Curious George, Pinocchio, Babar, Clifford, Madeline, Raggedy Ann and Andy all together in one film? No, it’s not your childhood dream movie come to life, it’s the first campaign for Reading is Fundamental (RIF) following its energetic rebrand that rolled out a few weeks ago.
“Book People Unite” aims to foster and promote children’s literacy, and brings some serious swagger to the task. Along with a star-studded cast of kiddie lit heroes, that also includes a cameo of Mr. Reading Rainbow himself, LeVar Burton, the spot sports an original song produced the The Roots and featuring vocals from Jack Black, Chris Martin, John Legend, Jim James, Jason Schwartzman, Consequence, Regina Spektor, Nate Ruess, Carrie Brownstein, and Melanie Fiona. Created by Mother New York, directed by Rafael Fernandez of Green Dot Films with animation from Curious Pictures, and featuring puppets by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the PSA is a collaboration between RIF, the Library of Congress, and the Ad Council.
With such a quirky list of vocalists and a bevy of beloved characters, one would expect such a PSA to be fun. And it is, in a silly, spot-the character kind of way: the Three Blind Mice perform as a three-piece under Rip Van Winkle’s beard while Madeline and LeVar Burton sit nearby on a school bus; Humpty Dumpty takes his life into his own hands by taking a ride on a rather fly cruiser bike, while Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, who seemingly sorted out their differences, hit the open road in a hot sports car; meanwhile, the Raggedys spend some quality time together on a sunset beach horse ride, Goldilocks and the bears kick back for some waterskiing with Captain Ahab, and the Three Little Pigs explore their adventurous side by skydiving. The wolf pilots the plane, naturally.
While RIF provided 14 million books to 4 million children to keep as their own in 2011, the need to build awareness for both the nonprofit itself and the importance of childhood literacy is great. RIF reports that only 1 in 300 children in low-income neighborhoods own a book, and in 2011, RIF lost its federal funding of $24.8 million, representing 80% of its operating budget.
Not only does this spot succeed in capturing our attention as adults by tapping into our collective childhood memories, it also speaks to our current selves with a catchy track from culturally relevant artists, a full version of which is available for download. It also shows us that, once the last page is read and the moral is understood, for some of our greatest literary foes all that drama was just for show.