UNICEF Makes The Syrian Conflict Personal With New ‘Unfairy Tales’ Animated Series

These stories of child refugees sidestep the politics and policy to hit the heart of the human cost.

As anyone watching the news over the last few years knows, the Syrian conflict has forced many from their homes and helped create the largest group of displaced peoples ever recorded. We see the footage and read the staggering numbers, along with the see-sawing of political action, but a new animated series from UNICEF aims to make this crisis personal.


Created with ad agency 180LA, “Unfairy Tales” chronicle three true stories of Syrian child refugees and the horrors behind why they fled the country. The series launches UNICEF’s #actofhumanity global initiative to help frame positive perceptions towards the tens of millions of children and young people on the move globally. Much like the heartbreaking “boy on the beach,” these films aim to put a young, innocent, human face to this ongoing tragedy.

“Malak And The Boat” tells the story of seven-year-old Malak’s journey across the Mediterranean Sea in a leaky boat seeking shelter from the Syrian conflict. “Ivine And Pillow” introduces us to a 14-year old Syrian girl who lived through bombings that killed family members, and now faces new challenges in a refugee camp in Germany. “Mustafa Goes For A Walk” tells Mustafa’s story of escaping Syria, leaving his friends, and even his toys, behind.

“None of these stories end,” says 180LA executive creative director Rafael Rizuto. “Even after surviving gruesome escapes the children now face the challenges of living in foreign communities that may harbor hostile sentiments towards them. By leaving the films open-ended we’re implying there is action you can still take. You can show a child an act of humanity.”

Fellow agency executive creative director Eduardo Marques says the biggest strength of these stories is their specificity. “These films highlight the human story and experiences of the young refugees and migrants, they aren’t anonymous stories you can’t put a face to,” says Marques. “This is Malak. This is Ivine. This is Mustafa. By showing the children’s stories one-by-one we ultimately build a sense of solidarity amongst refugee and migrant communities as well as the global community at large.”

The films were produced with help of animation houses Consulado, House of Colors, Bubba’s Chop Shop and Gilles+Cecilie Studio, along with Media Monks, which is producing the interactive e-book.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.