For as long as there has been film there have been animals in front of the camera. Our love of dogs, cats, horses, etc. always finds its way into our art and film is no exception. The film industry is a unique medium that typically makes use of real animals on set rather than just drawings of animal or descriptions in books. However, this runs the risk of an animal being hurt or possibly killed on the set of a film, until now.
There has always been a danger when it comes to animals on set. If the film uses a lot of action effects or explosions the risk is very high. Extremely loud noises can spook animals, such as horses, and cause them to stampead into heavy stage props or other crew members. If an explosion isn't timed right or if the animal is just slightly off their mark they could be blown up or at least very badly burned. The dangers film animals face on set are almost too numerous to count. However, recent technology has allowed the possibility to reduce that on set danger.
This was the thought I had while watching the film "The Call of the Wild" recently. Rather than using a real dog, "The Call of the Wild" uses a computer generated dog throughout the entire film. Some have criticized this artistic decision as unnecessary, and called the cg dog "distracting" and said that it "stands out like a sore thumb". However, I think that this has great potential when comes to animals in action films.
Real animals will always be necessary. When it comes to lower budgeted films and family films, nothing can beat the adorable sight of a real puppy or pony on screen. However, when it comes to big budget action films that can afford computer effects, it may be safer to use CGI animals instead.
Putting real animals in real danger for the sake of a film has always been somewhat of a ethical quandary for me. I really like animals and I've always had a problem with possibly endangering an animal for needless reasons. I would always wonder if a film was worth the loss of a dog or a cat (or even a person). Modern technology has the capacity to remove that danger and give more control to the film maker.
With computer technology, a film maker can do almost anything with an animal. They can put the computer generated animal in any kind of danger and make it do things that could kill real animals (like jumping through iced over rivers or walking through fire). I know many people don't like CGI because it took money and attention away from practical effects. Practical effect and real animals will always have a place in film, but when it comes to safety and the ability to keep adorable animals out of harms way, computer generated animals will always have a place of respect and admiration within me.