UNDP X Real Image Media: Get a Close-Up of UN’s First Panda Ambassadors in Virtual Reality
Back in January, UNDP and China’s Chengdu Panda Base announced two male baby panda cubs, Qiqi and Diandian (which combined means “the beginning of a journey”), as the first ever Animal Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Pandas symbolize the plight of the world’s diminishing wildlife in the face of climate change and the loss of natural habitats. Biodiversity, as one of the SDGs, is essential for the well-being of the human race.
“V aRe Panda” is a documentary co-produced by UNDP and Real Image Media, to record the daily life of these animal advocates for environmental preservation. Real Image Media is committed to promoting the visualization of real themes inspired from worldwide. It is an independent observer with the value orientation of humanism and sustainable development. It digs value of the times in economic, social and cultural phenomena professionally providing compatible marketing references for public policy formulation and social innovation.
VeeR X UNDP
VeeR: What expectations went in naming the panda ambassadors “Qiqi” and “Diandian”?
UNDP: The year 2015 was the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. On October 24th, the Chinese Representative Office for UNDP officially announced a pair of twin panda cubs from Chengdu Panda Base as UNDP’s new animal ambassadors. Starting in January, 2016, UNDP began taking submissions for naming the pandas. Within 8 months, we received more than 5000 names from netizens from over 116 countries. In September, the pandas were officially named Qiqi and Diandian.
“Qidian” is not only the starting point for the 2030 SDG agenda, but also one for a new path of global development. “Qi” also represents “enlightenment”, suggesting that we need to be enlightened to innovate new ways of thinking in face of worldwide challenges; “Dian” also means to “shed light” on the prospect of the possibility of making our world a better place.
VeeR: How did UNDP conceive of the idea of improving sustainability awareness through animal ambassadors?
UNDP: The situation pandas are in reflects the general plight of many endangered species around the globe. Pandas set into perspective many issues that tie in with the SDG campaigns of UN, especially in terms of climate change, protecting terrestrial ecosystems and renewable energy. Also, pandas are widely loved by many and receive extensive media coverage. Making them the ambassadors for our cause will attract more attention to our development goals and help carry through our messages with their amicability.
VeeR: Why did UNDP decide to shoot a short VR film? What kind of pull does new technology have over your organization?
UNDP: Innovation is a key catalyst to economic growth and development. The Chinese Representative Office of UNDP consistently explores opportunities for realizing innovative ideas, and benefiting China’s sustainable development plan through national movements calling for innovation and technology.
The reason why we went with VR was because virtual reality immerses viewers into the Panda Base for a close-range contact with Qiqi and Diandian. It enables our audience to learn how pandas are raised and kept, the influence environmental damages have on pandas, as well as the dynamic between loss of habitat and climate change.
VeeR: By resorting to virtual reality, is UNDP summoning the youth to join in on your climate change solutions? How has this endeavor incentivized them to participate, if you have any update to share?
UNDP: We hoped this new media would make more realize the significance of societal problems such as climate change and environmental damage. We wish the younger generation would make their own contribution to the resolution of climate issues and the implementation of the SDGs.
In mid-August this year, UNDP launched the 2017 Youth Leadership Summer Camp for Climate Action which received over 300 applications. Eventually, 50 applicants passed our screening and participated in our 9-day summer camp, where they discussed multiple SDG topics and strengthened their teamwork capabilities through debates and workshops. Business leaders shared with our camp members their thoughts on climate change; our members also studied how to apply VR technology on dealing with climate change. We hope to nurture upcoming leaders in solving climate problems by training them preemptively on climate leadership.
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VeeR: What past VR projects laid the foundation for Real Image to work with UNDP?
Real Image: Real Image first collaborated with UNDP US on the United Nations Millenium Campaign back in 2015, on a VR docuseries named “The Kindergarten in the Village”. Co-produced by the China Development Research Foundation and Caixin Media Inc, the series focuses on the left-behind children issue in China. The Chinese trailer and the final cut premiered on the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Anti-Poverty Forum. China’s Vice Premier, Liu Yandong, were among the audience for the debut screening.
Having taken the first step, Real Image has been in touch with UNDP to collaborate further on various SDG subjects, which includes both VR projects and 2D documentaries and feature films.
VeeR: What essential factors contribute to your final decision in accepting this project?
Real Image: Pandas are an emblem for animal protection. Their original habitat was home to many endemic species that are also on the brink of extinction. The importance of preserving regional biodiversity extends beyond this area and radiates through the world. There are also concerns that becoming a national treasure, however, might restrain pandas’ development as a species. Have pandas lost their independence to grow consistently? Questions like this will be examined in this film.
VeeR: Please share some fun anecdotes during the shoot.
Real Image: Pandas are not as docile as they might seem! Especially full-grown pandas are actually very aggressive, so our production team had to be extra careful approaching them; panda cubs, contrarily, are curious little imps. They would climb trees, take a swirl in the pool, or charge at our rigs and start nibbling. While rescuing our equipment from their gnawing, our crew might end up being held hostage when a cub got someone’s arm or leg. It was a lot of fun.
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