“Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it,” sings Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder) in the 1971 hit film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The song, “Pure Imagination” will be recreated by Timothée Chalamet for the new Wonka movie, which hits theaters this week. But this lyric, in particular, is also the premise of a new history-making commercial, which is set to screen before the movie across the US.
Produced by the Eat Differently initiative, the new commercial—which will debut in 1,800 movie theaters—depicts musicians, actors, and artists, all of whom follow a plant-based diet. It starts with lines from the poem written by Arthur O’Shaughnessy and quoted by Wonka in the original film: “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams. So dream of a world where kindness embraces all and knows no bounds.”
Vegan advocacy organization Eat Differently launched earlier in 2023 and has already created two campaigns, the first of which involved billboards in San Diego and the second was a drone show above New York City.
Directed by BAFTA-award-winning Alex Lockwood, the initiative’s PSA commercial is believed to be the first of its kind to air before a major Hollywood film.
“This spot doesn’t shame or take people away from the entertainment experience,” ad executive Lori Amos said. “Rather, it stirs hope and optimism.”
Some of the celebrities featured in the commercial include Paul McCartney, Natalie Portman, Joaquin Phoenix, Ariana Grande, Jessica Chastain, Billie Eilish, and James Cromwell, all of whom have either given up meat or all animal products. It also shows animals in cages on factory farms, where research suggests 99 percent of all animal products in the US come from, before showing happier clips of pigs and cows playing in the grass.
“I have always been a fan of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s ‘Ode’ poem and the ‘Pure Imagination’ song from the original Willy Wonka film,” Lockwood says. “The lyrics are especially poignant and relevant as they pertain to our treatment of the animals with whom we share this earth.”
“To quote Mr. O’Shaughnessy, ‘Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it,’” he added.
A rise in mainstream vegan messaging
This December, another vegan message will also hit screens. But this time, it’s the entire plot of the movie. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget will be released on Netflix this week, and follows the same familiar gang from the Chicken Run original as they attempt to break into a factory farm to save their fellow birds from becoming nuggets.
“We want the film to be engaging and entertaining and a great ride, mostly,” director Sam Fell said, per The Guardian. “But yes, if you come away and you think a little bit more like a chicken by the end of it, then that’s not a bad thing.”
Fell himself turned vegetarian during the making of the film, and some of its stars, including Bella Ramsay, were already vegan.
It’s not just celebrities who are embracing meat-free living. Plant-based foods are rising in popularity around the world. Earlier this year, research suggested that the number of Americans consuming plant-based foods has risen by 70 percent. Further studies suggest that more than half of young Americans describe themselves as flexitarian, which means they only consume animal products occasionally.
This, alongside the rise in mainstream vegan messaging, gives many activists and vegan entrepreneurs hope.
“We’re expecting a surge in vegan chicken nuggets from next Wednesday onwards,” vegan advocate, Veganuary co-founder, and VFC founder Matthew Glover recently posted on LinkedIn, regarding the Chicken Run sequel’s release date.
“We do a lot of disassociating from our feelings about food in general,” vegan cookbook author Richard Makin—who is hoping that the new Chicken Run sequel will leave a lasting impact on viewers—told The Guardian. “We can’t all cope with the emotions that come with knowing about the human or animal suffering involved in an industrialized food system.”
Speaking about the Eat Differently Wonka commercial, PR and media consultant and the former President of Distribution for Sony Pictures Jim Amos also expressed hope regarding the influence of mainstream vegan messaging.
“This beautiful commercial was done specifically for, and is thematically tied to, the new Wonka film with a similar message that we can all change the world,” he said. “I think we’re going to see more of this kind of messaging going forward.”
You can watch the new Eat Differently commercial here. But if you want to see it on the big screen, Wonka is set to hit movie theaters in the US on December 15. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget will also be hitting Netflix on December 15.