Universal Pictures has cancelled the A Dog’s Purpose Hollywood premiere scheduled for Saturday after international furor from a viral video showed one of its canine stars in distress while making the movie.

Distributor Universal and production company Amblin Entertainment announced on Thursday that the premiere and a Monday press day around the film were scrapped. The joint statement said the premiere would not be appropriate while an investigation is conducted into the events around the 2015 set video which surfaced on TMZ.com Wednesday.

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket,” a joint release stated. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

The planned release for the film remains January 27.

Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans

Joint statement

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has spearheaded a call for a A Dog’s Purpose boycott following the video’s release. The video shows a German Shepherd, Hercules, during filming of a rescue scene involving jumping into a pool with churning waters. Hercules is seen struggling to stay out of the water as a set trainer forces the dog into pool.

A Dog’s Purpose voice star Josh Gad tweeted shock over the “disturbing” video and called for an “explanation”. Director Lasse Hallstrom said he didn’t witness the event and demanded an investigation. Amblin representatives said in the statement that the investigation was ongoing.

“Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review,” the statement said. “While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking.

“We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday.”

Amblin also released a current video showing Hercules.

Lisa Lange, senior vice-president of Peta, celebrated the decision to scrap the film’s premiere. The group had planned to protest at the premiere.

“This is not a movie to be celebrated. It was appropriate to cancel the premiere,” Lange said in a statement. “Now it is up to filmmakers to do the right thing going forward and no longer use animals in movies … it has never been more clear that Hollywood is no place for animals.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:

Premiere cancelled over cruelty claims

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