Greenpeace reclaims 'Rang-tan' with kids' book series following Iceland palm oil furore

The picture book adaption will see the charity bring the campaign around palm oil back to its original intention / Greenpeace

Greenpeace UK is looking to reclaim its 'Rang-tan' character – following Iceland's Christmas controversy – with a series of children's books.

The charity said the picture book adaption will bring the campaign around palm oil back to its original intention: to help educate the next generation of environmental advocates.

The animated ape caused a stir at the end of 2018 after Greenpeace inked a deal with Iceland which gave the supermarket permission to repurpose the short-film for its festive campaign.

The spot, originally created by Mother London, highlighted the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers and was told through the eyes of a critically endangered orangutan whose home is destroyed.

The messaging was in line with Iceland's commitment to remove palm oil from its own-label food by the end of 2018.

Rang-tan's rise to fame

The ad quickly went viral online after it was revealed TV ad vetting body Clearcast was not allowing it to air for being "directed towards a political end". It even spawned a petition backed by consumers and celebrities, who called for a U-turn on its perceived 'ban' from broadcast.

However, a series of further controversies clouded the ad's original intention.

Clearcast's managing director decried the "media storm" around the ad and lamented on the abuse staff had received.

Then it also later revealed that – forgoing its commitment to completely eradicate palm oil from its own brand products before the year was out – Iceland had instead dropped its name from 17 palm products to meet the self-imposed deadline. The advertiser blamed technical issues, saying it did not want to "mislead consumers".

Ultimately, the retailer's Christmas sales slumped despite the publicity and it now Greenpeace wants to refocus the 'Rang-tan' campaign on environmental education.

Hachette Children’s Group is set to publish the illustrated adaption of the original creative in August 2019. It will feature original artwork from Frann Preston-Gannon and a foreword from actor Emma Thompson, who also narrated the ad.

'When a little girl discovers a mischievous orangutan on the loose in her bedroom, she can't understand why it keeps shouting OOO! at her shampoo and her chocolate,' reads the book's blurb.

'But when Rang-tan explains that there are humans running wild in her rainforest, burning down trees so they can grow palm oil to put in products, the little girl knows what she has to do: help save the orangutans.'

Extra pages at the back of the print edition will include information about orangutans and palm oil, plus ideas about how young readers can make a difference.

John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK said: "Rang-tan has already made a huge difference to how much people know about the impact palm oil is having on rainforests, wildlife and the climate.

"We’ve had requests from schools far and wide for resources to help teach children about deforestation as a result of Rang-tan. With this beautiful book we hope to inspire thousands more children and their parents to learn about and care for the world’s forests, and enable them to take action. Our children’s voices are especially important and we want to help ensure they are heard loud and clear."

Hermeti Balarin, executive creative director at Mother London (which helped broker the book deal) said Rang-tan was always about "broadening Greenpeace’s appeal to reach new audiences."

She said over a thousand schools got in touch to offer help and support for the cause when the film went viral.

"This book is for them and for all young readers, so they may continue to spread this message far and wide. Their deafening noise and tireless dedication will make big companies stick to their promises and prevent palm oil from devastating rainforests for good," she added.

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