was Jimmy Kimmel who exposed the Uggie truth.
A perceptive member of Kimmel’s staff noticed that the Uggie who appeared on Kimmel’s show, on the Ellen DeGeneres show, and at the Oscars, had slightly different markings than that of the dog in the movie.
On Tuesday night, Kimmel showed video that seemed to substantiate differences between the dog in the movie and the dog making media appearances, and he raised the possibility that a fake Uggie, or, as he termed it, a Fuggie, had appeared on his show and the others.
Uggie, who has retired from movies and now serves as Nintendo’s spokesdog (or so we’re being led to believe), was invited back on Kimmel’s show Wednesday, appearing by satellite with his trainer, to clear up the confusion.
Trainer Omar Von Muller explained that three Jack Russells were used in filming — Uggie, who carried most of the load, his brother Dash, and a third named Dude. All three wore make-up so their markings would exactly match each other and have the same brown patch behind their ears — a larger one than Uggie has in real life.
As shattered fantasies go, it’s relatively minor. There were, after all, nine collies who played Lassie (and all were male); there were 22 Labs used in the filming of Marley and me; and there are, of course, thousands of stand-in Santa Clauses who appear in malls to assist the real one who can’t be everywhere at once.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dash, dogs, dude, entertainment, fake, fuggies, jack russell terriers, movies, pets, phony, television, the artist, uggie, video
Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who wowed crowds with his performance in “The Artist,” received top honors at the first annual Golden Collar Awards in Hollywood last night.
Other winners included French bulldog Brigitte, who plays Stella on TV’s “Modern Family,” and Hercules of “Pit Boss,” who tied with Giggy of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” for best dog in a reality television series, according to the Associated Press.
The ceremony was held at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel and broadcast online by the Hollywood Reporter.
The award ceremony was dreamed up by Alan Siskind of the website dognewsdaily.com, who said he expects it could be televised on network television next year.
Among the celebrities presenting trophies were “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette and “Hot in Cleveland” star Wendie Malick.
Uggie’s trainer, Omar Von Muller, accepted the award for Uggie, calling him a “great performer, but he’s also a great family member.”
Martin Scorsese, who wrote a commentary piece in the Los Angeles Times that inspired a write-in campaign for Blackie, the Doberman in his Oscar-nominated movie “Hugo,” appeared at the ceremony by video.
Blackie lost to Uggie, who was nominated twice in his category, for ”The Artist” and “Water for Elephants.”
The best dog in a foreign film award went to Koko, a six-year-old kelpie who was the star of Red Dog, an Australian film based on a true story.
(Photo: Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alan siskind, animals, awards, beverly hills, blackie, brigitte, ceremony, dog news daily, dogs, entertainment, event, french bulldog, giggy, golden collar awards, hercules, hollywood, hugo, jack russell terrier, kelpie, koko, martin scorsese, modern family, pets, pit boss, real housewives, red dog, stella, the artist, uggie
(UPDATE: Plans to bring back the diving horse act have been scrapped.)
In what would be a stunningly stupid return to yesteryear, Atlantic City’s Steel Pier plans to bring back the diving horse act.
This summer spectators will be able to watch as horses ridden by stunt divers jump from a platform and plunge into a pool of water.
Perhaps you’ve seen grainy black and white footage of the event, in which swimsuit-clad women rode horses off a 40-foot platform. It began in the late 1920s and — with all due respect to nostalgia and extreme sports — should have stayed there.
Yet it’s returning as part of a multimillion effort to bring “family entertainment” back to Atlantic City. In other words — irony alert – let’s get all those folks we chased away with gambling to come back, and bring the kids, so that they might be traumatized and learn that animals are on this earth to help humans make money.
“This is a full-scale, custom act,” Tony Catanoso, one of the pier’s owners, told the Press of Atlantic City. “We know the diving horse is controversial, but I think people need to look at the bigger picture. A diving horse is going to be iconic. It’s going to be a small piece of the development project that will bring family entertainment back to Atlantic City.”
Plans for the show’s return were announced last week when the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved a $6 million contribution to the $20 million first phase of the Steel Pier improvement project.
Animal welfare groups are, of course, chomping at the bit, and a petition to halt the act is gathering signatures at Change.org.
“It just boggles the mind that they’re going back and doing this again.” said Janine Motta, a spokeswoman for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. “Certainly, we’ll be looking into finding out more about it.”
