A Whale of a Tale
10th Ave Productions makes a big splash with Katak the Brave Beluga, its beautiful fifth animated feature.
Quebec-based film and TV production outfit 10th Ave Productions has begun postproduction on its fifth animated feature, Katak the Brave Beluga. This marks the second time the company has worked with screenwriter Andrée Lambert: Nearly 20 years ago, 10th Ave asked the prolific TV writer to collaborate on a collection of CG-animated shorts on Christmas themes. She wrote the fourth of 10th Ave’s Holiday Tales, The Kiss Under the Mistletoe. Having benefitted from a screenwriting course and a specialized training program in animation offered by Teletoon, Andrée made the jump into features and penned the screenplay for Katak the Brave Belgua. The storyline is inspired by marine world that Andrée knows well as she spends a large part of every summer aboard her sailboat, which is named Katak. The writer recalls close encounters with groups of belugas that often came close to her boat during the summer season. “I was in love with this project from the outset, especially since it is set in the undersea world of whales traveling the length of the river from Tadoussac to the Arctic, passing the Mingan Islands, Blanc Sablon and Red Bay,” notes 10th Ave producer Nancy Florence Savard. “We all agreed that those amazing white whales are very beautiful.”
Finding His True Path
The film, which had a five-year development journey, centers on young Katak who finally discovers his true path and motivation: to realize the last wish of his dying grandmother, but also to prove that he could have an impact on his own life and the lives of others, even if he’s small and grey. In addition to refining the story during development, 10th Ave took care to put together a dedicated team. Christine Dallaire-Dupont is serving as director on her first animated feature film. Prior to the project, Dallaire-Dupont worked on all three seasons of W, a 156-episode animated series, on which she distinguished herself by animating the character of Cormorant, a marine bird living on Sable Island at the edge of the Atlantic. Later, moving to Montreal, Christine participated in several animated feature film projects including The Day of the Crows, April and the Extraordinary World, Ballerina, Riverdance, Trouble, and Snowtime. The film’s producer Nancy Florence Savard made sure Dallaire-Dupont had all the tools she needed to return to Quebe City and direct the project with her long-time friend and professional mentor, Nicola Lemay, who serves as co-director. Commenting on the film’s unique themes and setting, Dallaire-Dupont observes, “My family has deep roots in the lower Saguenay region. It’s a place with a distinctive aura. Through the imagery of the film, I wanted to turn the fjord and the river into characters in their own right, and to depict them as they’re known to those who live there.” Working during the pandemic created some obstacles, Dallaire-Dupont admits. She’s proud of the work she and her team did to overcome those obstacles: “Technology was a big help, but communication was a major challenge. Directing choices arise from impressions, from feelings, and it can be tricky to communicate those through the impersonal medium of Zoom screens, without the warmth of collaborators’ physical presence. But I think we managed very well.” Nicola Lemay, who is deeply passionate about animation, directed 10th Ave’s most recent animated feature, Felix and the Hidden Treasure, which has been sold in 170 countries and territories and selected for two dozen festivals. He has directed several prizewinning animated shorts, winning the prestigious Filpresci Prize at Annecy for his project Nul poisson où aller, and the Unicef Award for Black Eyes, adapted from the book by Gil Tibot. He also created the storyboard for, among others, the animated feature The Little Prince, and he helped storyboard Ice Age 1 and 2, and Rio, at Blue Sky Studios in the USA. The team also includes acclaimed art director Philippe Arseneau Bussières – who handled art direction on The Legend of Sarila, Mission Kathmandu: the Adventures of Nelly and Simon, and Snowtime. The creative and directing team even had to do some of the scouting by helicopter during the Covid pandemic to respect the health regulations that were in place in the Tadoussac region. When they were grounded by the sudden arrival of thick fog in Baie-Sainte-Catherine, the production team found shelter for the night at a cottage owned by whale-watching tour company AML, which opened up its empty seasonal cottage when all the other local amenities were closed! It has been an amazing ride for 10th Ave’s fifth animated feature: Katak the Brave Beluga! For more info, visit www.10ave.com.