The Girl Who Built a Rocket tells the story of big dreams for a basic human right, water

The powerful campaign for WaterAid is directed by BAFTA-shortlisted rising star Neeraja Raj and produced by Nexus Studios for Don’t Panic, narrated by the one and only Trevor McDonald.

9 February 2021


A little girl dreaming of space exploration is a heartwarming premise in any case, but in this new campaign for WaterAid the concept is flipped on its head to compelling effect. Directed by emerging talent Neeraja Raj and produced by Nexus, The Girl Who Built a Rocket tells the story of Fara, a young Madagascan girl who imagines building a spaceship to go to Mars and find water for her town, only to find that the help she needs is already on Earth. The campaign by agency Don’t Panic aims to raise awareness of the charity’s work through animation, the charity’s first animated campaign for TV, due to its inherent emotional links with childhood.

“This is a heartfelt tale based on real-life humans and their very real struggles,” Raj says. “We approached it with honesty and humility and chose to tell it through the visual language of traditional 2D animation to achieve an emotional vibrancy that is unique to the medium.”

In the film, Fara hears on the radio that water has been found on Mars, and the adults commenting that “nobody is thirsty there… if only there could be clean water here in our village”. She builds a rocket and, to the soundtrack of David Bowie’s Life on Mars, embarks on her adventure only to crash to the ground disappointed. Then, to her surprise, engineers arrive to install water pipes in the village and Fara, spanner in hand, helps to deliver on her promise after all. Brought to life in a beautiful, hand-drawn illustrative style, the film alludes to storybooks and children's animated films, but as narrator Trevor McDonald says in a statement, this shouldn’t be the stuff of fairytales.

“I have reported on some extraordinary feats of human endeavour over my long career as a journalist and newsreader; and yet something as apparently simple as ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water, still evades us,” he says. “I was astounded when I learned that a staggering 785 million people worldwide do not have clean water close to home. It’s something we all take for granted in this country – and is even more important in the middle of a pandemic. So, I am honoured to add my voice to this charming animation and support WaterAid in its mission to make clean water, sanitation and good hygiene a part of normal life, wherever you are.”

One in ten people globally have no clean water close to home. In Madagascar, where the animation is set, almost half the population lacks access to this basic human right. Click here to learn more about WaterAid and how you can help its cause.

The Girl Who Built a Rocket is airing on Channel 4 during primetime slots, and is being rolled out through digital channels.

GalleryNeeraja Raj, Nexus Studios, Don't Panic: The Girl Who Built a Rocket (Copyright © WaterAid, 2021)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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