Gentleman Scholar Creates A Whale of A Spot for WDC

Imagine the deep green and peaceful sounds of a foggy rainforest, cut with an unusual sight: the graceful form of an enormous humpback whale, gliding between the trees and erupting through the leafy canopy. These disparate images of nature fuse seamlessly in Safe and Free, an elegant campaign from Gentleman Scholar for Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the leading global nonprofit dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. This stirring spot, offered to WDC at no charge will be help them to engage others to connect to their mission and encourage support for their numerous educational, research, and outreach programs around the world.

“WDC’s goal is to create a world in which every whale and dolphin is safe and free,” notes WDC Marketing and Outreach Manager Karen Costa. “Gentleman Scholar is helping us spread this message in a whole new way with this stunning depiction of a humpback whale swimming through a serene forest. The imagery is amazing and unforgettable. We hope that it reminds viewers that we’re all interconnected in this great big world and that it is up to us to help protect these massive yet vulnerable creatures.”

The idea to transplant this mighty sea creature into a bucolic forest setting emerged from Gentleman Scholar’s culture of creative experimentation. “Our goal is to be always working on something different, something surprising – to be open to all clients at all times for all ideas, and Safe and Free is yet another example of the sort of thing we are capable of when we throw our resources into it,” states Gentleman Scholar Creative Director William Campbell, whose close encounter with a whale during a recent surfing trip inspired the piece. “By taking the whale out of its cavernous ocean environment, we created this surrealist moment that put these animals’ true size in context, prompting the viewer to think about them in an entirely new way,” adds fellow Creative Director Will Johnson.

Gentleman Scholar’s principal challenge was to transform an abstract concept into something as real as a photograph, a sequence handled with an intricate combination of Nuke, Maya, Adobe Illustrator, Krakatoa and Houdini, harnessed by the half dozen team members dedicated to this project. The team focused on making every detail of the sequence seem as real as possible, from the whale’s path through the trees to the movement of surrounding leaves as the humpback glides past. The final result, with its dreamlike imagery and painstaking attention to physical detail, stands as a stunning tribute to the beauty of the natural world.



Client: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)
Spot Title: “Safe and Free”

Production Company: Gentleman Scholar
Creative Directors: Will Johnson & William Campbell
Executive Producer: Lindsay Bodanza
Head of Production: Rachel Kaminek
Senior Producer: Emily Gleicher
Technical Director: Henry Foster

Matte Painter & Designer: James Levy
3D Modeling: Derrick Sesson, Tim Hayward & Tucker Corson
3D Animation: Tyler Mele
Texturing: Tim Hayward
Lighting: Henry Foster
Houdini/FX: Eli Guerron
Compositor: William Campbell & Henry Foster

About WDC:

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (formerly WDCS) is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. We defend these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue.

WDC’s North American office is based in Plymouth, MA. WDC staff, volunteers and interns conduct research and work to protect whales from the threats they face. Visit to learn more about how you can help as a volunteer, advocate, or donor.

About Gentleman Scholar:

Gentleman Scholar is a group of solution-driven artists situated at the intersection of story, style and technology. Wielding extensive experience in strategy, live-action production, animation, digital and print, we help the world’s leading agencies and brands tell their stories.