Greenpeace and Emma Thompson Craft a Touching Story About the Orangutan’s Plight

Mother's animation highlights the products behind the problem

The 90-second spot will also be told through a physical storybook. Greenpeace
Headshot of David Griner

With the world’s population of orangutans having declined by half in just 16 years, wildlife advocates are ringing alarm bells about the continued deforestation of the ape’s habitat.

Major global brands like Nestle have committed to move away from palm oil, whose production for food or bath products often leads to environmental devastation, but environmentalists say the companies are not moving fast enough to stem an irreversible disaster for orangutans.

In a new animated film from agency Mother, Greenpeace creates a children’s story narrated by famed actor Emma Thompson. “Rang-tan” tells the tale of a young orangutan who finds itself in a child’s bedroom, where it begins raising a ruckus upon seeing products made with palm oil.

The brightly colored spot soon takes a dark turn as the girl begins to learn what drove the orangutan out of its homeland and into her bedroom.

“Amongst the the many stupid things human beings are doing to the environment, bad palm oil deforestation sits right at the top,” says Hermeti Balarin, partner at Mother in London. “It destroys huge areas of the rainforest as well as contributing to endangering some of our closest relatives, the orangutans who inhabit those places.”

The 90-second video also has an accompanying storybook that will be distributed via influencers and volunteers.The advocacy group, which will be running the spot in U.K. cinemas, hopes the story will help motivate consumers and brands alike to be more serious about reducing palm oil consumption and halting deforestation.

“A decade ago, we persuaded brands including Nestle, Unilever and Mondelez to sign global commitments to drop dirty palm oil from their products by 2020—but with just 500 days to go, their progress is pitiful. Orangutans have been pushed to the very brink of extinction, Indigenous peoples’ lives are threatened and climate change is accelerating,” says John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that keeping these forests intact is vital for all life on earth and, with Rang-tan, we aim to bring this urgent message to millions more people. If we all act together, we can force brands to keep their promises and end deforestation for good.”

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."