Motta was among the protesters when the show returned briefly in 1993, only to be terminated by the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, then the owner of the pier.
The Humane Society of the United States says equine diving acts expose the animals to “inhumane and potentially abusive situations in the course of their training, transport and performance.”
“The stress and trauma endured by these animals, in addition to the risk of injury to them, make these acts unacceptable,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS. “They are senseless animal exploitation, for the sake of entertainment and profit.”
HSUS was among the organizations that protested the short-lived return of the diving horse show in Atlantic City in 1993. It featured two ponies, a mule and a dog jumping 15 feet into a pool of water, and it lasted only a couple of weeks.
Catanoso says the event will be neither cruel nor inhumane. An out-of-state consultant is training three horses with trick divers that will rotate through the shows. The dives will be the finale to a 15- to 20-minute show at an amphitheater at the pier.
Expect some fallout on this one, as animal welfare organizations will likely mount a campaign against it. Expect as well that those involved with the act will step forward and say how much the horses enjoy it — much like greyhounds “enjoy” racing because it’s “in their blood.”
We’d suggest the brilliant minds behind this idea take a long walk.
Off a short pier.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abusive, animal protection league, animal welfare, atlantic city, casino, cruel, diving, diving horses, entertainment, equine, extreme sports, family entertainment, horse diving, horses, hsus, humane society of the united states, improvement, inhumane, initiative, new jersey, nostalgia, platform, pool, project, steel pier, stunts
Was Blackie snubbed?
And, if so, was it because because of his large and menacing appearance — a case of Doberman discrimination?
Director Martin Scorsese — pronounced “score-SAYS-he” — is contending that the canine star of his movie, “Hugo,” Blackie the Doberman, was rudely overlooked in the nominations for the First Annual Golden Collar Awards.
But, according to Hollywood insiders (and one wonders, are there any Hollywood outsiders?), he’s doing it for laughs, and probably even more for publicity.
Blackie plays a train station officer’s attack dog, and most of his time on screen is spent scaring and chasing the child stars of the Oscar-nominated film.
Uggie, the Jack Russell, received two nominations — for his roles in “The Artist” and “Water for Elephants” — but Blackie got no respect.
In a guest column for the Los Angeles Times Scorcese writes:
“OK, let’s lay all our cards on the table. Jack Russell terriers are small and cute. Dobermans are enormous and — handsome. More tellingly, Uggie plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master’s life in one of the films, while Blackie gives an uncompromising performance as a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children. I’m sure you can see what I’m driving at.”
He urges readers to start a write-in campaign for Blackie, via comments on the Dog News Daily Facebook page.
Dog News Daily editor Alan Siskind says if Blackie receives 500 write-ins by Monday, February 6th, the Golden Collar nominating committee will add him as the sixth nominee in the Best Dog in a Theatrical Film category.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: awards, blackie, director, dobermans, entertainment, golden collar, golden collar awards, hollywood, hugo, jack russells, martin scorsese, movies, the artist, uggie, water for elephants
And who, you’re wondering, was the brain behind Sunday’s halftime show that featured a dog-riding monkey?
That’s Tim “Wild Thang” Lepard, a Mississippi boy who once tangled with bulls but, after nine related surgeries and we can only guess a few bumps on the head, found a safer line of work — placing Capuchin monkeys atop border collies and orchestrating the entertainment that ensues.
We’re not ready to call this animal cruelty, so we’ll just call it kind of stupid, and another example — like the rodeo, like the circus — of the way-too-prevalent thinking that the purpose of animals is to entertain us.
That’s the football player’s job. Is watching the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots jump on each other not enough? Must we fill the brief halftime lull in play by mounting one species atop another?
Leperd, 49, who lives outside of Tupelo, Miss., is a former bull rider and bullfighter.
According to the Team Ghost Riders website, he has always felt he has “a bit of Elvis in my soul.”
Leperd explains how he evolved from bullfighter to dog and monkey trainer this way:
“After nine major surgeries encountered while fighting bulls, I began to put together the dog and monkey act and concentrated on comedy. I wanted an act that no one would forget in rodeo and felt performing with three dogs and three monkeys would accomplish my goal.”
Here’s a look at the crew in action last year during a rodeo in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, border collies, broncos, bull riding, bullfighting, capuchin, circus, dog riding monkey, dogs, entertainment, football, halftime, monkeys, nfl, patriots, pets, rodeo, show, species, team ghost riders, tim lepard, video