Chipotle might have finally stumbled on a way to make Americans care about factory farms, GMO foods, and what one might call "the Monsanto problem": a heartbreakingly adorable Pixar-esque animated short film and an iPhone game titled, Scarecrow.
Caring about the industrial food complex; there's an app for that.
Though Monsanto -- or Chipotle -- is never mentioned during the film, one can't help calling the biotech giant to mind. After all, with 93% of the biotech market share, can you name another company in the same industry without searching Google? Neither can we.
The film -- produced for Chipotle by Moonbot Studios -- is laden with meaning. The more you watch it, the more you see.
Scarecrows don't belong in factories, they should be on a farm. And why are those poor scarecrows so scared of the crows? Shouldn't that be the other way 'round?
As we follow our hero through his increasingly Kafka-esque day, we bear witness to a lot of sad and depressing events. People eat pre-packaged "100 percent beef-ish" that's delivered to them on a ceaseless conveyor belt. They not only never encounter real food, they never encounter real people.
Probably the most heart-rending moment is when we see the cow, trapped in a box, being closed in the darkness. Those eyes! (According to the results of our very unscientific poll, 100 percent of people who watch this scene will let out a sad, "Ooohhh!")
Fiona Apple lends her sultry pipes to "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and when the words are sung slow and sad, we're given the feeling we're wandering through a dystopia. And, well, we are.
Finally, our scarecrow discovers a chili growing on a vine and is inspired. He's picking, he's cooking, and then he sets out a basket of - what else - steaming, freshly prepared burritos and tacos. In a final metaphorical moment, he scares away the mechanical crow that lands on his counter and we get the sense that the world is turning right-side up again.
"The more people learn about where their food comes from and how it is prepared, the more likely they are to seek out high-quality, classically prepared food like we serve in our restaurants," said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle.
"We created 'The Scarecrow' game and film as an entertaining and engaging way to help people better understand the difference between processed food and the real thing."
Opponents of Monsanto and those concerned with GMOs will wish this short film could be turned into a feature length production, with biodegradable merchandise made from recycled materials, and that an environmentally friendly theme park that runs on bio-fuel would spring up around it. (Disney, please get on this.)
There is, at least, a video game that goes with it. The scarecrow continues his mission of fighting
Big Ag and Monsanto Crow Foods. In the different levels you go on missions to smuggle fresh produce lest the crows poison it, to rescue the animals and return them to the pastures, and then -- finally -- to grow your own crops.
Earn enough points on each level between now and December 31, 2014 and you will win in real life -- "food rewards" toward purchases of Chipotle products. Though at present, the app is only for iPhone and iPad - no word on if or when a Droid version will be coming our way.
This is not the first sustainably-minded short Chipotle has produced in partnership with Moonbot Studios, but a follow up to this one, featuring the vocal stylings of everyone's favorite hippy-cowboy, Willie Nelson.
You can contact Rebecca Dittmar, Arts & Culture Editor at [email protected].