SalmonFest 2021 Behind the Scenes – The Nikkei Memorial

Hi film and animation lovers! This is the first of a series of short posts on our stop-motion Lego video of the Steveston Salmon Festival Digital Parade 2021. That’s a mouthful. Why not just watch it?

The video begins with a quiet sequence at the Nikkei Memorial. There’s a good description of what the Memorial means in this post.

The Memorial marks the anniversary of how the Japanese community of Steveston was expelled from their homes. More details can be found here, and it is a source of great shame for Canadians. But the Memorial also celebrates how those same people chose to return and enrich the community with their presence, their hard work, and their contributions to the future.

In response to a great wrong, they chose to build.

We struggled with how to represent the Memorial. Would we be able to fit something solemn and peaceful into a bombastic parade sequence? Would we be able to build it at all, considering it was a large location, and meant to be experienced in person from many perspectives? We considered a stylized version of the aerial view, but it never really fit logistically. There are some fine lines and curves that just can’t be accomplished on a small scale with bricks.

We were also beginning to run low on precious green bricks, and had very few baseplates left that weren’t covered in Steveston buildings. We chose to use one that was quite old, marked and had a big crack in it, barely surviving a large family’s heavy use.

The crack in the baseplate represented the damage done to the Japanese residents, but also how they built on top of it. You’d never know it was under a location like the Memorial, but it’s important that you do.

We wanted to make sure we represented the actual geography of the Memorial accurately, so we chose a single viewpoint that contained some elements we could make happen. But barely. The trees, rock and even the grass are not completely represented, only what was in frame. We were literally using every green and brown piece we had at that point.

The seated figure is a representation of the Japanese community’s journey. The minifig is one of the oldest models going, from an early city set. The body is a simple design, and the face is the classic happy face of vintage Lego. The hat/hair, however, is from a fairly new model. The new model was part of minifig series 20, and got a little attention for her NASA-branded rocket.

This combination of old and new represents the sacrifices of the Japanese people of Steveston so that one day their children and grandchildren could live in a safe, welcoming community that enabled them to turn their dreams into their reality.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Memorial, take some time to think about the resilience and strength of character it took to create the community around you.

One last detail: unlike most of the video, this sequence was shot in real time, not stop motion. It was simpler to try the camera move with the change in focus, and just do it over and over until we had a usable shot. Moving the camera for stop motion is tricky, because it’s tough to keep it perfectly level and the moves consistent. In future, we’d probably move the entire model instead, to have a static camera, but we were deep into crunch time, and doing what we knew we could accomplish.

It’s still tough to imagine that we made the whole video in under a week, including a full day where all we did was shop for Lego. Amazing! Thanks for reading, and watch out for the rest of the series!

Links: – Designers of the Nikkei Memorial

The City of Richmond – Nikkei Memorial page

Richmond News – The Nikkei Memorial unveiling

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