China A-Listers Enlisted to Voice Nature Videos for Conservation International

Busan International Film Festival | Busan, South Korea, Oct. 6-14
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Tang Wei, star of the martial arts thriller "Wu Xia."

The 'Nature is Speaking' series was produced by Apple media guru Lee Clow.

The latest tie-up between Hollywood and China is not focused on script development or co-production, but on raising awareness of conservation issues.

The nonprofit Conservation International, which includes Harrison Ford and Ed Norton on its board of directors, has enlisted A-list Chinese movie stars, including Jiang Wenli, Jiang Wen, Tang Wei and Ge You to voice nature characters in the local version of its video series, Nature is Speaking.

Other Chinese stars involved in the short documentaries, which were produced for the nonprofit by Lee Clow, director of media arts for global advertising network TBWA Worldwide, the creator of Apple’s Think Different campaign, include Chen Jianbin, Ge You, Zhou Xun and Pu Cunxin.

The video series offers revelations on human activities from viewpoints of a series cast of nature characters, and is likely to resonate strongly in China, where pollution and environmental degradation are major political issues.

The Chinese-language series was launched at a ceremony in Beijing.

The video series first screened in the U.S. in October 2014, where the nature roles were voiced by top Hollywood talent including Ford, voicing The Ocean, Norton (Soil), Penelope Cruz (Water) and Lupita Nyong’o (Flower).

Other performers who took part in the campaign include Julia Roberts (Mother Nature), Kevin Spacey (The Rainforest), Robert Redford (The Redwood) and Ian Somerhalder (Coral Reef), with each voicing different nature characters.

"I volunteer for different causes such as HIV/AIDS and TB for the past two years, but I really wanted to volunteer for this cause because the pollution and the environment is so much worse than before," Jiang Wenli, who voices Mother Nature, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"All over the world, especially in China, it's getting worse. When I lived in Beijing 20 years ago the environment was clean air and blue sky, and we didn't know anything about PM 2.5 (damaging microparticles)," Jiang said.

Pollution was the cost of China's rapid economic growth, she said.

"Every country has been through it. We need to study Western countries — look at Los Angeles, it had very, very bad pollution, because there were so many cars," she said.

CI board member Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple's Steve Jobs, came up with the idea of using Clow, whose success at creating media for Apple included the groundbreaking 1984.

"I have a simple concept — humanity needs nature, nature doesn't need humanity," said Peter Seligmann, CI's founder and CEO.

Clow created the concept of creating a conversation between nature and people.

"What language and approach can we develop that goes beyond the political sides to make this an apolitical discussion and movement," Seligmann said.

"Who are the celebrity voices that carry, have weight?" he said.

As both Ford and Norton are both on the board, they came to mind, Seligmann added, and Ford did the first video.

"That established the quality of the imaging and the thoughtfulness of the language and the messaging,"
he said.