Save Ralph Save Ralph

Stop-motion stars have teamed up with showbiz celebs and Humane Society International to make Save Ralph, a slickly produced short film designed to raise awareness about animal testing for cosmetics.

Through its hard-hitting story about Ralph the rabbit, the four-minute short calls out the harm done to animals in the industry. Written and directed by Spencer Susser (Hesher), the film features the voices of Taika Waititi, Ricky Gervais, and Zac Efron. The sets and puppets were made by Andy Gent, head of the puppet department on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs; the lead animator is Tobias Fouracre and the cinematography is by Tristan Oliver, respectively animation supervisor and director of photography on Anderson’s feature. Watch Save Ralph below:

Save Ralph was shot mid-lockdown at Arch Model Studio, which Andy Gent recently opened next to his workshop in East London. He decided to launch the studio after being asked to make the sets for Ari Folman’s forthcoming feature Where Is Anne Frank?. The new space enabled Gent and his colleagues to keep working throughout the pandemic with relative ease.

Ralph is a wounded, worn-down bunny whose injuries and irritated eyes speak of the damage the chemicals have done him. Gent and his colleagues looked at detailed reference material in order to accurately depict the effects of testing. As he tells Cartoon Brew: “There was a lot of consideration and trial and error to make something that would read well onscreen, and was graphic enough for you to go ‘that looks nasty,’ but not to be turned away in disgust.”

Save Ralph
Making Ralph

As we learn, Ralph is only the latest in a long line of test rabbits. The character’s family history is captured in the old-fashioned, lived-in house he inhabits when not being tested on. “There’s lots of great reference that we looked at from various films and style magazines,” says Gent. “We put all of that together then lavished it with the detail that goes into a family home, so there’s lots of layers of props and pictures and magazines and books.” Oliver cast the set in a naturalistic light the crew darkly referred to as “the Breaking Bad look.”

Oliver and Fouracre are “simply … the very best people you could ever get to work with,” says Gent. Oliver “always brings a clever and interesting look to everything he lights.” As for Fouracre, “Well, it’s a magic thing: seeing the animation he makes — the subtle moves and character that he brings out of the puppets — is exceptional.”

Save Ralph
(Above and below) Shooting the film
Save Ralph