In “The Return,” a visually evocative 90-second brand film from Impossible Foods and production house Object & Animal, an astronaut explores a familiar green world teeming with life. He keeps up a running commentary of his impressions as if reporting back to mission control.
“There’s life,” he begins, traversing the varied terrain, from bustling thoroughfares to nearly silent, sun-soaked forest glades, in full spacesuit. “Everything is here. The colors. The beauty. The motion. It looks like a living, breathing organism. It’s so beautiful here.”
That planet, of course, is Earth, and the film launches this week to coincide with the release of Impossible Foods’ first sustainability report. In that study, the creator of the plant-based Impossible Burger discusses its goal of eliminating the need for animals as a food source by 2035. Doing so will help cut greenhouse gas emissions while conserving natural resources.
“We’ve been wondering for a long time how you tell the story of our mission to help save Planet Earth, in an emotional way,” Sasha Markova, executive creative director at Impossible Foods, tells Adweek. “The problem with words like ‘eco’ and ‘sustainability’ and ‘climate change’ is that they don’t elicit an emotional response a lot of the time. We tend to switch off when we hear those words. We wondered how you could get people to notice again that we live on the most awesome planet ever, and that nature isn’t an abstraction.”
“We became very obsessed with this idea of an astronaut going into space and experiencing the ‘overview effect,’” she says. “A lot of these astronauts look back at Earth from space and realize how epic our planet is, how connected it is, how we are all one – man and nature – and when they return they have a completely different idea of our planet. We started to imagine an astronaut returning to Earth as if it’s a planet that he’s just discovered.”
Hip-hop artist Fatlip from The Pharcyde provides the voiceover, and his appropriately earthy tones convey a wealth of emotion that jibes perfectly with the film’s poetic, poignant imagery.
“I’ve dreamt of this planet for so long,” he says at one point, kicking back on the grass, as the camera switches to his point of view, and we watch a caterpillar wriggle across his helmet visor.
“This is paradise,” he concludes, as actor Willie Wright, who actually performs the Earth-walk, opens his faceplate and takes a deep breath.
Director Nick Walker, best known for making music videos, delivers the goods throughout, crafting a delicate, simple story that gains power and depth with each cinematic frame.
An urban bus-stop sequence is especially notable, as the vehicle recedes in the astronaut’s visor just before he gently lifts a praying mantis on his glove.
An expert handler “trained the praying mantis to touch the helmet when the astronaut made a noise,” Markova says, “and the caterpillar crawled at her beckoning.”
At one point, in the woods, the curve of the explorer’s headgear seems to fuse in the sunlight with the shape of a nearby turtle’s shell, suggesting the sacred connection among all life forms on our fragile world.
Near the end of the film, the message, “We’re on a mission. And it’s not to Mars” flashes on the screen, followed by Impossible Foods’ web address. The lack of overt branding or a noisy call to action allows viewers to savor the storytelling and preserves a sense of mystery.
“The film does have a melancholy feel, but it’s not about ‘We might lose Planet Earth,’” Markova says. “It’s a kind of love story, and he’s been away from the place he loves for a very long time. But in the end, hopefully, it feels happier. He is Dorothy back in Kansas.”
“The Return” landed yesterday during a special event at the Elizabeth Street Garden in New York City, and the brand will dispatch an astronaut to traverse Manhattan’s spaces and build buzz on Thursday.
With the temperature expected to graze 90-degrees, let’s hope the dude’s cooling system works, or else he’ll feel like he’s burning up on re-entry.