Report: PETA Punk'd by Avatar's Six-Legged Horses
The activists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have long had it out for Hollywood and its animal trainers, which made the organization's recent endorsement of Avatar for employing only CGI beasts something of a foregone conclusion. In a statement that also likened the "catlike" Na'vi culture to that of animals forced into unnatural lives away from their homes and families, PETA said it "applauds the movie's stunning special effects, which beautifully illustrate how unnecessary it is to subject animals to the stress of a film production." Touching, right? Would that it were true.
The American Humane Association, which is often charged with observing the handling and treatment of animals on movie sets (and thus has had more than a few falling outs with PETA over this kind of thing), today issued a statement of its own explaining that Avatar's horses in particular were motion-captured in a studio just like the rest of the cast. The painstaking detail of their participation sounds sort of humane, but will no doubt provide enough ammo for PETA to revoke its valentine to James Cameron as its "King of the World":
To prepare the animals for having their motion data recorded, trainers shaved small areas of fur or hair where the movements would be recorded, such as near joints and on the face. Velcro pads were attached to the shaved spots with a nontoxic, nonirritating silicone adhesive. White light-reflective balls were placed onto the Velcro to capture the motion data onto the computer. The exception to this was horses' tails, which were not shaved, but wrapped in a sensor-laden material. The adhesive and any additional markings were washed off each evening after filming ended.
Throughout the film, horses are seen outdoors standing or being ridden at a walk, canter or gallop. We also see people mounting, dismounting and falling off horses. These scenes were all filmed inside the capture studio. Horses were given ample room to start and stop running. ...For scenes in which horses appear to be near fire, trainers cued them to 'dance' or act skittish or afraid -- the horses were not actually agitated nor were they ever near fire.
So... Velcro glued to bare skin? Tails wrapped in "sensor-laden material"? This changes everything. And you don't even want to be around when PETA hears how infrequently Cameron's crew cleaned the banshee cages.