Friday, April 19, 2024

Holding an ‘Avatar’ Press Conference In Japan That Used Captive Dolphins Probably Wasn’t the Best PR Move


James Cameron’s highly-anticipated “Avatar: The Way of Water” has been met with controversy over a press conference held in Japan prior to its release where captive dolphins were used.

The movie grossed US$434.5 million/€409.5 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

Earlier this month, Cameron and his main cast — including stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang — attended a press conference at Japan’s Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa in Tokyo that featured six dolphins doing a performance.

Such a stunt didn’t go well with activists.

Lisa Lange, US Senior Vice President with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said:

“James Cameron waited 13 years for the development of the right technology to bring the underwater world of Pandora to life, so why on Earth didn’t he pause for just five lousy minutes to consider whether he should have allowed himself to be seen as endorsing the cruelty of marine parks?”

Ric O’Barry, founder and director of the Dolphin Project who was featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” which showed the brutal way of how dolphins are captured for the world aquarium market (and some slaughtered) in Taiji, Japan, said the press conference “absolutely floored” him:

“To watch this particular group of filmmakers, whom I greatly admire and respect, applaud captive dolphins performing tricks in a tiny pool absolutely floored me. I was hoping it was a mistake. It wasn’t, but it was a brutal wake up call.

“The clapping really got to me. It wasn’t just James Cameron. Everyone clapped. Everyone was amused and entertained: [producer] Jon Landau, Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang.

“Apparently a good time was had by all.

“And at the same time, the Taiji dolphin slaughter — and related captures — rage on in Taiji, opposed by too few . . .

“I am hereby formally inviting James Cameron, Jon Landau, Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang to join me and our team in Taiji, Japan. Yes, I’ll be going back and am formally asking the Avatar team to join me for just a few days. I’d like to personally show them where the dolphins that entertained them so well most likely came from. I’d like to show them exactly how dolphins are captured in Japan. I’d like to show them that trainers who purport to care for dolphins work alongside those that brutally slaughter dolphins. I’m sure, once they witness this first-hand, they will never applaud another dolphin show again.”

Read O’Barry’s full letter to Cameron and the “Avatar” crew here, or check out the video below.

AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER Dolphin Show! | Japanese Press Conference 12.10.22 | James Cameron


John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.