27 August 2008


"Edison and Leo" hits the screen

My friend Jeff is a movie publicist, and in January, he took me to visit the set of one of his projects: Edison and Leo, the first feature-length stop-motion animated movie ever made in Canada. At that time the film had already been shooting for eight months in a converted residential school in Mission, B.C., about an hour east of Vancouver, after several years of preproduction. Now, eight months after that, the film is ready.

Edison and Leo - Electro

I haven't seen it yet, because Edison and Leo will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next week, on September 4.

Edison and Leo - Train

Just as I compared the impressive but bleak The Dark Knight to 1989's supposedly "dark" Tim Burton Batman, I suspect that Edison and Leo will better Burton's 1993 stop-motion production, The Nightmare Before Christmas, too.

Edison and Leo - Lotte lightning

From what I know of it now and what I saw on the set, Edison and Leo shares elements with many scary elements of classic fairy tales: parental abandonment, evil meddlers, plotting siblings, strange castle compounds, and lightning bolts and electrocution. Okay, maybe that's more Dracula.

Edison and Leo - Danger!

Not only is it the first stop-motion feature from Canada, it's also apparently the first such movie aimed at grownups anywhere. If it's as good as it seems it might be, there's always that Best Animated Film Oscar to shoot for as well.

Edison and Leo - Mother cage

You can get an idea of the look of the film from my photoset at Flickr. I'm looking forward to a viewing.

Edison and Leo - Angry in the lab

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12 August 2008


Jeff and Podcast Puppy at the E! Online blog

Dizzy and JeffOur friend Jeff works in publicity for various movies, including the upcoming stop-motion animated film Edison and Leo. He's just been profiled for E! Online by our fellow Vancouver blogger Rebecca, a.k.a. Miss604.

The photo used at the E! website is one I took of Jeff and his dog Dizzy (a.k.a. Podcast Puppy) last week with my film camera. We were hanging out at his house. I also took a more formal portrait yesterday, but E! decided to use the black and white one, which I think is a better picture anyway.

That's one of Jeff's fine homemade margaritas in his hand, by the way.

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13 January 2008


Photos of the "Edison and Leo" stop-motion movie set

Edison and Leo - Edison and the towerFor a good chunk of the past year, several dozen animators have been working in a former native residential school near Mission, B.C., rented out to them by the current owners the Sto:lo Nation, on what looks to be a fascinating movie, Edison and Leo, which should come out later this year.

It's the first feature-length stop-motion film made in Canada, which is suprising considering this country's long history of innovative animation projects. I visited the set last week with my friend Jeff, who is working on publicity for the project.

Edison and Leo has a dark, retro, steam-punk look (it's set in the 19th century), and when production was at its peak late in 2007, there were as many as 14 sets in use simultaneously. Now that the main shooting process is winding down, there are only a few sets left, but it's still a strange experience if you've ever visited a movie set before.

Unlike computer or traditional animation, stop-motion has actual sets, with all the wiring, lighting, and construction that entails. However, the sets are at a strange scale, built for characters a few inches high. And while live-action sets require absolute silence and very careful tiptoeing around, with Edison and Leo Jeff and I were able to wander about, say hi to people as they worked, take photos, and generally feel at ease—because each animator produces, on average, less than 10 seconds of footage a day, one frame at a time. Take a look:

Edison and Leo - table set Edison and Leo - stagecoach Edison and Leo - friendly! Edison and Leo - pies Edison and Leo - title card Edison and Leo - holding the head Edison and Leo - Edison head Edison and Leo - hands Edison and Leo - train and gate Edison and Leo - train Edison and Leo - blurry gate Edison and Leo - compound set Edison and Leo - Vancouver Sun article Edison and Leo - editing Edison and Leo - Xserves and drives Edison and Leo - computer control Edison and Leo - hallway Edison and Leo - head sketches Edison and Leo - idea sketches 1 Edison and Leo - idea sketches 2 Edison and Leo - former residential school Edison and Leo - field outside Edison and Leo - library set Edison and Leo - Edison and the tower Edison and Leo - Edison onscreen Edison and Leo - sauna set Edison and Leo - storyboards Edison and Leo - parts bins Edison and Leo - little body parts Edison and Leo - attaching mouth Edison and Leo - big gloves Edison and Leo - body part station Edison and Leo - Leo with no mouth Edison and Leo - Leo with mouth Edison and Leo - storyboard Edison and Leo - discussion Edison and Leo - view of Fraser Valley Edison and Leo - school front Edison and Leo - trailers

There were some neat details. "Filming" actually takes place with modern Canon digital still cameras, hooked up (oddly) to old manual-focus Nikon lenses. They're connected into computers next to each set, which the animators can use to check their work, and then through a jury-rigged fibre-optic cable network run through the old school to a set of storage servers, and also to a room where the movie can be edited on the fly.

The production facility is almost completely self-contained: all the sets, costumes, and characters are built on site, which gives the team a lot of flexibility and also keeps costs down. (Most of the staff are from other parts of Canada, and have been living in trailers on the property.) Other than the sets themselves, the building still looks like a school, which is pretty creepy considering its history.

If you'd like to read up on the project, check The Province, the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Deadwood blog, the MTV Movies blog, Playback, Telefilm Canada, and IMDB.

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