7 Animated Environmental Shorts
that want to Change the World.  

Oh where to start? There are so many beautiful and amazing animated environmental films out there so it's extremely difficult to choose just 7 but we've given it a shot.

Animation is the perfect medium for environmental stories. It can create magical worlds that can be turned into terrifying landscapes in an instant. Messages can be delivered in hard-hitting, but entertaining and visually compelling ways. Somehow they just go directly to your heart-strings and give them a gentle tug in the most extraordinary way.
So let's dive in…

1. Little Mole in the City (1982)

Back in the 70's and 80s, when the world was more worried about nuclear war than environmental collapse, Czechoslovakia's Little Mole was already banging the environmental drum. This 30 minute short is one of creator Zdenek Miler's greatest films.

The Soviet propaganda machine was supposed to praise the virtues of urbanisation and industrialisation but Little Mole discovers there are some major problems in ripping up nature and replacing it with a big city as he and his animal friends encounter so much that is wrong with modern living. So it's pretty subversive for a kid's film but that makes it even more powerful.

2. Somebody Ask Us

Prague-based British animator Daniel Bird has been creating excellent animated shorts for environmental change for several years now through his Wit & Wisdom production house.

Somebody Ask Us is an animated nursery rhyme that has just been accepted into the Zagreb Animation festival

When I asked Daniel about the film he had this to say:

"Children will bear the brunt of the coming climate crisis. UNICEF is encouraging nations to consult their children about their actions affecting the climate, and commissioned us to create a short film heading the campaign. I wanted to create something that had the chance of lasting beyond the animation itself. Nursery rhymes are where childhood and historical endurance meet. “Ring a ring a roses” is commonly thought to have originated from the Great Plague. The children of an isolated Scandinavian island are still repeating the “Jack and Jill” nursery rhyme brought to them by British soldiers during the Napoleonic wars, and “Eenie meenie minie mo” is based on a counting system that predates the Romans - possibly even the Celts. Simply put, nursery rhymes are the echoes of history chanted by those who carry our future. The nursery rhyme was the hardest part to create. Otherwise, the animation itself is very, very simple, illustrated by two designers, Iva Beranova and David Izaj, and animated in After Effects. We took care to place the action in South East Asia (where it was commissioned) but with an eye to universality. The film’s been well received, but as to whether the nursery rhyme will endure, it’s a long shot, and, like the chances of humanity surviving the coming storm of climate change… time will tell.

3. Chipotle - Back to the Start

How can you show the horror and sadness of factory farming in a way that won't turn off adults and make kids run screaming from the room? That was the challenge that Chiplotle faced when they ran their campaign promoting its stance on sustainable farming.

The single tracking shot shows the spiritual journey of a farmer who is seduced by the potential profit of factory farming but slowly wakes up to the realisation of what he has done and returns his animals to a happy and fulfilling life. Using 3-D animation techniques combined with stop-motion, it looks great and delivers its message tone-perfectly.

Normally I can't stand Coldplay but the song works perfectly here and eternal hippie Willie Nelson's cover version elevates it to another level.

4. Wasteminster - A Downing Street Disaster

A film that highlights the terrifying amount of plastic the UK exports abroad every single day and also reminds us of the waffling bullshit of the current British Prime Minister? Double bonus!!!

With a mix of scale models and CGI and dialogue taken from Johnson's actual speeches, it's a razor-sharp critique of the ineffective, hypocritical buffoon currently living at no.10 Downing St.

The Greenpeace film coincides with a poll conducted by YouGov which found that 86% of the British public are concerned about the volume of plastic waste generated by the UK, with 81% wanting the government to do more about the issue.

5. Stewarding Nature

A broken system can only be fixed with viable solutions to the problem.

In this animated video, climate activist Samie Blasingame shares her views on the reevaluating policies to reform the global food system and manage agricultural land - two issues that are at the centre of the climate crisis.

This is a little more info-heavy than most but it's still compelling and illuminating. It's part of a fascinating 4 part series of films released by Greenpeace where climate activists talk about their strategies for change.

6. There's a Rang-tan in my Bedroom

Animated environmental films are often targeted at children, planting seeds of awareness and activism for future generations. Or maybe it's just that kids are a more receptive audience than jaded adults.

There's a Rang-tan in my Bedroom starts off as a fun nursery rhyme but then moves into darker territory as it highlights the rampant destruction of the rainforest in Indonesia to grow palm oil and how it affects our lives.

Narrated by Emma Thompson, and produced by Greenpeace, it's beautiful and sad in equal measures - like all truly good environmental films should be.

The scenes are designed and animated using various techniques including 3D and VR to bring the hand drawn animation to life.

It worked for my son, who has vowed to avoid palm oil after watching this film.

7. The Man Who Planted Trees

This film is based on the 1953 short story published by French author Jean Giono. It tells the story of a shepherd’s three-decade effort to reforest a barren piece of land in South-East France. It works as both an antiwar and an environmental allegory. It's a story about patience, endurance and commitment to a cause greater than yourself… and it brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it. This film is a great one to show to kids but I think only adults truly appreciate it and it actually becomes more poignant as you get older.

The animated short was created by Frédéric Back and released in 1987. It won many awards including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Feature-length Bonus!!!

Wall-E

We've focused on short films but of course there are also many incredible animated features with strong environmental themes. Big shout-outs to Ferngully, Princess Mononoke and The Lorax. But a special mention must go to Pixar's Wall-E, considered by many to be one of the greatest animated films of all time. It's a perfect film - sad, funny, thought-provoking, visually stunning but ultimately uplifting.

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