Turner & Hooch: how it got the ending it did

Exclusive: the co-writer and producer of Turner & Hooch explains how it got its infamous ending.

This article contains major spoilers for Turner & Hooch

If you’ve not seenĀ Turner & Hooch, don’t scroll below our spoiler squirrel. Once you’re past the picture, we start talking about the ending of the film…

Arriving a couple of months after K-9 at the US box office was the Tom Hanks-headlined Turner & Hooch. You know the one: Hanks gets paired, reluctantly, with a slobbering dog. Comedy ensues.

Well, almost.

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Unlike K-9, Turner & Hooch comes with a harsh ending where the dog in question – that’d be Hooch – bites the bullet. In what’s ostensibly a Disney family comedy.

So then: what happened?

Daniel Petrie Jr, one of the writers and producers of the film, told us that “we all did” when we asked him who killed the dog. That is, the filmmakers wanted that ending. But still, that didn’t mean they didn’t hedge their bets.

“We did a test,” he recalled. “Although we felt that the ending that’s there is the more emotionally satisfying one, we’re not completely irresponsible. We had a version where that didn’t happen, and one where there was a miraculous recovery. We tested the films back to back. Two houses of identical size, in a multiplex, starting half an hour apart. So we could go in, see one ending, listen to one focus group, go in, see the other ending, see that focus group. It was fascinating”.

Turns out, too, it was something of a dead heat.

“The difference between the two scorings? There was no statistical difference in the scores. There wasn’t much different in the focus groups. The group with the ending that we had was more passionate. Some were saying ‘I hated that, that was terrible’, whereas others were ‘but there were puppies at the end!'”

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“It provoked this passionate response. The other screening? None of that. It was all positive, but muted,” he recalled.

The ultimate call though came from Disney production chief at the time, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He had to make the ultimate decision as to which version to go with.

“He said, well, we have basically an identical result. If I can quote him: ‘in the absence of evidence that I would be doing a disservice to our shareholders, I’ll side with the filmmakers'”

And in that moment? Hooch died.

One further aside: the filmmakers did have a vote as to whether Hooch should live or die too. Every one of them voted for the dog to get it…

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