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Studio apologizes to parents angry over ‘Peter Rabbit’ scene mocking food allergies

Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, in a scene from “Peter Rabbit.”
Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, in a scene from “Peter Rabbit.” Sony Pictures

Food allergy advocacy groups say there’s nothing funny about a scene in the newly released “Peter Rabbit” film in which bunnies pelt a villain with blackberries despite knowing he’s allergic to the fruit. Some are even calling for a boycott of the film.

On Sunday, Sony Pictures apologized for the scene, saying in a joint statement with the filmmakers that “food allergies and are a serious issue” and the film “should not have made light” of a character being allergic to blackberries “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way.”

Controversy over the scene had sparked a #boycottpeterrabbit hashtag on social media, along with condemnations from food allergy groups and parents of children with food allergies.

“This mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis,” reads an online petition by Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity, an Australian group. The petition on Change.org, which seeks an apology from Sony Pictures, the studio behind “Peter Rabbit,” had collected 6,200 signatures Sunday.

A Facebook post by the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation warns parents to be aware of the scene before taking their children to the film. “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger,” reads the post.

The new movie, Peter Rabbit, has a scene that may be disturbing to young viewers who have a food allergy. A character is...

Posted by Kids With Food Allergies Foundation on Friday, February 9, 2018

In a letter to Sony Pictures, the group also objects the scene “makes light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggests that food allergies are ‘made up for attention.’ ” The letter says the organization would like to meet with the cast and studio to educate them about food allergies.

The Food Allergy Research and Education group also posted a warning to Facebook about the film, noting “we want to make you aware that viewing this scene may be upsetting to some children.”

“Peter Rabbit,” which brings the hero of Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s stories to the screen, debuted Friday to lukewarm reviews. The film, a mix of live-action and computer animation starring James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie and Domhnall Gleeson, brought in $25 million on its opening weekend, reported Variety.

In one scene, rabbits pelt Tom McGregor, the equally villainous nephew of the original story’s nemesis, with blackberries, even hurling one into his mouth, although they know he’s allergic to them, according to The Telegraph. Tom McGregor, played by Gleeson, begins to choke, then stabs his leg with an epinephrine pen.

Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers, now takes on the starring role of his own irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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