Culture & Entertainment

Classic kids’ movie that time forgot: "Paddle to the Sea"

By: Guest Blogger
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Classic kids’ movie that time forgot: "Paddle to the Sea"

By: Guest Blogger
If you’re a person of a certain age—older than 35, say—there’s a good chance you’ve seen Bill Mason’s 1966 short film Paddle to the Sea. It was, for many years, a Canadian classroom staple, the kind of thing teachers and librarians screened (via 8mm film strip) whenever they wanted a bit of peace and quiet. Based on the picture book of the same name, Paddle to the Sea is a National Film Board of Canada production that tells of a young native boy in Lake Nipigon who carves a wooden model of an indian brave paddling a canoe. The boy sets the model free to navigate the Great Lakes all alone, in the firm belief that it will one day make it to the Atlantic Ocean. To ensure that it does, he carves a legend on the underside of it: "I am Paddle to the Sea—please put me back in the water." For the next half hour, we follow Paddle to the Sea on his epic journey through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, seeing the world from his unique vantage: everything huge, imposing, but also wondrous and strange. (In other words: just like how a child sees things.) We get a close encounter with a chipmunk and a chickadee, then a forest fire, then Niagara Falls, then a container ship, then the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and on and on. We know from the beginning that he makes it to the Atlantic—the opening scene shows him plucked from the water by a Cape Breton lighthouse keeper—but it doesn't make the journey any less suspenseful or charming. This is one of those films that will always capture a child’s attention. The lack of special effects is actually a bonus: it forces kids to use their imaginations and to see the world with a renewed sense of wonder and magic. Absolutely no effort is made to anthropomorphize Paddle to the Sea—he’s never anything other than a carved piece of wood—but by the end you realize you've invested him with a personality, turned him into a hero with hopes and dreams not unlike your own. You can watch Paddle to the Sea with your kid immediately via the NFB website, but I’d recommend ordering the Janus DVD, which you can get through Amazon or the Criterion Collection website for less than $12. It’s worth watching repeatedly, and it needs to be seen on a large screen with good resolution. Plus, is $12 so much to pay for a lifetime of cherished childhood memories?
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Classic kids’ movie that time forgot: "Paddle to the Sea"

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