Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment have canceled the upcoming premiere of “A Dog’s Purpose” in the wake of disturbing video released by TMZ that showed a trainer apparently pushing a struggling dog named Hercules into a pool.
The announcement came Thursday night, just one day after PETA called for a boycott of the family film that is set to hit theaters on Jan. 27.
“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,” the studios said in a joint statement to TheWrap. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.
“Since the emergence of the footage, 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. 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,” the statement continued.
“We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday.”
A photo shoot featuring the dogs from the film has also been canceled, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Amy Kaufman.
Wow: Just got word that the junket 4 "A Dog's Purpose" is cancelled, as is a photoshoot where we had planned to snap the dogs from the film
— Amy Kaufman (@AmyKinLA) January 20, 2017
The premiere had been scheduled to take place at the Universal AMC CityWalk in Los Angeles at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the film’s stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton and Gabrielle Rose among those in attendance.
“A Dog’s Purpose” star Josh Gad, who plays the voice of a dog named Bailey, wrote a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday night in response to the video, saying: “I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film.”
Gad emphasized that he doesn’t know any details behind the video and was not on set for the making of the film. But he is “shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will,” he said.
“As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation,” the “Frozen” voice actor continued.
The video, shot in November 2015 and published Wednesday by TMZ, shows a trainer appearing to force Hercules into a pool fitted with motors to simulate a whitewater river. The dog clawed at the edge of the pool before being finally pushed in. Hercules appeared to struggle to stay afloat until a voice yelled “cut” and handlers removed him from the pool.
The film’s director, Lasse Hallström, also posted his displeasure with the video.
“I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film ‘A Dog’s Purpose,'” he tweeted. “I did not witness these actions, which are unacceptable and would never happen with my knowledge.”