Spotlight on…Rumpus Animation: Creating Sanctuary

Member News  |  19 September 2023

This month, we interviewed Rumpus Animation to hear more about their new short film, Sanctuary, with Greenpeace.

© Greenpeace/Alex Yallop

Deep under the Sargasso Sea, a determined flying fish (Jane Fonda) and sassy European eel (Camila Cabello) run a gauntlet of perils before they are welcomed into a protected sanctuary by a kind whale (Simon Pegg). Bristol-based animation studio, Rumpus Animation, teamed up with Greenpeace on this new star-studded short film, Sanctuary, which tells a captivating tale to motivate supporters to join Greenpeace in urging governments to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

We caught up with the Rumpus Animation team to hear more about the project and its development process.

© Greenpeace

How did it feel creating work for Greenpeace?

We produced a proposal and delivered two live pitches to the Protect the Oceans team, this was a little nerve wracking because we really really wanted to make the film! We were ambitious with our concept and pushed our character driven ideas, and thankfully, we were successful! The work Greenpeace are doing is incredible and the Protect the Oceans campaign is ground breaking. We felt totally fired up to produce something really hard hitting to do the campaign justice.

© Greenpeace

Can you tell us about the R&D involved in making a film like this?

We had to quickly learn about the ocean threats we needed to cover in the film: trawling, deep sea mining and warming. We researched the technology and methods used, and ensured that we had solid reference to begin our
design phase. The process led the team to have a much deeper understanding of the destruction of our world’s oceans, the reference films were really hard to watch.

The film was to be set in the Sargasso Sea, so our hero characters needed to be native to that area, but also work together visually. We chose the flying fish and eel because their forms and colourways are totally different to one another, which would help us keep shots visually interesting.

We did lots of development on how the hero characters would move. Animator Marta Dias was the lead on the eel and did an incredible job on the ‘flowiness’ of her body. Animation Director Luke Hyde led on the flying fish and added so many beautiful flourishes to how she twists and turns in the water.

© Greenpeace/Alex Yallop

How was the writing process?

Working with Sam Morrison was a joy! The Rumpus creative team established the character’s species and the perils they needed to overcome, then Sam began to develop the story and the personalities of the eel and flying fish. We
knew they needed to run a gauntlet, Sam worked out how each of the hurdles linked to one another from location to location and paced out the scenes brilliantly.

Once approved by Greenpeace, the script then came back to Rumpus to build the storyboards and animatic, we had everything sussed out by the time we began to animate the story, except for who was voicing each of the characters. The amazing celebrity voices came late in the project, so unusually we had to hold off on a lot of the character’s facial expressions until the end of the production schedule. An alternative way to work, but we arranged our files so they could be easily picked up for lip sync by any team member at any late stage, and it worked out just fine!

© Greenpeace/Alex Yallop

Why did Rumpus choose frame by frame for this project?
Luke Hyde, Animation Director:
Hand drawn animation is, for us, the best way to get the most expressive results as the animators aren’t limited by any software constraints. We were able to just dive right in and achieved some really great stuff. And for a project as exciting as this one, it deserved the best quality animation we could produce.

© Greenpeace

What was your favourite shot?
Luke Hyde, Animation Director:
I love each shot like they were my own children! But, if I had to choose I’d say the water bottle shot. It’s high octane stuff, and the way the flying fish pops in and out of the bottle is the peak moment of the whole sequence. My second favourite shot is the plastic bag unfurling. It’s so beautifully animated, and really nails the feeling of loss and hopelessness our flying fish is experiencing.

© Greenpeace

And finally, Rumpus, how do you feel about the final film?

Proud. Excited! Earlier this year, we had loads of fun making frame by frame Rumpus idents, and at the time, we chatted about how much we’d love to make a really moody short film. So, when this brief came in we were beyond excited. We didn’t ever expect to be working with megastars, but animating to their voices was brilliant because of their wonderful energy.

We are really proud of the final look and the story twists and turns, we hope it gives the campaign all the momentum it deserves.

Support the petition for this campaign here and watch the full film below.


  • Flying Fish: Jane Fonda
  • Eel: Camila Cabello
  • Whale: Simon Pegg
  • Writer: Sam Morrison
  • Animation Director: Luke Hyde
  • Designer: Anissa Ouzeroual
  • Background Designer: Jake Harrison
  • Storyboard Artist: Gabriela Fial
  • Animators: Marta Dias and Duncan Gilbertson
  • Junior Animators/Clean Up Artists: Luzie Ilgner and Annachiara Garganese
  • Sound Designer: Fearghas Hilton
  • Compositor: Jack Churchill
  • Creative Director: Joe Wood
  • Creative Producer: Stef Bowskill
  • Pre-Production Coordinator: Grace Harris
  • Greenpeace Producer: Alex Yallop