Moviegoers in the U.K. will see a trailer for what purports to be a new "Wind in the Willows" animated movie in the coming weeks--but it's not what it seems. Narrated by David Attenborough, the "trailer" is actually an ad for environmental organization The Wildlife Trusts, in which it's revealed that the bucolic riverbank life of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger has been devastated by pollution, bulldozers and urban sprawl.
Created by agency Don't Panic, the film's gorgeous animation and top talent (Stephen Fry plays Badger, alongside actors Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudhry) are designed to fool viewers at first into thinking it's a genuine trailer for a heartwarming new version of the children's classic.
But as Toad rides his motorbike into building works, it's quickly revealed that the animals' habitat has been ruined; Badger sits in his armchair with a flyover roaring overheard and Ratty sits in his broken in a polluted, empty riverbed. Meanwhile, Mole struggles to survive under a highway and Toad sadly hangs a picture of a plastic-strangled puffin on his wall in Toad Hall.
It concludes with a call to action from Attenborough, who informs us that "since we first met Badger and friends, the U.K. has become one of the most nature-depleted places on the planet" to join the Wildlife Trusts. As we see the animals set off down the riverbank determined to rebuild their homes, Attenborough tell us that it's not too late if we all act together.
The film was animated by Rowdy, part of the team behind Wes Anderson’s "Isle of Dogs." The animators focused on the correct genus of the species and were influenced by the original "Wind in the Willows" illustrations.
The trailer will be played for two weeks in 500 cinemas across the U.K. from March 29. It will also run on social media and the Wildlife Trusts website.
Rick Dodds, Creative Director, Don’t Panic, says in a statement: “In recent years, Hollywood has done a great job of adapting our classic children’s book stories for the big screen. So we chose the most British of them all, and enlisted the help of Badger and friends to highlight the stark reality of the British countryside. The narrative arc of the film trailer closely echoes the story of our countryside. In the beginning it was beautiful and plentiful, then things get pretty dark and twisted - but at the end there's hope because there's still time to do something about it.”
“Our campaign strategy focused on creating a strong sense of nostalgia; making the problem relatable to supporters of all ages," adds Ellie Moore, head of engagement, Don’t Panic. "By using a trailer mechanic we’re also able to distribute key content in familiar formats, making people look twice and creating a value exchange through the reveal."