Our favorite animation movies are experts at making cute little animals seem even more cute and little than they are in real life. They're fluffy, they're adorable, they run, sleep, dream and love just like us, and could we please just grab one from the screen and cuddle it for the rest of our lives?
Unfortunately — and this is going to sound much like your parents' rant when you were begging for a puppy for Christmas — an animal's fluffiness does not compensate for the amount of work and effort that it requires. The smell, the noise, the poop. A lot of parents are either tired of ranting at Christmas or just don't realize what they're bringing on themselves, so a staggering amount of kids have been getting pets based on their Disney heroes — much to the dismay of animal conversation societies, shelters, and parents themselves.
Looking at these pet stories gone wrong should provide enough reasons not to jump into a bunny frenzy after seeing Zootopia — even though I have to admit bunnies are very, very cute. From fish flushed down the drain to pet rats allowed in the kitchen, these five animated features have had quite an impact on pet sales around the world:
1. 'Finding Nemo'
When Pixar's Finding Nemo was released in 2003, clownfish sales went through the roof, despite the fact that they're quite a rare species. According to marine biologists such as Dr. Sinclair (University of Cumbria), who made Australian reef clownfish his specialty, the number of clownfish in some areas has fallen by 75% since the movie came out. He even argued that it wouldn't be exaggerated to consider it an endangered species.
But Nemo's story has had another hilariously sad consequence. After watching the movie, in which Nemo escapes his aquarium at the dentist's by getting flushed down the drain and landing back in the ocean, lots of kids decided their little fish deserved freedom — and sent them down the toilet.
Roto Rooter, an American plumbing service, stated the month after the movie's release that they had received about 70 calls from families desperate to save their fish from the sewers. A dispatcher said:
"I hear kids crying in the background. But there's nothing we can do. They're gone."
2. '101 Dalmatians'
The story of the 101 dalmatians has been adapted several times, but it was mostly the live-action movie in 1996 that triggered a sudden intense desire for dalmatians among viewers. I mean, whose idea of paradise doesn't involve being covered in puppies?
But not only are dogs not the easiest pets to care for, as they require attention and love, dalmatians are also a breed that needs specific training and exercise. Requirements that led many owners to ditch their dog, soon after they realized they weren't as obedient as the stuffed toy version. According to the New York Times, "some shelters say they have seen the number of abandoned dogs more than double" the year after the movie's release.
3. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
I know what you're thinking: a turtle doesn't take up a lot of space, it won't ruin any curtains or couches, it barely makes any noise, and it doesn't need to be taken outside twice a day. But pet turtles are quite similar to clownfish: they're rare and they require specific equipment.
This might not be Disney, but several adaptations of the comic book have tricked families into thinking it would be a great pet. In 2014, a live-action movie was released, and it didn't take long before the Hollywood Reporter indicated an increase of 20% of pet turtle sales in Canada.
Stephen Mark, a former employee with the Ontario Parks Department, hit the nail right on the head:
"Kids, with their imagination, are thinking if they got four of them maybe they'll turn into the ninja turtles."
Maybe they were feeding them pizza, too? A 2012 study found that in the United Kingdom, 75% of pet reptiles die in their first year in a home.
Maybe this whole pet story was only an excuse to bring G-Force back in the limelight. Starring Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, and Tracy Morgan, G-Force is a 2009 Disney movie that's part live-action, part animated. Oh, and it involves three spy guinea pigs working for the FBI.
Guinea pigs being tiny, cute and fluffy, it wasn't very hard for viewers to decide to acquire one themselves, possibly in hopes of training it to become a secret agent. Except that — just like with any other pet — it's not possible to forget about them for a few days like we would do with our Tamagotchi.
Nigel Mason, a chief executive of an animal welfare center in the UK, condemned the number of animals seen abandoned:
"We've seen an increase of 25 to 30 per cent in the number of guinea pigs offered to us. We are at capacity."
Ironically, he also seemed to remember the 101 Dalmatians and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies:
"We still have about 50 terrapins from the 1980s because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. There was a similar rush for Dalmatians a few years back after the Disney 101 and 102 Dalmatians films."
Pixar's 2007 culinary tale Ratatouille stars Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a chef in Paris. While the scenes of a kitchen flooded with rats may have given some parents nightmares, Remy himself is pretty darn cute and a fantastic cook.
Two weeks after the movie's release, Britain's pet chain Pets at Home was already registering a 50% increase in rat sales. Thankfully, it is maybe one of the easiest species to adopt. According to a company spokesman:
"Contrary to popular opinion, rats are actually one of the cleanest and least smelly pets you can own. They are incredibly responsive to learning and can be taught to do amazing tricks, much in the way that dogs and cats can."
Let's just hope the new owners didn't let their rat anywhere near their food.
Ready For The Cuteness Of 'Zootopia'?
Disney's freshly released Zootopia, which has been breaking all sorts of box office records, revolutionized the animation of hair and fur. From sloths to giraffes to polar bears, each animal has a very specific texture and feel, so you'll probably feel a sudden need to cuddle one in real life. But please don't try to get yourself a pet polar bear, and if you're not ready to scoop up tiny poops every day, don't get a bunny either.