LOS ANGELES — The Disney movie G-Force shows a squad of specially trained, computer-generated guinea pig spies coming to the world's rescue. But animal activists say it will be real-life guinea pigs that need rescuing. Some guinea pig rescue groups have already posted pleas to those who might rush out to buy the furry rodents.
"I can tell you, every single rescue in the United States and abroad took a look at that movie trailer and said, 'Oh God, here we go,' " said Whitney Potsus, vice president of the Critter Connection Inc. in Durham, Conn.
The Orange County Cavy (a.k.a. guinea pig) Haven in Costa Mesa, Calif., has posted urgent Internet pleas to parents asking them to say no when their children beg for guinea pigs, because the animals are too fragile for young children.
It's happened before. Some call it "101 Dalmatians syndrome," after the Disney movie that sent thousands rushing to buy the black-and-white spotted pups. When the dogs failed to act like those in the movie, families gave them up, breeders said.
The popularity of chihuahuas soared after the movies Legally Blonde and Beverly Hills Chihuahua and when Taco Bell featured a talking one in an ad campaign. Ferrets were the animal of choice after Along Came Polly and guinea pigs were in demand after Bedtime Stories.
In G-Force, Agents Juarez, Darwin and Blaster drive cars, parachute, use blowtorches, swim, talk, walk on two legs, live in tanks with mice and rats and use hamster balls, Lyn Zantow, a volunteer for the Orange County group, says on her Web site. In real life, she warns, guinea pigs are noisy, eat and poop all the time, require big and clean cages, don't swim and can be expensive to care for if they get sick. And she says they're not for young children.
"We can only hope . . . parents will all do their research before bringing any critters home. Otherwise, when the novelty wears off, rescues everywhere are going to have their hands full," Potsus said.
A guinea pig can scare or startle easily and if a child doesn't have a good hold, it will run off. "Guinea pigs can't jump," said Fenella Fpeece, president of Wee Companions Small Animal Adoption Inc. in San Diego. A fall, even from a sofa, will paralyze them, break their backs and then "they are probably as good as dead."
She is worried about the big plastic balls used in the movie and sold in pet stores. They are made for hamsters and mice, she said. "Guinea pigs don't have flexible backs and they don't go in wheels."
They also have delicate digestive systems. "If you forget to feed it, it's done. Its little life is over," Fpeece said.
She has already been asked if she has a guinea pig that looks like one of the agents. And ads on Craigslist offer "G-Force-type guinea pigs. I am really worried," she said.
Disney is aware of the power of the movies and works to promote a strong pet responsibility message, a spokeswoman said. For G-Force, a statement is posted on the movie's Web site and on other promotional materials, advising viewers to be responsible and research any pet "to make sure it is suitable for your particular situation" and consider adopting from a shelter.
Potsus hopes parents will fudge a little to protect the animals. "We hope parents will use money or time as an excuse," she said. "We like to think the bad economy would cut down on some impulsive decisions."
A suggested alternative to the delicate animals for children who want to re-enact stunts with the movie's stars: guinea pigs of the stuffed or plastic variety.