Wapos Bay Lives on in Digital World

By Emily Claire Afan, Playback Daily

Wapos Bay the series may be coming to an end on the small screen this fall, but the Saskatchewan team behind the children’s stop-motion animated series has plans for the franchise to live on in the digital media world.

Producers Dennis and Melanie Jackson, and Anand Ramayya recently wrapped production on the final episode, which will air as a feature-length MOW on APTN called Long Goodbyes.

Marrying the traditional art of stop-motion animation with the new interactive side was no easy task, but the team was intent on keeping the same look of the series across the board.

According to Hulomedia transmedia producer Ryan Lockwood, WaposBay.com is a “very close translation” of the series that plays on the exploration and adventure themes that have drawn kids to the series for the last five seasons on APTN. (The site received CMF funding.)

WaposBay.com launched last fall, and this coming fall, the interactive offering is Wapos Racerz! (pictured), a Mario Kart-esque style casual racing game from Toronto independent game company Phantom Compass.

“It was a challenge to do the game in stop-motion,” show creator Dennis Jackson tells Playback Daily, echoing Lockwood’s thoughts on keeping the stop-motion look consistent across Wapos products. “It would probably be easier to do it in Flash, but we were adamant to have it look like the show.”

Lockwood worked with fellow Hulo producer Brooke Burgess on the game as well, noting that animators on the MOW also contributed to the creation of Racerz!

Digital extensions of the brand slated for this fall include an interactive storybook series for mobile and tablet platforms that allows readers to flip between Cree, French and Inuktitut languages, as well as linking to videos on its YouTubechannel. On top of that, Wapos Bay episodes will soon be available for downloading on iTunes, streaming rentals and for sale on DVD on Amazon.com, IndieFlix and Netflix.

On tap next for Hulo and WBP is another stop-motion sci-fi project called Guardians, a project which Melanie Jackson says is already locked into coproduction deals with Australia and New Zealand.

Studio Tour with Trevor Cameron

Missed April’s studio open house? Check out the video below for your own tour with host Trevor Cameron, Director/Actor/Story Editor of Wapos Bay!

Also, a big thanks from everyone here at the studio to all those who made it out and to all of our fans!

Wapos Bay Studio Open House

We’re having another Open House so you can come check out behind-the-scenes of the four-time Gemini award-winning animation studio in Saskatoon!

What: Wapos Bay Studios – Open House
When: Friday, April 15th from 1pm to 6pm
Where: Wapos Bay Studios
Why: So you can get a tour of the studio and meet all different types of crew members, from animators to the creator!

School groups and individuals welcome!

The creators of Wapos Bay will officially announce their new TV series Guardians which will be produced in Saskatchewan. Come get the inside scoop on Wapos Bay The Movie that will premiere this coming fall, and the video game in development with Toronto-based Phantom Compass who has been involved with game projects for CBC, YTV and Teletoon.

Please RSVP to Shelly Bowes at 306-955-0036 or email shebow2000@hotmail.com to save your spot and get more information.

Find the studio via the map below!

Award Winning – Gemini Award for Best Writing in a Children/Youth Series

Wapos Bay Productions recently won the 2010 Gemini Award for Best Writing in a Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series, to Trevor Cameron for his episode, The Hardest Lesson.

Over the years, Wapos Bay has earned many awards of excellence. We spoke with the award winning cast and crew at our celebration on April 24 2009, about the win of the 2008 Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Individual or Ensemble Cast in an Animated Production. The 2008 Award went to the cast of “Guardians” including Andrea Menard, Gordon Tootoosis, Lorne Cardinal, DerRic Starlight, Trevor Cameron, Jody Peters, Eric Jackson, Raven Brass, Taylor Cook, and guest star Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man).

Here is a complete list of awards and selected nominations to date:

This is How We Do It

Wapos Bay is a collaborative effort of over 40 technicians, animators, artists, administrative personnel and a key creative team of writers, directors and producers. The animation studio extends over a 11,000 square foot warehouse and houses all aspects of our production, from the art department and the animation bays to the post-production facilities.

The world of Wapos Bay is brought to life using stop-motion animation. The Wapos Bay characters are 6-8 inch puppets made by a team of craftspeople using plastics and foam latex, metal wire and various other materials.  All the characters are animated using wire armatures, which are movable metal frameworks manipulated by the animators. As the armatures are positioned, 24 high-resolution digital still photos are taken of each small change in movement to create one second of on-screen motion.  (If one second of on-screen time requires almost an hour of work, imagine how long it takes to make a full 24-minute episode!) The eyelids and eyebrow movements of the puppets are hand-sculpted by the animators using Plasticine. Vinyl mouth shapes, designed and crafted in the studio, are carefully placed on the character for every frame of dialogue or expression change, finishing the intricate work of animating the puppet.

Hundreds of hours have been spent by a team of carpenters and craftspeople to create this miniature world that appears life-size on screen. Miniature house interiors and other props are painstakingly handcrafted so they appear lifelike on camera. Forest landscapes are created using a variety of natural and artificial materials to showcase the realistic northern look of Wapos Bay. The look is then augmented by realistic background photos taken in and around northern Saskatchewan. Many backgrounds are also inserted at the postproduction stage by using “greenscreens” and computer effects.

The voices of the Wapos Bay characters reflect some of Canada’s best Aboriginal talent. Actors like Gordon Tootoosis, Lorne Cardinal and Andrea Menard bring their own personality and humour to the stories written by Dennis Jackson, Melanie Jackson and Trevor Cameron.

The Wapos Bay team includes a mix of seasoned professionals and numerous emerging technicians and animators from Saskatoon’s dynamic animation community. The skills and talents they bring to this production reflect the growing pool of impressive artistic and technical talent in Saskatoon. It is through a tremendous combination of creativity, hard work and vision that Wapos Bay has come into being and continues to capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.