A Little Girl’s Deep-Sea Dream Is Shattered in Greenpeace’s Latest Plea for the Arctic

This isn't make-believe

Greenpeace brings a young girl's undersea imagination to life in "The Little Explorer," a short film that tackles the topic of destructive fishing in the Arctic. 

Using materials she finds around the house—including tinfoil, bottle tops and paper plates—our curly-haired heroine constructs an elaborate (and adorable) deep-sea diving suit. Her living room is transformed into an aquatic wonderland beneath the polar ice floes. She watches wide-eyed as Greenland sharks, Beluga whales and sea butterflies sail past the windows of her cardboard submarine. 

But suddenly, the scene is torn apart by mysterious tremors, and we're left to ponder the horrifying net results.

Crafted with great style by London agency Don't Panic and director Simon Mitchell, "The Little Explorer" does a fine job of capturing this brutal reality through a child's eyes. Seven-year-old Emily Dante gives a charming, relaxed performance, providing a relatable center for the showy visuals.

She was cast, Don't Panic creative director Richard Beer tells AdFreak, because she radiated "just the right blend of innocence, imagination and defiance."

In the first few seconds of the clip, as the Little Explorer constructs her suit, we hear a countdown in the background, suggesting that she plans to travel into space. So when her ocean fantasy begins, it comes as something of a twist—which is exactly what Greenpeace intended.

"It's the classic childhood dream—to explore strange new worlds, to boldly go where no one has gone before," Beer says. "We wanted to cheekily subvert that dream to draw attention to something closer to home. We're all for the exploration of space, but perhaps we should focus a little more on saving our own planet instead of destroying it." 

The video will be pushed globally through Greenpeace Facebook pages and on YouTube. It's a fitting follow-up to the client-agency team's animated PSA "Everything Is NOT Awesome," also for the #SaveTheArctic campaign, which won Silver Lions in the Film and Cyber categories at Cannes last year. 

That earlier effort focused on a specific target, Lego, which at the time had partnered with petroleum giant Shell, an arrangement it soon discarded. "Everything Is NOT Awesome" drove home its message with instantly recognizable imagery, such as interlocking Lego bricks and Shell's logo.

In "The Little Explorer," the threat of trawl fishing is more nebulous, and required a markedly different approach, which Beer explains in detail: 

"We didn't think that pure CGI would be the most effective way to bring the beauty of the Arctic to life, so we combined two elements: first, good old-fashioned childhood imagination, in the form of a whole aquarium's worth of cardboard fish, foil narwhals, paper jellyfish and countless other amazing Arctic lifeforms built by Anne Gry Skovdal, our art director, and her team; and second, in-camera projections of real footage of Arctic life, which needed no amplification or enhancement."

He adds: "We used some great effects from The Brewery to show the threat of a trawling net intruding menacingly into Emily's fantasy, but that was the only few seconds of CGI we needed. Sadly, we really did destroy all of Anne's good work with an actual net that we dragged through the set."

In real life, such potentially destructive endeavors, taken to their logical extreme, could wipe out entire species, and forever lay waste to explorers' dreams. Says Beer: "No one's going to dream about the wonder of Arctic sea life if it's all been ripped away." 


Client: Greenpeace

Agency: Don't Panic:

MD of Don't Panic: Joe Wade

Creative Director of Don't Panic: Richard Beer

Project lead: Nisha Mullea

Creative: George McCullum