Bryan Cranston and an Orange Battle Alzheimer’s in This Powerful Animated PSA

U.K. campaign seeks to correct the record, and raise funds for research

Alzheimer's Research UK

Bryan Cranston wants you to share the orange.

It’s not an ad for citrus juice. It’s not a promo for the Annoying Orange. It’s a powerful PSA that seeks to raise money to battle Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The actor, writer and producer, best known for his role in Breaking Bad, is starring in a new awareness campaign from nonprofit Alzheimer’s Research UK. The more-than-two-minute ad, created Aardman Animations, also features stop-motion and computer graphics, as Cranston explains how the disease is a physical one that attacks the brain, leaving it 140 grams lighter than a healthy one.

That, he points out, is roughly equivalent to the weight of an orange.

The point? To dispel the popular misconception that dementia is a natural part of aging and therefore can’t be cured. Instead, Cranston draws parallels to cancer and AIDS, where research has resulted in robust treatment strategies.

But what starts out as a clichéd format—a celebrity addressing the camera, pleading for support—quickly veers into something more powerful and creative, as the camera zooms in on Cranston’s prop, the orange, and little animations start illustrating how a brain defines almost every aspect of a person’s life.

A pair of little kids start make snow angels in the peel. A bride and groom dance in a carved-out heart. A few years down the line, the couple push a stroller. A few more, they sit in a rocking chair while their grandkids play on the floor beside them.

A brain is “all of your experiences, moments and the precious memories you share together,” says Cranston, “so if the brain is at risk … everything we are is at risk.” All of those images begin to disappear. Then, so do parts of the orange, until there’s nothing left but a single slice.

Overall, it’s a simple and memorable visual metaphor—the continuation of a broader effort that the non-profit launched two years ago, with a similar ad from actor Christopher Eccleston (of Doctor Who fame). That shorter PSA also featured the disappearing orange trick—but not the animated bells and whistles of the new spot, which was created with support from financial firm Legal & General.

Those little figurines are key, helping to make an abstract, if important, message feel more intimate, personal and immediate. Using movie magic to make evocative images vanish suddenly, meanwhile, is an effective tool for showing how heartbreaking the effects of Alzheimer’s can be—a tactic also recently used in a remake of Gene Wilder’s classic “Pure Imagination” scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, created by the Alzheimer’s Association, a U.S.-based non-profit.

Wilder died in 2016 of complications from Alzheimer’s. Cranston’s mother, Audrey “Peggy” Sell, died from the disease in 2004. “I was honored to be part of the #ShareTheOrange campaign for Alzheimer’s Research UK,” Cranston says in a statement accompanying the launch of the campaign. “Alzheimer’s took my mother’s life, but our loved ones hopefully could be saved from the same fate. With advanced scientific research, hard work and generous support, Alzheimer’s Research UK, one day, could make finding a cure a reality.”

Client: Alzheimer’s Research UK
Special Thanks: Tim Parry, Lloyd Vaughan and David Henderson
Production Company: Aardman Animations
Director: Magdalena Osinska
Producer: Sami Goddard
Live Action DOP: Maja Zamojda
Camera Operator: Adam Cook
Sound Recordist: Laura Izzard
Stop Frame Animator: Darren Thompson
CG Supervisor: Ben Toogood
Stop Motion DOP: Nat Sale
Set Dresser: Sarah Edwards
Runner: Douglas Kwan
CG Animators: Daniel Gerhardt & Eva Bennett
Compositor: Jon Biggins
CG Modeller: Helen Duckworth
Rigger: Nathan Guttridge
Music: Jean-Marc Petas
Editors: Dominic Pitt & Dan Pask
Lighting: Tessa Mapp
Grade: Jeff Dillon
Sound Design & Mix: Colin Chipchase

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.