How ‘Save Ralph’s’ Set Designer Built the Stop-Motion Short Film Voiced by Taika Waititi and Ricky Gervais

·3-min read

The Humane Society International’s #SaveRalphCampaign tackles the disturbing issue of animal testing.

Directed by Spencer Susser, the short film “Save Ralph” features the voices of Taika Waititi, Ricky Gervais, Zac Efron and Olivia Munn. It shines a light on the plight of countless rabbits and other animals suffering at this very moment in laboratories around the world.

Since its launch in April, the “Save Ralph” campaign has captured the attention of animal lovers and policymakers alike as it works to engage viewers to help ban animal testing of cosmetics.

Set designer and puppet maker Andy Gent spent six to eight weeks building the sets. In all, the production took place over the course of 50 days with the team filming 4 seconds per day with 24 frames per second.

To create Ralph, the process took over four months, with five weeks dedicated just to covering him in fur.

“We’ve worked on this for months and months and months,” Gent says. “We looked at the character design, we looked at the references, we looked at things that would make him more empathic: the size of his eyes, how his face can change shape, how we can give Tobias the tools to connect to the audience and bring Ralph to life in a way that you really believe that he’s in the world and he’s telling a story that you wouldn’t get to hear any other way. And the beauty of stop motion animation, I think the beauty of animation – full stop – is that you can tell very complicated, very challenging stories and bring them to life in a non-threatening way that helps to educate people.”

He continues, “There’s a nice thing about animation that it opens your eyes to many things without showing all the reality, but it’s a good communicator. And I think Ralph epitomizes that. He is very empathic, very emotive, he’s very innocent, but he’s trying to be really strong in the face of doom in his world. So, bringing that to life in the character, we’ve got to make sure that he can change his expressions, that he has the physicality, the structure in his body to move in a way that can act out and tell the story. Often with animation, just the eyes can be used as an acting device. You don’t need to move the rest of the puppet. So, we spend a lot of time making those right.”

Adds Gervais, “Do you know why they chose rabbits for eye irritation tests? It’s because they don’t have tear ducts, so they can’t cry out the chemicals, even though it’s burning their eyes. It’s not because of any scientific reason, it’s purely so that the chemical will stay on their eyes for longer because they can’t weep it away. How horrendous is that? ‘Save Ralph’ is the story of every rabbit or other animal suffering in laboratories to test cosmetic chemicals, and the key to helping him is to get behind HSI’s campaign to pressure governments around the world to change laws and ban it once and for all. Go to hsi.org/Ralph and get involved.”

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