RSPCA gives classic Christmas animation an unexpected twist

The animal charity has launched a festive fundraising campaign which aims to highlight the cruelty some animals face at this time of year

Countdown to Cruelty
Countdown to Cruelty

What is it?

The animal protection charity has published a new video to highlight the cruelty that some animals face during the festive season. The YouTube video, called Countdown to Cruelty, was animated by the digital agency Don’t Panic in the style of the popular children’s Christmas film The Snowman, and begins with the homely image of a dog and a cat sitting by a fireplace with a snowy scene visible through the window. However, in a confusing scene for the viewer, the animals are then shaken repeatedly, being thrown around the room and against the walls. The video pans out to reveal that the whole scene is happening in a snow globe, which is being shaken by a human hand.

As the snow globe is being shaken, messages pop up every few seconds to tell the viewer that they can "stop this cruelty" by clicking on the messages. The video makes use of a looping system so that, when the viewer does click, the snow globe smashes, freeing the animals. However, the same cycle of violence begins again in the background, with the snow globe appearing on the fireplace of the original room. The video ends with a call to action, asking viewers to make £3 text donations.

Why now?

Christmas is a busy time for animal welfare charities. Last year saw the highest number of calls ever made to the RSPCA over the festive period – 11,089  between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day; 1,140 of these were received on Christmas Day itself. The RSPCA says it is expecting more than 70,000 calls to its cruelty hotline this December, with as many as 23,000 animals in serious need of help.

What the charity says

The video is not easy to watch, especially for the animal lovers who are most likely to donate to the cause – this is reflected in several of the comments under the video on YouTube. However, Emily Munford, head of digital media at the RSPCA, says this hard-hitting approach is necessary to communicate the scale of the problem of animal cruelty. "The film might be a hard watch for some, but it’s cleverly designed to awaken people to the scale of the issue," she says. "This is something that isn’t going away; but with the help of this video and the support of the public, we believe we can make a real difference."

How has it performed so far?

The video has had almost 18,000 views on YouTube since it was published on 16 December.

Third Sector verdict

The success of this campaign lies in the way it draws on a whimsical image of Christmas that many people remember from their childhoods, then combines this with an upsetting, and at first confusing, image of animal cruelty.

But the RSPCA also manages to avoid making the message of the video too gloomy by allowing the viewer to bring the scene to a close by clicking on the pop-up messages. Showing people that their intervention can stop animal cruelty is a feeling that will surely resonate when they are subsequently asked to make a donation.

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