A turtle family’s journey home will warm your heart as they wave goodbye to loved ones and “drive” through the ocean. And then your heart will break. In Aardman’s new animated film, the sea creatures deal with the usual travel issues—traffic, restless kids, directional mishaps—before coming in contact with the biggest obstacle: industrial destruction of ocean habitats.
Turtle Journey is directed by Aardman’s Gavin Strange and paints a sorrowful portrait of life for turtles in our oceans today. Created with a combination of CGI, physical puppets and stop-motion animation, the film bears all the hallmarks of the British-based studio that brought us Wallace and Gromit.
The U.K. branch of environmental advocacy group Greenpeace recruited Aardman for the project in hopes of rallying support for a global network of fully protected ocean sanctuaries.
“I wanted to tell a personal yet universal story of family, loss and hope to best connect with audiences around the world,” Strange says. “Brought to life by a stellar cast of world-class voice talent, topped off by a simply sublime score from Arthur Jeffe’s Penguin Cafe and with Greenpeace’s hard hitting call to action, I am immensely proud of what we’ve all made together.”
The universal themes are what really make the film impactful. As a human watching the story unfold, you feel the journey because we’ve all been there. Every person has had their estimated arrival time extended or had to come up with games to keep the kids entertained. “It started out like any other trip home,” the father turtle narrates at the beginning. “At first, it seemed just like the usual frustrations.”
As the story unfolds, however, viewers are forced to think about problems that don’t feel so familiar: plastic pollution, oil drilling and overfishing. It’s likely that some viewers will also express an “I”m not crying, you’re crying” when they see father turtle’s lip quiver at the end.
The sea turtle family came to life thanks to the voice talents of Academy Award-winning actors Olivia Colman and Dame Helen Mirren, Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey, Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter, and comedian Ahir Shah.
“I’m thrilled to have worked on this heartbreaking film with Greenpeace and Aardman—it’s so important,” says Colman, star of The Crown and voice of the mother turtle, in a statement about the ad’s launch. “Our oceans face so many threats, some I wasn’t even aware of before this, and sadly the story of this turtle family trying to get home in a damaged and changing ocean is a reality for so many marine creatures that are having their habitats destroyed by human activities. I hope this film inspires more people to take action to protect our oceans.”
The studio has produced a wide range of ads over the years, including PSAs tackling everything from disability awareness to water safety, though Aaardman is obviously best known for its creative shorts and films, such as Chicken Run and Flushed Away.
“We felt that Aardman’s global popularity and distinctive blend of humor and emotion could help us to reach new audiences with a strong but simple message: Our oceans are in crisis and we must act now to protect them,” says Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace U.K.