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WaterAid's Touching Animation Tells an Out of This World Tale of Hope

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Nexus Studios' Neeraja Raj directed the campaign telling the story of Fara who dreams to be an astronaut

WaterAid's Touching Animation Tells an Out of This World Tale of Hope

Today WaterAid brings a new angle to the global conversations around Mars with a thought-provoking animated film looking at the search to find water here on Earth. The release of ‘The Girl Who Built A Rocket’ coincides with three Mars missions going into orbit, and is the launch film for an ongoing campaign, by creative agency Don’t Panic, that looks to explore new ways to engage the public in the global water crisis. To increase consideration for the charity, the advert does not have a donation ask but instead directs viewers to the WaterAid website and other online assets, to find out more about the importance of the charity’s work. The animated short film was produced by Nexus Studios and directed by BAFTA shortlisted rising star, Neeraja Raj, with sound design by String and Tins, and distributed by WaterAid’s media agency The Kite Factory. The film also features a specially composed soundtrack of David Bowie’s iconic Life on Mars - which is 50-years-old this year – and includes a voiceover by award-winning journalist and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald.

The touching film tells the story of Fara, a little girl from Madagascar, who dreams of being an astronaut. She attempts to fly from her home on the ‘Great Red Island’ to the ‘Red Planet’ in a homemade rocket in order to collect water for her family, after hearing a news report saying water has been found there. 

Sir Trevor McDonald said: “I have reported on some extraordinary feats of human endeavour over my long career as a journalist and newsreader; and yet something as apparently simple as ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water, still evades us. I was astounded when I learned that a staggering 785 million people worldwide do not have clean water close to home. It’s something we all take for granted in this country – and is even more important in the middle of a pandemic. So, I am honoured to add my voice to this charming animation and support WaterAid in its mission to make clean water, sanitation and good hygiene a part of normal life, wherever you are.”  

Neeraja Raj, director said: “This is a heartfelt tale based on real-life humans and their very real struggles. We approached it with honesty and humility and chose to tell it through the visual language of traditional 2D animation to achieve an emotional vibrancy that is unique to the medium”.

To ensure the authenticity in the portrayal of Madagascar, WaterAid worked closely with one of its Voices from the Field Communications Specialists, Ernest Randriarimalala. Ernest was an integral member of the ad development team and advised on all aspects of the film, from Madagascar’s landscape to details of the characters’ appearances. The animation also provided the opportunity to create innovative storytelling at a time when travel has been restricted due to the pandemic.

Ernest Randriarimalala said: “It was amazing to work on this new WaterAid film concept. The characters in the animation are inspired by people I’ve met through my work and I advised on the uniqueness of Madagascar’s landscape and homes. We hope the storytelling captures the imagination of the public.”

One in ten people globally have no clean water close to home; in Madagascar, almost half the population lacks access to this basic human right. Having clean water close to home can help reduce the spread of disease and enable people to go to school or earn a living. It also helps communities better endure natural disasters.

Johnty Gray, mass engagement director, WaterAid, said: “Fara has big dreams for her future, just like children the world over; yet for some, those ambitions may never be achieved because of the lack of basic necessities like clean water. Unusually there will be no financial ask at all as we want to encourage as many people as possible to visit our website to get the full picture of what we do and why – something we can’t do in a 90 second ad. We believe this will increase consideration for our work, leading to more sustained support.”

The film will be aired on TV through an exclusive partnership with Channel 4 with peak spots in It’s a Sin, The Great, Secret Safari, The Great Pottery Throwdown and First Dates as well as delivery across all C4 owned, C4 Partners and All4. The campaign is also supported by social media, YouTube and Teads. ‘The Girl Who Built A Rocket’ is the first time the international charity has used animation for TV. 

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BRAND: WaterAid 

Mass Engagement Director: Johnty Grey 

Individual Giving Manager: Victoria Laing 

Head of Supporter Activation: Nick Miller 

Digital Acquisition Manager: Wanji Wambari-Kairu 


AGENCY: Don’t Panic 

Founder: Joe Wade 

Creative Partner: Rick Dodds 

Strategy & Engagement Partner: Ellie Moore 

Senior Account Director: Georgia Williams 

Senior Project Manager & Producer: Jennifer Clare Houlihan 

Account Manager: Alex Tilley 

Creative: Madeline Charles 

Graphic Designer: Luke Freeman 



Director: Neeraja Raj 

Executive Producer: Mike Bell 

Producer: Jo Bierton 

Production Manager: Nicole Lopez Naguil, Elspeth Vince 

Production Assistant: Delfina Maria, Beatriz Honório 

Project Lead: Dylan White 

2D Animatic: Neeraja Raj 

2D Animator: Alex Potts, Giacomo Autili, Jesper Andkjær, Christina Nerland, Lucy Hirst, Joel Stenback 

Compositor: Dylan White, Bethany Levy 

Designer: Hugo Beaurepere, Melanie Climent, Nikolas Franz 

Matte Painting: Hugo Beaurepere 

Storyboarder: Neeraja Raj, Morgan Ritchie 

Editor: Dave Slade 


SOUND: String & Tins 

Sound Design: Culum Simpson 

Foley: The Foley Barn 

Music: Life on Mars - David Bowie 

Music Arranged: Will Cohen 

Music Orchestrated & Produced: Auburn Jam 

Audio Producer: Rachel Hough/Brigitte Leicht 


Music Supervisor: Dominic Bastyra at Wake The Town 

Thanks to Westbury, RZO, BMG & SonyATV and the Bowie estate

Genres: Animation, Storytelling, Dialogue

Categories: Charity, Corporate, Social and PSAs

Nexus Studios, Fri, 05 Feb 2021 13:23:24 GMT