This animation beautifully explains radiation therapy to children facing cancer

Having to explain to a child what a cancer diagnosis is – especially when they’re about to face radiation therapy – is probably one of the hardest things a parent has to do. 

Even a lot of adults don't quite understand exactly what’s involved with treating cancer, and what happens to one's body. That’s why everyone can benefit from simplistic animations like this one by Trunk for RPA on behalf of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

The passion project for the London animation production company aims to help families and children facing cancer feel a bit better about what they’re going through. Check it out below.

Honing in on the concept of having imaginary friends, 20 different animation companies got involved to make films about various treatments these children will have on their journey to recovery. The short animations cover all the steps, like getting diagnosed, MRIs, chemo, surgery, hospital stays and going back to school. Each film explains in simple terms what to expect from treatment, and to provide a reassuring, positive voice.

In this offering from Trunk, director Layla Atkinsons and producer Richard Barnett deal with radiation therapy, which can get quite complex. Layla also illustrated alongside Jock Mooney, and a whole bunch of others who helped with animation, compositing, sound design, and set materials.

An initial script from LA agency RPA was developed by Trunk director Jock Mooney. Set in a child’s bedroom at night, a time when a young child may feel even more vulnerable, the friendly imaginary friends appear – Walter (Julian Rhind-Tutt) – and his sidekick pig Gus (Jane Horrocks). Walter the secret agent goes on to explain radiation while driving around in a car through the bedroom, showing all forms of animation and puppetry.

The film remains relatable, with Walter explaining to the "brave young whipper snappers" how the "rude little blighters" in your body are treated with "invisible lasers you can't feel" that "zap these bad parts away".

It aims to be positive about something that can be quite traumatic, like losing your hair. 

"Sometimes your hair might fall out in radiation...but it gives a chance to wig out and mix up your style," Walter and Gus say. 

“We built the child’s bedroom on the ground floor of the studio, and then used a mixture of replacements, puppetry, and then some nicely comped 2D animation,” says Layla.

“Using replacements in a set means you first animate the characters, then print them out, then cut then out by hand and then finally get them on the wall and shoot each fram moving across.”

Check out how Trunk made the animation in the film below. 

The team, along with family and friends, spent hours cutting out over one-and-a-half thousands frames. The shoot itself took seven days, with the soundtrack composed by Daniel Pemberton, who took time out from scoring Ridley Schoot’s new feature.

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