An animated short film based on a story about the 1917 Halifax explosion has snagged an Oscar nomination.
“The Flying Sailor,” made by Calgary-based animators Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, is nominated for best animated short.
It’s inspired by a maritime tale about a seaman who was blasted into the air after two ships collided in the Halifax harbour during the First World War.
Tilby says the project, which was produced by the National Film Board, took about three years to make.
She's currently at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where "The Flying Sailor" is screening.
She says the team was "breathless" when they found out about the nomination, which was announced this morning.
"It’s a little bit of the cherry on top of the sundae. When you make a film like this, and it’s years in the making. Seeing it in theatre for audiences is kind of what we do it for and getting this kind of reaction is just another affirmation that people are watching it, getting it, and enjoying it," Tilby said.
"We first came upon the true story about 20 years ago. And we tucked it away a little bit on the back burner for all these years. We've done a lot of commercial work, and we were ready to make another film. And we thought, 'OK, I think it's time to do The Flying Sailor.'"
The filmmakers used accounts of trauma and near-death experiences to create the approximately eight-minute film, which shows a sailor smoking a cigarette as two ships collide in front of him. As he somersaults naked through the air, a cloud of smoke below and debris flying through the air, his life flashes before his eyes.
It's based on the true story of a sailor who was on the dock when he got blasted about two kilometres before returning to the ground, naked and alive.
This isn’t the first time Forbis and Tilby are receiving Academy Awards recognition — the duo was nominated for their 1999 project “When the Day Breaks” as well as 2011’s “Wild Life.” Tilby also received an individual nomination for 1991’s “Strings.”
The animated short was produced for the National Film Board by executive producer David Christensen, distributed by North West Studio.
The short has received numerous accolades including best animated short at the Calgary International Film Festival.
The Dec. 6, 1917, blast — the largest human-caused explosion before the first atomic bomb — followed a collision in Halifax Harbour between the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian-flagged Belgian relief vessel Imo.
Nearly 2,000 people died, and 9,000 more were injured.
The Academy Awards celebrate their 95th anniversary this year, and winners will be announced during a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel at on Sunday, March 12.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023
Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press