Movies can have a lasting impact on pop culture, influencing everything from the music people listen to to the clothes they wear. But films can also influence consumers to make rash decisions when it comes to pet purchases. One study published last year in the journal PLOS ONE [PDF] showed that films featuring dogs could increase a breed’s popularity for up to ten years to follow, and that the demand for a certain breed directly correlated with the success of the film.
Dogs aren’t the only pets subject to this phenomenon. Whether it’s an owl or a guinea pig, no creature is safe from the consequences of its adorable depiction on screen.
1. LASSIE COME HOME (1943)
It’s hard to imagine a time when collies weren’t associated with this lovable canine heroine, but it wasn’t until the first Lassie film was released in 1943 that the breed was catapulted to fame. In the two years following the movie’s premiere, collie registrations with the American Kennel Club increased by 40 percent. The impact on the perception of the breed was so great that collies are still nicknamed “The Lassie Dog” today.
2. RATATOUILLE (2007)
Convincing the public that rats make trendy pets is no easy task, but Pixar was able to do so with their 2007 movie Ratatouille. According to the British pet chain Pets at Home, their rat sales shot up by 50 percent following the animated film’s release. Hopefully the pet owners knew better than to let their rats near the cooking supplies.
3. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)
New Line Cinema
During the late '80s and early '90s, ninja turtle mania swept the nation. The live-action films as well as the animated series inspired a surge in the popularity of these reptilian pets, many of which were later abandoned or even flushed down toilets. The turtle craze was so disastrous that last year humane groups urged families not to repeat the past ahead of the franchise’s newest installment. “Unfortunately, children do not realize that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do,” the co-founders of the American Tortoise Rescue said in an open letter to parents. “[W]hen the kids realized after a few weeks that these were not ninja turtles, the turtles were dumped illegally into rivers and lakes as well as dumpsters, flushed down toilets, or relinquished to shelters and overcrowded rescues. It’s estimated that 90 percent died.” Unfortunately for turtles everywhere, yet another sequel is on the way.
4. THE SHAGGY DOG (1959)
No other film’s impact on breed popularity has been as great as The Shaggy Dog’s. Following the Disney film’s release in 1959, Old English Sheepdog registrations in America increased 100-fold. The reason this type of film-inspired popularity spike hasn’t been witnessed since is likely due to the current oversaturation of dog movies. In the early and mid-20th century, films starring canines were a rare commodity: In 1940, less than one film per year featured a dog; by 2005, that rate had reached seven per year.
5. THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS AND MOVIES
For non-magic folk, keeping an owl as a pet is a lot more work than it’s cracked up to be. This reality wasn’t enough to stop muggles from purchasing Hedwigs of their very own during the Harry Potter craze of the 2000s. After the film franchise released its final installment in 2011, many owl owners apparently grew disenchanted with their trendy pets and decided to abandon them. One worker at an owl sanctuary in North Wales said that prior to the films they were caring for only six owls, and afterwards that number was up to 100. It turns out keeping an owl in your dormitory isn’t as easy as the movies let on.
6. BABE (1995)
In the '90s, this story of an adorable young pig who dreamed of being a sheep dog touched enough viewers to lead to an increased demand for pet pigs. The film also may have been responsible for decreasing the number of pork products consumed that year.
7. TURNER AND HOOCH (1989)
Tom Hanks’s rambunctious canine counterpart in Turner and Hooch is memorable for destroying everything in his slobbery wake. Despite this, the American Kennel Club saw a spike in French mastiff registrations the year of the film’s release. Perhaps audiences overlooked Hooch’s excessive drooling in favor of his crime-fighting skills.
8. FINDING NEMO (2003)
Pixar’s Finding Nemo centers around a father clownfish on a journey to rescue his son after he’s abducted from their reef by a human diver. You’d think that such a story would have inspired a conservationist attitude toward the species, but it ended up having quite the opposite effect: The demand for the pet fish soared in light of the film’s success, leading to the clownfish populations of some reefs to plummet 75 percent.
9. G-FORCE (2009)
Unlike the computer-generated characters in Disney’s 2009 film G-Force, real-life guinea pigs aren’t exactly action stars. Many parents apparently failed to mention this to their kids after watching the movie, resulting in a surge in guinea pig impulse-buys. It didn’t take long for families to realize that the pets were much less exciting than they appeared on film: In the following year, one animal shelter reported a 25 to 30 percent increase in the number of guinea pigs they were offered.
10. 101 DALMATIANS (1961, 1996)
The impact of 101 Dalmatians on the polka-dotted breed’s popularity spanned decades. When the 1961 cartoon was re-released in 1985 and 1991, amateur breeders and puppy mills saturated the market with dalmatians. As you can probably guess by now, many of those dogs were later abandoned after they became too much for their owners to handle. In the year following the 1996 live-action remake, one dalmatian rescue group in Miami claimed to have received 130 dalmatians by September, a number that would normally have taken them two and half years to reach. Cruella de Vil herself would be shocked by such a figure.