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'The Emperor’s Secret': Finland Breaks Into CG Animated Features

Bob Swain uncovers the truth behind Helsinki-filmis The Emperors Secret, the first CG animated feature from Finland.

The Emperors Secret makes animation history as the first CGI movie from Finland. Made for 825,000 the film features characters from the popular weekly animation television series The Autocrats. All images © Helsinki-Fi

The first ever CGI movie to come out of Finland made its theatrical debut on Sept. 8, 2006. The Emperors Secret initially opens only on Finnish screens although further distribution deals are under discussion.

The film was made on a total budget of 825,000 by Helsinki-filmi part of the Filmiteollisuus Grooup with additional animation from Anima Vitae. Production began in September of last year, featuring characters from the companys popular weekly animation television series The Autocrats.

The dream of a feature animation has been lodged in our brain long before the first episode of The Autocrats ever ran on TV, says director Riina Hyytiä.

Making movies, they often say, is teamwork. In animation productions, you can easily quadruple that and the results will soon be seen in movie theaters. The Emperors Secret will be everything I ever dared to dream of a family animation adventure, where the political aspects and inspirations, computer animation and rules of TV series are in the background because of the fun of storytelling.

The story tells of an Emperor who sends his troops to confiscate a villages much-loved Ferris wheel. He sends a two-headed turkey to drive the villagers to a desert island when they resist.

The visual world, from the Emperors city on top of the high cliffs to the small village surrounded by green hills, places the story in imaginary scenery. It is a good place to start our adventure. And most importantly the actors have really come a long way and can really be proud of their work.

The Emperors Secret has a large heart, but it doesnt lecture. It tells about important things, but we laugh along the way. I wanted to make a movie that I could enjoy with my children. Our secret, long in the planning and making, will soon be there for everyone to see.

The story tells what happens when the Emperor sends his troops to confiscate a villages much-loved Ferris wheel. He sends a two-headed turkey to drive the villagers to a desert island when they resist. Paavo the Chief then has to lead his people back home to safety and fight against the evil Emperor.

I wanted to be on the team in making a movie that would be a clear-cut, fast-paced adventure, says Aleksi Bardy, producer, writer and managing director of Helsinki-filmi.

Aleksi Bardy, producer, writer and managing director of Helsinki-filmi compares The Emperors Secret to American productions on a technical scale. In terms of content, he thinks they are even better.

I wanted it all thrills, humor, touching moments all of it in a package that reaches out to both kids and adults alike. I wanted this movie to serve the needs of myself, a first-grader and a three-year-old. For the parents, we have pop music and slapstick comedy, for the kids we have great emotions and wisdom.

Technically, The Emperors Secret comes astonishingly close to major American productions. When it comes to the content, I think we are even better. The movie has a message which I wont tell because that would be boring.

The most difficult part in screenwriting is putting the story into a few sentences. For the adult audience, Ive tried to learn to explain The Emperors Secret as a synthesis of Nordic storytelling and international childrens animation culture a study of civil freedom and changing family forms masked as an adventure.

But I can tell the truth to the children. This is a story about friends, who fight against an evil emperor and his man-eating turkey!

Bob Swain is an animation scriptwriter based at Sidewinder Films in the U.K. He has attended every edition of Cartoon Forum since it began in 1990.

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