The Call Of The Wild's CGI Dog Buck Sparks Debate About Animals In Movies

Harrison Ford and CGI Buck in The Call of the Wild 2020 movie

Harrison Ford's new movie The Call of the Wild just opened in theaters and it's sparking quite a debate. The movie is getting decent reviews, but critics and viewers have noted the "uncanny" look of the CGI animals, especially one of the lead characters in Buck the dog. The decision to use CGI instead of real dogs disappointed some viewers because it made the film less realistic. On the other hand, animal activists, including PETA, are thrilled that The Call of the Wild joined the growing trend to use technology over real animals.

That's especially true for a movie like The Call of the Wild, since Buck isn't just a character, he's arguable THE main character -- and he has quite a dangerous adventure on his journey. This is not a movie where the dog and his human sidekick hang around the house. The Call of the Wild is based on Jack London's seminal novel, and even though Harrison Ford has top billing as John Thornton -- and he's joined by an amazing human cast -- Buck is the star.

Unfortunately, with Buck as the star, the flaws of modern technology are on display vs. everyone knowing what a real dog looks like. While PETA praised the film for not exploiting animals for entertainment...

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...many fans in the comments are debating the merits of CGI at the expense of realism:

• Real humans mixed with fake animals just dosent work• The Jungle Book workedGame of Thrones workedLord of the Rings workedJurassic Park workedThe Revenant workedHow many more examples do you need?• They couldn't have used a real dog for closeups? This image looks fake. The dog's eyes are too perfect. Compare to Harrison Ford's eyes. Good to use CGI for other scenes, but completely CGI? Doesn't work.• I read years ago Clark Gable, star of original 1935 Call of the Wild, felt sorry for Buck, film's real dog. Buck was forced to drag heavy loads, take after take, till exhaustion. CGI ends this needless abuse. Who cares if it's not perfectly authentic?• Looks so fake. Not stunning. The Humane Society makes sure animals are treated with respect and compassion on all movie sets.• Sorry, but cgi animals usually end up looking garbage. Even in high production films.• Why not just make the movie animated? Oh cause I guess if you have Han Solo you gotta show him off.• If that's the reason behind the film's producers using CGI dogs - that's amazing to hear!• Kind of odd not having a real dog...

Would The Call of the Wild have been better if it was fully animated, or if it used a real dog for close-ups? Maybe this was the best-case scenario, considering all options -- including the option that gives you a real Harrison Ford in your movie.

While many fans are just fine with using animals in entertainment, I think we all remember the controversy over A Dog's Purpose, a seemingly harmless film that was thrust into the spotlight when a troubling video leaked from set. The video showed the dog Hercules not wanting to jump into churning water meant to simulate a turbulent river. He resisted, so the handler forced him into the water, leading Hercules to panic.

The American Humane Association rep on set that day was reportedly suspended. But it exposed how sometimes viewers like to tell themselves these things are safe and the Humane Society wouldn't let anything happen to the animals, but that's not always the case. These animals -- including countless horses who have "died" during war movies -- can't exactly sign a waiver or have the scene explained to them in the same way as Harrison Ford. If alternatives exist, why not make use of them?

The Call of the Wild is now playing in theaters. It is expected to open at the box office in either first or second place this weekend, depending on how Sonic the Hedgehog does, since it's still crushing in theaters.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.