Ukraine war: Animating children’s artwork to create a powerful global message


Raising awareness about the challenges faced by children in conflict.

Children fleeing war in Ukraine are at heightened risk of human trafficking and exploitation while attacks on essential services have left those who cannot flee without electricity, heating or water. Millions of Ukrainian children are in need of humanitarian assistance as they continue to suffer the deadly consequences of a brutal war not of their making. The war has sparked displacement on a scale and speed not seen since World War II.


War in Ukraine: Shifting the focus to children.

UNICEF challenged us to help refocus the world’s attention on the suffering of the most vulnerable; children. The war in Ukraine has impacted almost every country on Earth. Initially, social media and news sources were dominated by footage of Ukrainian people fleeing their homes, or sheltering in a bunker, and shocked by the destruction of cities and infrastructure. Then the global impact of the war on fuel and gas prices, compounded by food-security issues, became the primary focus. Rooftop’s challenge was to turn the world’s attention back to the people and children on the ground – those whose lives have been turned upside down by the conflict.


Sharing the story of how children are impacted by the war in Ukraine.

Our solution relied on a unique approach to reach governments, donors, and a public who had gradually become desensitised to the plight of Ukrainian children. In partnership with UNICEF, Rooftop created a video that captured the shared experiences of the children at the onset of the war. 

To get a sense of what the children felt and experienced, we chose not to interview them face-to-face, but asked them to share their experiences of the war through art. Children were asked to draw pictures of what their life looked like before the war, their journey to escape during attacks, and what life looks like now.

One child’s drawing stood out. Eleven-year-old Maxym created his own storyboard, showing his entire journey. From playing sports with his friends at school, to the first bombings, the family fleeing their home, and trying to build a new life while war continued to destroy everything he’s ever known. His message was so powerful, that we knew we needed to base the video animation off of his drawings. 

Our animation team worked sensitively to recreate the artwork in an authentic childlike style that combined Maxym’s storyboard together with the common themes and drawings from all the children’s contributions.

The majority of the video is animated, but the final few seconds show Maxym in person, talking about the war’s effect on children like him. This is where the whole campaign truly hits home – bringing the focus back to real-life children.

The Result

Using animation as a tool to build a campaign around a sensitive topic.

Through its novel approach, this project achieved the results we hoped for. By using children’s drawings to illustrate the horror of war, we were able to build an understanding of the horrors that they had faced without subjecting the viewers to real-life footage. This unique approach helped to cut through the clutter and target potentially desensitised viewers with something completely new. And by ending the video with an in-person interview with Maxym, we were able to bring the viewer’s focus back to the reality that Maxym, and millions of other children like him, are facing in Ukraine.

Ukraine Illustration 1
Ukraine Illustration 5
Ukraine Illustration 3
Ukraine Illustration 2
Ukraine Illustration 8
Ukraine Illustration 4

Screenshots from the animated video

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