Extinction Rebellion’s new film paints a hopeful picture of a “gigantic change”

We speak to Passion Pictures about the story behind XR’s powerful new animation, which depicts a future where the world has come together to save the environment

As we start to plan how to rebuild our world post-coronavirus, Extinction Rebellion has been asking us to reassess what we want that world to look like in a series of campaign films. Following on from recent short How Normal was Normal?, the organisation’s latest project comes in the form of beautiful new animation, The Gigantic Change.

XR approached Passion Pictures – the production company behind Iceland’s memorable orangutan Christmas ad – early on in the process to help bring the film to life.

“At that stage they had a preliminary draft of the script which we developed together,” says executive producer Belle Palmer. “As the environmental message is hugely important to Passion, we were keen to be able to help make the film happen and to lend our expertise to make it as effective as possible.”

Set in the near-distant future, the animation opens with a scene of a grandmother reading a storybook to her granddaughter. The team enlisted the help of actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is also a prominent campaigner on environmental issues, to voice the grandmother character. When she becomes too upset to continue the story, her granddaughter decides to take action and change the trajectory of the narrative.

One of the most striking aspects of the short is its hauntingly beautiful aesthetic, which was brought to life by creative director George Lewin and animation director Nicola Jane Francis.

“Nicola’s character designs and style of animation are really emotive,” says Palmer. “The performances of the characters feel real, which is important with this kind of messaging. Although the design sensibility is quite simple, she’s injected beautifully nuanced emotion between them, and the audience really gets a glimpse into their relationship and the love between them in amongst their dishevelled home and surroundings.”

The animation’s aesthetic – which switches from disturbing visuals of human destruction to the rebirth of the natural world – is also intended to reflect its positive outlook. “The colour palette has been carefully chosen through the film to ensure the peak is vibrant, positive and hopeful, which contrasts against the stark front end. The pace of the film when the granddaughter takes over the story increases also, with a vast range of characters and environments, held together through beautiful transitions,” says Palmer.

While the stark reality of how the world could look by 2050 if we don’t combat climate change now is upsetting, the animation’s overall message is one of hope, reminding us all that “you can make a difference by taking action today”.

Designer & Animator: Nicola Jane Francis
Co-Directors: George Lewin and Nicola Jane Francis
Co-Writers: Nicola Jane Francis and Josh Hughes
Executive Producer: Belle Palmer at Passion Pictures
Producer: Serena Schellenberg