Friday, April 29, 2005

"No Animals Were Injured During the Making of This Film"

Just when I thought that animal actors were safe, news has leaked out that during a 20th Century Fox remake of the classic horse drama Flicka, a horse was accidently killed. Then comes word that a second horse was also killed on the same set. These events give a hollow ring to my post of April 23, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Well, They Used To.

Did the film makers violate the regulations designed to ensure the safety of animal actors? An investigation may give the answer later. If laws were broken, I presume the producers will be fined. Of course, a fine would be a miniscule line in the budget for a typical movie. That economic incentive to safeguard the lives of equine actors is thus weak.

In purely economic terms the life of a movie horse isn't worth much unless the horse is a star. The owner is paid the market value for the dead animal, which typically wouldn't be much, and the horse is carted off to the glue factory. Horses with box office power are rare these days. Mr. Ed, Trigger and Champion are long gone. The hundreds of old-time wranglers, stuntmen, actors, and directors who knew their way around a horse are gone, too. Too bad the old-timers aren't around to teach today's film makers how to live up to the title of this post.

A boycott of Flicka might pressure film makers to put safety first: If animals are killed making a movie, then we won't go to that movie. Traditionally it's been up to the Humane Society and Hollywood to figure out the best way to make movie sets safe for animal actors. If Mr. Ed were still with us, I'm sure he'd weigh in with a "Willlllbbber! Those are my cousins on that movie set. Now you go out there and make sure nothing happens to them!"

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