Stop-motion and real fire unexpectedly mix to highlight what is 'A Flammable Planet'

WWF has released its new film, A Flammable Planet, to raise awareness of catastrophic wildfires wreaking havoc on people and nature, and call for urgent action to stop the vicious cycle of climate change.

The film is being launched on the sidelines of the 2022 UN climate change conference, COP27, which kicked off this week. It is considered a first for animation in that the innovative stop-motion short, conceived and produced by London-based NOMINT, uses real fire to tell the story of the devastating effects of wildfires on our increasingly flammable planet.

The story begins with a little white rabbit innocently watching a spark of fire from the night sky drop down to the ground before erupting into a bigger problem. The fire takes chase, and the rabbit tries to escape, as the narrator tells us that "wildfires today are bigger, more intense and last longer than ever before" and how they cause "unprecedented destruction to natural habitats and people's lives".

As the music intensifies, it stops as the rabbit finally tumbles and lands in a heap, covered in soot, seemingly dead. But there's hope. Our hero manages to sit up and slowly hobbles away. However, the film suggests that this won't be the last of it unless we do something to break the cycle.

This is the second in WWF's series of films created by NOMINT to rally awareness and action around climate-related issues. The first film, We Can't Negotiate the Melting Point of Ice, was released at the 2021 UN climate change conference in Glasgow and recently won three prestigious Cannes Lions Awards. In that, the London studio worked with ice as a direct visual metaphor for the melting of the Arctic.

For this latest work, NOMINT used a combination of a highly flammable set and props, and real fire, to create a shocking sense of visual jeopardy. The film was shot entirely in-camera and used traditional stop-motion techniques with slow-motion, timelapse, and long exposure to create the original visuals. Directed by studio co-founders Yannis Konstantinidis and Christos Lefakis in collaboration with animator Jua Braga, the film's music was by Ted Regklis and the colour grading by Tom Mangham at Black Kite Studios.

"We struggled for months to find a way to use the natural properties of a real fire in a way that conveys the devastation of wildfires," remarks Yannis. "Fire is destructive and remorseless, both in real life and on the stop-motion set, destroying everything that comes in its way. We ended up walking on a very thin line where the whole project was on the very edge of literally going up in flames, creating a level of jeopardy that is hopefully conveyed in the story."

"Fires are not just a critical climate issue; they are also a critical economic and livelihood issue," adds Huma Khan from WWF International. "Fires burning in many parts of the world are bigger, more intense, and last longer than they used to. This cannot continue. WWF has long been calling for more action on fire prevention and tackling the root causes of fires, such as deforestation and climate change.

"So, when NOMINT told us about this new animation technique using real fire, we were intrigued. This heart-wrenching story dramatises the very real and painful effects of wildfires on people, their livelihoods and the climate."

A Flammable Planet launches today with the message: "This is the story of a rabbit, a symbol of all life affected by such catastrophic fires. In the film, as in real life, the vicious cycle of wildfires has devastating consequences on people, wildlife and the climate. Wildfires are a critical global issue that needs urgent solution – this includes halting deforestation, changing the way land is used and fighting climate change." Discover more at panda.org/fires.