Unlike Rocket the Raccoon from The Guardians of the Galaxy, this creature didn’t apply for a casting call. The Animals Aren’t Toys Zoo based in Moscow, Russia allowed their raccoon Thomas to take part in an advertising campaign by Art-Msk. It sounded innocent enough. Using animals in advertisements isn’t anything new in the television industry.
However, the petting zoo wasn’t aware that the shoot would include a naked model.
After finding out about the nature of the shoot, Animals Aren’t Toys complained and requested that the ad company delete their materials, but Art-Msk ignored them. The zoo then filed their first complaint to a local district court in October. They sent an additional complaint in March, which is when Russian media outlets caught wind of a story. LIFE covered the story with photos of the shoot, which featured the nude model with the raccoon in a… bedroom setting. Something is going on in Russia and I don’t know if I want to know.
That same day, Channel 5 interviewed the zoo staff, who claimed that their raccoon was “traumatized” by the experience and admitted that Thomas “now behaves strangely” after interacting with the nude model. After a visit to the vet, it was revealed that the raccoon was in a state of shock. His behavior was described as “withdrawn, always slept in the corner and snapped at people.”
Art-Msk didn’t take their complaints quietly once the story hit the screen. They also spoke with LIFE and claimed that the lawsuit was “absurd.” Art-Msk also says that they requested a well-trained raccoon and instead got an “unmanageable” one.
“Finally, after several takes, he stole the underwear and gnawed it,” Art-Msk added. Images from the advert can still be found on their website. I don’t know about this one, guys. If they really wanted a calmer animal, wouldn’t it be better to have a more domesticated animal like a dog or a cat?
The official YouTube video of the advertisement isn’t available anymore, but you can still find some footage. After watching a “backstage” video on YouTube, you could see the model and crew smiling and laughing at the raccoon’s antics while it took her bra.
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Victor Kiryukhin, a spokesperson for Animals Aren’t Toys, said that they thought Thomas would be used for an innocent bed linen commercial. They even agreed to rent out their raccoon without payment due to their sociable natures, however, he told Buzzfeed news, “We’re against the use of animals in erotic video shoots! Especially because our raccoon lives in a children’s zoo, so it’s unacceptable to use him in such videos!”
On the opposing side, Valeriy Bogatov, spokesperson for Art-Msk told Buzzfeed news that they would neither confirm or deny that the whole setup was a PR stunt and stated that people were free to interpret the situation as they saw fit. Bogatov also claimed that the studio never received the first court complaint and, if the zoo continued with their lawsuit then they would ask “for compensation on our actress’ bra that was eaten by the raccoon right on the shooting stage.”
Even though the legalities are still being hashed out, Thomas the raccoon has made a full recovery from his traumatizing experience and is back to his sociable and playful self, according to the zoo director.