Greenpeace's hand-painted story of an orangutan pressures Unilever and Nestlé on palm oil

Actress Emma Thompson, brand ambassador for Greenpeace, has lent her voice to the environmental charity's latest work – an illustration of the loss of rainforest habitat in Indonesia at the hands of palm oil plantation owners.

The 90-second animation, narrated by Thompson, tells the story of Rang-tan, a young orangutan who finds herself homeless and hiding out in a little girl's bedroom. The primate explains how her habitat has been gradually destroyed by the deforestation that comes with crude palm oil production methods – a story that is augmented with a creative shift to black and white animation.

The film ends with the young girl vowing to tell Rang-tan's story. An epilogue is dedicated to 'the 25 orangutans we lose every day'.

Designed by Mother to foster a grassroots fightback against habitat loss via petition, the advert employs both 3D and VR to bring the hand drawn animation to life and will play in cinemas, social media throughout August and September. The wider campaign seeks to convey the message to corporate producers of products such as chocolate and shampoo that palm oil can be created in a sustainable manner without recourse to rainforest destruction.

Greenpeace stated the largest players in the industry such as Nestlé, Unilever and Mondelez collectively pledged a decade ago to cease purchasing palm oil from previous rainforest habitats by 2020, but have thus far made little progress towards that goal.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace described the conglomerates' progress as "pitiful".

"Orangutans have been pushed to the very brink of extinction, indigenous peoples’ lives are threatened and climate change is accelerating," he said. “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.”

Thompson added: “For too long big brands and the palm oil companies they buy from have been getting away with murder. And for too long our response to orangutans has been ‘ohhh, the poor thing’ as we’re shown photographs of them orphaned, thin and at death’s door. But change is possible – we can make it so. When Greenpeace asked me to narrate Rang-tan, I didn’t hesitate. It’s just the start of a new global campaign to tackle this problem once and for all."

The film was directed by Salon Alpin and produced by Passion Animation Studios. It will be distributed on social media by celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Bryan Adams, Jodie Kidd, Alesha Dixon, Andy Serkis, Geri Horner, Gregg Wallace and Sharon Osbourne.

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