Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment have called off this weekend’s premiere of the movie A Dog’s Purpose amid controversy over a recently surfaced video showing a trainer apparently forcing a German shepherd into churning water on set.
A statement issued Thursday said that because Amblin, which produced the film, is still reviewing the video, distributor Universal has “decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket.” The two companies “do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”
The filmmakers came under fire Wednesday after TMZ published a video in which a German shepherd named Hercules is seen clawing at a pool’s edge and trying to get away as a trainer attempts to force him into the turbulent water. Off-camera, a voice can be heard laughing at the dog’s efforts and saying, “You just got to throw him in.”
Director Lasse Hallstrom and voice actor Josh Gad, neither of whom were on set for the incident, both said on social media they found the video disturbing, and PETA has called for a boycott of the film.
In Thursday’s statement, Universal and Amblin asserted, “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. We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday.”
A Dog’s Purpose is slated to hit theaters Jan. 27.