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PBTF and RPA Debut Series of Animated Films to Help Make Cancer Care Less Scary for Kids

09/25/17

A brain tumor diagnosis is scary for anyone, but for children it can be even scarier and more confusing. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit dedicated to families facing a child’s brain tumor diagnosis, and leading independent ad agency RPA created a fictional group of characters called the Imaginary Friend Society to help teach kids about treatment in a way that’s easy to understand.

The imaginary friends appear in a series of 20 animated films that feature various experiences children confront after a diagnosis, such as:

  • What’s an MRI?
  • Feeling Sad
  • Losing Your Hair
  • Chemotherapy
  • Returning to School

There’s also an interactive-style video of “Help for Brothers and Sisters” that helps siblings talk about their feelings.

All of these films are available right now at www.ImaginaryFriendSociety.com. There, you can also submit an imaginary friend to be used in creating dolls for those newly diagnosed, as well as coloring books, journals and motivational posters.

Upload a drawing of your imaginary friend here, post on our Facebook page or share on Instagram and Twitter using #ImaginaryFriendSociety. Parents and legal guardians must submit drawings for any child under 13 years of age, and all submissions are subject to the content submission terms.

The idea for the film series stems from noticing a lack of material that speaks to all of the medical and emotional aspects of cancer in a way that’s both relatable and engaging to kids. Kids with cancer are bombarded with an array of invasive procedures that are equal parts unfair and unfamiliar. These concepts are not only intimidating, but completely foreign to them. The idea for the Imaginary Friend Society was born from cancer survivors who used imaginary friends as a coping mechanism during treatment.

“It’s our goal to help the more than 4,600 children diagnosed with a primary brain or central nervous system tumor each year. That’s 13 new cases per day,” said Robin Boettcher, President and CEO of the PBTF. “These films help us equip, educate and empower families throughout their journey by explaining difficult aspects of cancer care and giving children confidence and courage.”

In addition, the PBTF is teaming with child life specialists, social workers and medical staff at hospitals across the United States, as well as other childhood cancer nonprofits, to bring this film series to families in the midst of treatment.

“We’re grateful that so many of our friends in the pediatric brain tumor community are partnering with us to raise awareness about the Imaginary Friend Society,” added Boettcher. “It takes teamwork to fight this devastating disease, and many of our nonprofit distribution partners were inspired by children like those who will benefit from this film series.”

Children like Keris Bembry, who was diagnosed at age four with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable brain tumor. Before she passed away, Keris and her family founded Keris Kares to give back and share with others the hope, love and support they had received.

“Keris Kares is committed to supporting families dealing with brain tumors. We are passionate about our outreach, and Keris would be proud of the work that we are doing on her behalf. We value our partnership with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and together we will make a bigger difference for the families and children we support,” said Deidre K. Bembry, Keris’ mother and chair of Keris Kares.

“I’m so thrilled we could get so many real friends together to bring the Imaginary Friend Society to life. This colossal project was an absolute labor of love, worth the enormous effort it took to make it happen. To make these terrifying experiences a little easier for kids dealing with cancer, and to bring smiles to their faces during a truly difficult time, makes it all worth it,” said Jason Sperling, SVP/Chief, Creative Development at RPA.

This pro bono, global film project came to life thanks to many talented animation, music and sound-design partners from around the world.

Each partner took on a different cancer-related topic with a script written by RPA and advised by the PBTF and produced their own unique imaginary friends to bring the topic magically to life, resulting in the following inspired collection. The PBTF is also developing motion-capture medical-assistance technology using select imaginary friends, as well as hospital-based AR experiences designed to lessen the fear of impending procedures.

View each video at the links below and donate here to help find cures for all kids with brain tumors.

Welcome to the I.F.S.
Animation: Gentleman Scholar
Music: Jeremy Turner
Sound Design: Jeremy Turner

What's an MRI?
Animation: Roof Studio
Music: Butter
Sound Design: Butter

Feeling Sad
Animation: Hornet
Music: Ambrose Yu
Sound Design: Ambrose Yu

Returning to School
Animation: Strange Beast
Music: Handymartian
Sound Design: Handymartian

Blood Transfusions
Animation: Lobo
Music: Anvil FX Music & Sound Design
Sound Design: Anvil FX Music & Sound Design

Finding Out You Have Cancer
Animation: Giant Ant
Music: Antfood
Sound Design: Antfood

Losing Your Hair
Animation: The Mill
Music: Fidget NYC
Sound Design: Fidget NYC

Why Am I Tired All the Time?
Animation: Airplan
Music: Squeak E Clean
Sound Design: Squeak E Clean

Feeling Angry
Animation: Not to Scale
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Radiation
Animation: Trunk
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Sound Design: Fonic

Who Will Be Taking Care of Me?
Animation: Flux Animation
Music & Sound Design: Digicake

How to Handle Shots
Animation: MPC
Music: Storefront
Sound Design: Storefront

Surgery
Animation: MPC
Music: Mophonics
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Chemotherapy
Animation: Starbeast
Music: Mike Newport
Sound Design: Radiate Sound

Help for Brothers and Sisters
Animation: Psyop
Music: Teenage Diplomat
Sound Design: Lime Studios

What Is Cancer?
Animation: Studio Pigeon
Music: Black Iris
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Long Hospital Stays
Animation: Titmouse
Music: Travis + Maude
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Being By Yourself
Animation: Renegade Animations
Music: We Are Walker
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Being Scared
Animation: Laundry
Music: Butter
Sound Design: Lime Studios

Staying Friends with Your Friends
Animation: Wolf & Crow
Expected Music & Sound Design: Shindig

Title Sequence (for all films): Elastic
Title Sequence Music (for all films): Jeremy Turner