Sunday, July 30, 2006

Disney takes steps to counteract "101 Dalmations" effect

DVDs of two Disney movies that feature dogs are going to include inserts warning people that the breeds featured may not be ideal pets for everyone. According to this LA Times article, DVDs for the movie Eight Below, which features Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, and The Shaggy Dog, which features a bearded collie, will contain information developed in conjunction with the American Kennel Club designed to prevent impulse purchases of those breeds.
The American Kennel Club and Walt Disney Co., aware of the potential for popular films about dogs to inspire not just love at first sight but also spontaneous purchasing, joined forces last month to head off what could be called the "101 Dalmatians" effect, when the "Eight Below" DVD went on sale. For the first time, an insert was packaged inside each DVD warning wannabe Maya owners that "The Siberian Husky is a beautiful and intelligent dog, but not right for everyone." When "The Shaggy Dog" is released Tuesday, it will contain a similar informational insert on bearded collies.

Part of the AKC's mission is to educate the public about the qualities of purebred dogs. Daisy Okas, an AKC spokeswoman, says, "People spend more time researching the kind of car they're going to buy than the kind of dog. A dog shouldn't be an impulse purchase. It's a huge commitment."

Many people enamored with the spotted puppy stars of Disney's 1996 live action "101 Dalmatians" learned the hard way about living with a big screen beauty. Dalmatians are cute, but they're also a high-energy breed with great endurance. Like many active breeds, their frustration can turn into destructive, neurotic behavior if they don't get enough exercise. The Dalmatian that chews up the furniture because it's been left alone all day often winds up in a shelter, or worse, abandoned.
I think it's a step in the right direction, but it would be more effective if the warning were filmed and included before the movie with the FBI anti-piracy warning. The young (often spoiled) children who will pester their parents for a dog just like they saw in the movie may ignore the insert or not be able to read it, and many parents don't bother to do more than insert the DVD and park their children in front of it. Also, the insert is unlikely to be included in copies of the movie rented from video stores or Netflix, and will probably go unseen by a majority of viewers.

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