Paddle to the Sea

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Paddle to the Sea
Directed byBill Mason
Produced byJulian Biggs
Screenplay byBill Mason
Based onPaddle-to-the-Sea
by Holling C. Holling
StarringKyle Apatagen[1]
Narrated byStanley Jackson
Music byLouis Applebaum
CinematographyBill Mason
Distributed byNational Film Board of Canada
Release date
Running time
27 min 59 s

Paddle to the Sea (French: Vogue-à-la-mer) is a 1966 National Film Board of Canada short live-action film directed, shot and edited by Bill Mason, based on the 1941 children's book Paddle-to-the-Sea by American author and illustrator Holling C. Holling. The film follows the adventures of a child's hand-carved toy Indian in a canoe as it makes its way from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, through Canada's waterways. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 40th Academy Awards. Louis Applebaum composed the musical score.[2][3][4]


While the story begins near Lake Nipigon, the launch scene was shot in Gatineau Park. Other shooting locations included a staged forest fire at Meech Lake, with Mason torching spruce trees that he had installed along the shoreline, and the local fire department on standby. Mason and colleague Blake James did not ask for permission to climb over the safety fence to film the sequence of the little boat going over the Horseshoe Falls: they rappeled down to the water's edge, with James casting the boat into the water and Mason filming. The filmmaker taught himself to carve in order to make the boats, which had to be replaced when they drifted off at sea—or were lost over Niagara Falls.[4]

Differences from book[edit]

The film differs from the children's book in its inclusion of the problem of water pollution. While Holling's 1941 book focuses only on the geography and commercial importance of the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River, Mason's film includes a sequence where the tiny boat must endure polluted waters, shot on Lake Superior near Marathon, Ontario.[5]


To attend the Oscars in Hollywood, Mason drove down from Canada with a canoe on his car roof, stopping at rivers along the way. Today, the Canadian Museum of History has one of Mason's hand-carved replicas, with the family keeping several more.[4]


  1. ^ Dean, Misao (2013). Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: The Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalism. University of Toronto Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-1442612877.
  2. ^ Wyndham Wise, ed. (2001-09-08). "Paddle to the Sea". Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film. University of Toronto Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0802083982.
  3. ^ "Paddle to the Sea". Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03.
  4. ^ a b c Spears, Tom (2017-01-28). "Renowned Canadian film Paddle to the Sea paddles on, 50 years later". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  5. ^ Dean, p. 126

External links[edit]