Animal welfare charity and world-famous animation studio partner with creative agency ENGINE on film highlighting the issue of wild animals in captivity

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24th July 2020: Today, Born Free Foundation launches a new film to highlight the plight of wild animals in captivity across the world through reflections on the global coronavirus lockdown.

‘Creature Discomforts: Life in Lockdown’ plays on the much-loved Creature Comforts construct and uses real interviews of peoples’ experiences of temporary lockdown to tell the stories of wild animals forced to live under lock and key.

Created by four times Academy Award® winning animation studio Aardman – creators of Creature Comforts, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run – and London creative agency ENGINE, the film draws a parallel between the struggles faced by humans during lockdown and the impoverished lives of wild animals in captivity. Across the globe, millions of wild animals are held in zoos, aquariums, dolphinaria, circuses and as pets. But all wild animals in captivity live a life of compromise. They have no option in how to pass the time, no choice of what they eat and when, no change of scenery and little in the way of entertainment. Exercise may be restricted to the confines of four walls, and many animals are separated from their families or social companions. This will sound all too familiar to many of us in recent times, but for captive wild animals this is forever.

Like humans, when in captivity, many wild animals can experience feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression and there is often a deterioration in both their physical and mental health. Captive wild animals can develop unnatural, repetitive behaviours called ‘zoochosis’, such as excessive pacing, swaying, and even self-mutilation.

The unique circumstances of a lockdown led to the idea to highlight the way in which animals in captivity live most, if not all, of their lives in equally unnatural conditions, and to encourage audiences to reflect on this issue with renewed empathy.  

Dr. Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare and Captivity for Born Free said: “Many of us will have suffered the restrictions and inconvenience of lockdown in recent months. In many ways, this has given us just a brief insight into the frustrations and compromise that wild animals in captivity face for their entire lives. This short film encourages us to rethink captivity, and reconsider zoos, dolphinaria, circuses and the exotic pet trade from the animals’ perspective.”

The film, directed by Academy Award® and BAFTA® nominated director Peter Peake, uses interviews from people across the UK that were recorded during the peak of lockdown. To ensure that the accounts were honest, participants were unaware of the true purpose of the project until after their interviews were finished. Characters were then designed to match the voices, and the backgrounds designed to reflect the harsh conditions in which captive wild animals are forced to live.

The 2D animation was conceived and created entirely under lockdown conditions, with all meetings, production and animation carried out remotely.

Director Peter Peake at Aardman said: “It was a real pleasure to team up with Born Free and to be able to use a classic Aardman style in a topical context for such an important cause. Although lockdown presented us with challenges in production terms it inspired some really poignant and touching insights from our interviewees. I was also bowled over by how my small but perfectly formed crew came together so cohesively despite working remotely. We'll all remember lockdown for a long time to come and it was great to have a project like this to get me through it.”

Steve Hawthorne, Creative Director, ENGINE Creative said: "Lockdown provided us with a unique opportunity to talk to people about animal captivity in a way that they could really empathise with. Collaborating with the incredibly talented folk at Aardman and Jungle, we were able to create an ad that hopefully gets people thinking and does justice to the legacy of Creature Comforts while giving it a fresh, topical and heart-wrenching twist."

ENGINE and Born Free last collaborated on the 2019 film ‘The Bitter Bond’ that raised awareness of the lion farming and canned hunting phenomena in South Africa. With no media spend the campaign achieved over 11 million views and garnered over 250,000 petition signatures, resulting in the South African Tourism Services Association withdrawing support for any interactions between tourists and wild animals, such as lion cub petting.


Client: Matt Smithers, Head of marketing and fundraising, Born Free

Agency: ENGINE

Chief Creative Officer: Billy Faithfull

Creative Directors: Steve Hawthorne & Katy Hopkins

Creatives: Pete Ioulianou & Ollie Agius

Agency Producer: Laura Melville

Agency Assistant Producer: Henry Davies

Account Handling: Owen Keating, Tom Butler

Social: Gemma Glover, Jack Cartwright

Production: Aardman Animations

Director: Peter Peake

Producer: Sami Goddard

Character Design: Peter Peake

Animator: Jane Davies

Background design: James Grant

Sound Design: Ben Leeves at Jungle

Compositor: Paule Quinton

Colourist: Paule Quinton

PR: Aisha Jefferson, Marie Larner and Olenka Lawrenson at ENGINE


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