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SYFY WIRE animals

Taika Waititi voices a stop motion rabbit in Humane Society short about animal testing

By Josh Weiss

Taika Waititi once again proves that he is among the most prolific entertainers working today, this time by starring in "Save Ralph." Directed by Spencer Susser (Hesher), the Humane Society International short shines a light on animal testing in cosmetic laboratories via stop motion techniques that bring to mind the work of Wes Anderson.

The documentary-inspired PSA follows Ralph (voiced by Waititi), a rabbit whose job it is to test out different cosmetic products for the benefit of humanity. His occupation has left him blind in one eye and deaf in one ear, but he doesn't really see a problem with these permanent injuries. After all, his entire family — including his children — is comprised of test animals, who died "doing their job."

Bringing his native New Zealand accent and wry sense of comedic timing to the titular character, Waititi infuses the rather sobering short with just the right amount of levity and relatability. The project also features the voice talents of Ricky Gervais (The Willoughbys), Zac Efron (Firestarter), Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse), Pom Klementieff (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld), and Tricia Helfer (Van Helsing). Santoro, Denis Villeneuve (director of Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune), and Rosario Dawson (The Mandalorian) star in the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Vietnamese iterations of the film.

“'Save Ralph' is the story of one rabbit, but he represents thousands of rabbits and other small creatures who, right now, are enduring pain and suffering because it’s still legally required to test cosmetic chemicals on them," Gervais exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. "We can’t see them or hear them cry out, but they’re there. If every time we picked up a shampoo or a sun cream and it said on the label, 'Poisoned small animals courtesy of your government,' there would be uproar. But that’s the reality."

"Animals in cosmetic testing labs don’t have a choice and it’s our responsibility to do something about it," Susser said in a statement. "When the opportunity came up to create a new campaign for Humane Society International, I felt that stop motion was the perfect way to deliver the message. When you see the horrifying reality of the way animals are treated, you can’t help but look away. What I was hoping to do with this film was create something that delivers a message without being too heavy-handed. I hope that audiences fall in love with Ralph and want to fight for him and other animals like him, so we can ban animal testing once and for all."

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“'Save Ralph' is a wake-up call that animals are still suffering for cosmetics, and now is the time for us to come together to ban it globally," added Jeffrey Flocken, president of Humane Society International. "Today we have an abundance of reliable, animal-free approaches for product safety assurance, so there’s no excuse for making animals like Ralph suffer to test cosmetics or their ingredients."

Jeff Vespa (Voices of Parkland) produced the short, whose animation was handled by Arch Model, the studio of renowned puppet maker, Andy Gent. Our earlier comparison to Wes Anderson wasn't far off at all, given that Gent and his company previously worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs.

"I think the beauty of animation is that you can tell very complex stories and bring them to life in a non-threatening and educational way," Gent explained. "In our miniature world of models and puppets, using stop motion filmmaking, we hope to bring attention to this mission to stop animal testing for cosmetics. We're all very passionate about what we do, and it'd be very nice to think that this project to Save Ralph will have a greater, wider effect."

You can learn more about the Save Ralph campaign at the Humane Society International's deadicated site.

Waititi is currently in Australia shooting Thor: Love and Thunder. The film (written by Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) is slated to hit theaters next May.