September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month … but it’s difficult, even for sufferers, to drum up the wherewithal to begin broaching the subject.
Having cancer as an adult is scary, and fraught with murky medical obstacles. Imagine how it feels when you’re a kid.
This is why, on behalf of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, ad agency RPA created the Imaginary Friend Society, which kicks off with 20 lovely animated films that explore different cancer-related topics with warmth.
“It’s our goal to help the more than 4,600 children diagnosed with a primary brain or central nervous system tumor each year,” says Robin Boettcher, president and CEO of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. “That’s 13 new cases per day. These films help us equip, educate and empower families throughout their journey by explaining difficult aspects of cancer care and giving children confidence and courage.”
The films can all be viewed on the Imaginary Friend Society website. They’re beautifully animated, with help from a slew of pro-bono partners, and feature friendly, approachable characters taking on topics that probably seem impossible, especially for parents.
Let’s start with an easy one. What is cancer? This story takes place on a pirate ship, led by a parrot named Captain Beakbeard … and his first mate Quincy, a tiny man who sits on his shoulder. (We are already less scared of cancer.)
There’s no condescension in sight. Beakbeard explains the role of cells in the body, illustrated with happy little bean-shaped pirates going about their business. He talks about what happens when a cell goes rogue (walk the plank!), then cancerous (mutiny ensues). He discusses treatments.
“You may not think you be tough enough to handle it, but just look at these little guys!” he exclaims, casting back to our friendly pirate cells, swordfighting like champions.
OK, so now a child understands cancer and is perhaps less afraid of what happens next. But what about scarier stuff, like chemotherapy, or losing hair? The Imaginary Friend Society doesn’t shy away from tough topics; it punches them in their ugly faces, like the brawny superhero that personifies chemo.
Which isn’t to say a child going through this process won’t often feel sad. That’s going to happen, regardless of how many informative cartoons they watch. Like any good friends, their imaginary ones have that covered, too.
Each video was produced by different animation, music and sound-design partners from all over the world, who were given a script from RPA and offered the chance to bring their own unique imaginary friends to life for a heartening cause. Other topics include…