Born Free Foundation: At last, Aardman fits the bill

born free“Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart. Born free and life is worth living, But only worth living, ‘Cause you’re born free”. Ah the dulcet tones of the singing bus driver, Matt Monroe, who provided the soundtrack for the 1966 movie of the same name, telling the tale of Elsa the lion.

Some 54 years later, the Born Free Foundation, the wildlife charity inspired by the movie of the same name and set up in 1984 by three of its stars, Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Will Travers, has launched a new film to highlight the plight of wild animals in captivity across the world through reflections on the global coronavirus lockdown.

“Creature Discomforts: Life in Lockdown” plays on Aardman’s signature Creature Comforts films and uses real interviews of peoples’ experiences of temporary lockdown to tell the stories of wild animals forced to live under lock and key.

Created by both Aardman and agency Engine, the film draws a parallel between the struggles faced by humans during lockdown and the impoverished lives of wild animals in captivity.

Across the globe, millions of wild animals are held in zoos, aquariums, dolphinaria, circuses and as pets. But all wild animals in captivity live a life of compromise. They have no option in how to pass the time, no choice of what they eat and when, no change of scenery and little in the way of entertainment.

The film, directed by Peter Peake, uses interviews from people across the UK that were recorded during the peak of lockdown. To ensure that the accounts were honest, participants were unaware of the true purpose of the project until after their interviews were finished.

Characters were then designed to match the voices, and the backgrounds designed to reflect the harsh conditions in which captive wild animals are forced to live.

Peake said: “It was a real pleasure to team up with Born Free and to be able to use a classic Aardman style in a topical context for such an important cause. Although lockdown presented us with challenges in production terms it inspired some really poignant and touching insights from our interviewees.

“I was also bowled over by how my small but perfectly formed crew came together so cohesively despite working remotely. We’ll all remember lockdown for a long time to come and it was great to have a project like this to get me through it.”

Born Free head of animal welfare and captivity Dr Chris Draper added: “Many of us will have suffered the restrictions and inconvenience of lockdown in recent months. In many ways, this has given us just a brief insight into the frustrations and compromise that wild animals in captivity face for their entire lives.

“This short film encourages us to rethink captivity, and reconsider zoos, dolphinaria, circuses and the exotic pet trade from the animals’ perspective.”

So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?

Are we suckers for an animal charity? Of course. Do we love a bit Aardman? Yes, indeedy. Do we empathise with animals in captivity, having spent weeks in lockdown? You’d better believe it.

OK, as we have pointed out before, Aardman has worked for more brands than you can shake a stick at, including Npower, DFS, Zoopla, Fortnum & Mason, ITV, BBC, Channel 4, Whitworths, PayPal, Braun, Persil, National Accident Helpline, Levi Roots and Nokia to name just a few.

In fact it feels like they Aardman has been in advertising overdrive ever since the Plasticine characters were used for the 1990 Heat Electric campaign, devised by GGK.

But for once this campaign actually chimes with the organisation it is trying to help. We just hope they didn’t pay full whack as we know for a fact that Nick Park and chums don’t come cheap…

Decision Marketing Adometer: A stay free and easy 8 out of 10

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