The last time I went on a rant about animal/vet portrayal in popular entertainment was way back in 2009. Unfortunately, I feel the need to do so again. In this case it's especially bothersome to me because it's Disney, a company whose products and movies I love.
Recently my family went and saw the movie Big Hero 6. It was a great movie that we all enjoyed, and really appealed to our geek side (stay until the end of the credits for a great cameo scene!!!!). Disney has taken a lesson from Pixar and now shows animated short films before most of their feature films. I've really liked a lot of them and one of them won an Academy Award. The one before this movie, however, made me cringe and squirm, simply because I'm a vet.
The short film is called Feast. It starts with a stray Boston terrier puppy in the rain being enticed by a man with a few french fries. He takes the puppy home and begins to care for it, giving him a good home. The puppy was obviously starving, so he gives it a big bowl of dog food. Then he slides a plate of bacon and eggs on top of it. Over the next several scenes we see the dog getting spaghetti and meatballs on the food, pizza, and lots of other food. Eventually we see the dog only eating these sorts of things, with no dog food anywhere to be seen. The man meets a woman, and when she comes into their lives the dog ends up getting brussel sprouts and a little sprig of parsley on the dog food. The dog is disgusted by this change in events and the lack of "good stuff", obviously pining away for the pizza and fries while he only reluctantly eats his food.
The couple breaks up and the dog realizes that his master is miserable. He goes running back to the woman and in a cute scene is able to make her realize that they need her in their lives. The couple gets married and the dog is eatining only dog food. You can see that he does it because he wants his master to be happy, but it's not his favorite thing. Then the couple has a child and food drops onto the floor. We see the dog getting cake and other things from the child, and everyone is happy again.
From the moment the bacon and eggs landed on the dog food in the early scene, I started cringing. Then it got worse and worse. I was wriggling in my seat and my wife immediately knew what was bothering me. I even admitted to her that I was already formulating my blog post about it, which earned me a chuckle from her. She knew why I was upset.
You never give human food to pets!
My medical training was silently screaming "pancreatitis" and "nutritional imbalances"! I was seeing this man doing the exact opposite of what my clients are told. He was the kind of guy that I want to sternly lecture and tell him how bad it is for his dog. I know it's common in movies and TV shows to see people give their own food to the dog. But this was one of the worst examples I've ever seen, because the joy of the human food was the entire point of the film! The dog was happiest when he was being given things that would significantly and negatively impact his health. And that was the point! Kids watching this would take home the idea that loading a dog's bowl with steak, tacos, and ice cream is the best thing you can do for your pet.
Yes, I know it's just a cartoon, and an admittedly cute one. Disney is still great at telling stories and I love how recent shorts don't seem to have much dialogue and just let the storry flow through the visuals. I also know that kids won't automatically do what they see in cartoons. I grew up on Looney Toons and I've never felt the need to strap myself to rocket-powered roller-skates or hit my friend with a frying pan.
I really think that Disney dropped the ball on this one and set one of the worst examples of pet care you can have. I really hope I won't have to do damage control when people see this film.