James Cameron's Avatar seems like an animal-cruelty watcher's dream come true. The CGI beasts are adorable, and movie-goers can enjoy watching them gallop, swoop, and swing without worrying about the stress these stunts would impose on live-action animals. For these reasons, PETA praised the movie for "beautifully illustrat[ing] how unnecessary it is to subject animals to the stress of a film production."
But a fellow animal rights organization thinks Avatar illustrates anything but. Cameron may have revolutionized Hollywood, smashed records, and provoked bizarre sociological debates, but he did not avoid the use of live-action animals. While praising the sensitive treatment of horses used in filming, the Humane Society rebuts PETA's notion:
American Humane was, therefore, surprised to learn that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has recognized the film and its director for using computer-generated images (CGI) instead of live animals. ...PETA was apparently unaware that, even though the film was produced using CGI, live animals were used -- for motion capture.
Movie Line's S.T. VanAirsdale jokingly predicts that the preparation of horses for motion capture--involving glue, shaving, and light-reflective balls--will cause PETA to retract its Avatar praise:
So... Velcro glued to bare skin? Tails wrapped in "sensor-laden material"? This changes everything. And you don't even want to be around when PETA hears how infrequently Cameron's crew cleaned the banshee cages.