Skip to main content

Seneca creates animated short with TSO and TIFF

DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver celebrates Canada 150

Seneca Professor Barney Wornoff (centre, back) with third-year Animation students who worked on DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver as part of the Seneca Summer Animation Institute. Counterclockwise: Adam Ujhelyi, Shira Haberman, Rachel Joseph, Lucy Ray and Cherese Buchanan.


Kit the beaver is a dreamer, curious and playful. As she gets ready for her debut on the big stage this weekend, Seneca animators that worked to bring her and her friends to life are anxious to see them in action for the first time.

“I can’t wait. It’s magical to see them move from expression to expression. It makes you feel something. It just hits you right here,” Cherese Buchanan says, her hand over her heart.

A third-year Animation student, Cherese was part of the Seneca Summer Animation Institute last year that produced DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver, a 10-minute animated film premiering Saturday, Feb. 25 at Roy Thomson Hall with two performances.

None of the students who worked on the film has seen the final work.

movie poster

“I’ve seen shots here and there, but not the whole thing,” Cherese says. “Already I’m like, ‘Look at this!’”

DAM! tells the story of Kit, a young beaver who is more interested in exploring the forest than building a dam with her clan. The film is commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Seneca's School of Creative Arts and Animation. DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver is funded by the Government of Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

Under the guidance of Seneca Professor Barney Wornoff, the film’s animation director, students developed and animated the project with Kjell Boersma, writer and director, and Josh Clavir, producer. They also worked closely with art direction from Julie Flett, an acclaimed children’s illustrator, to design the characters. The team created more than 100 shots over four and a half months of production at Seneca’s award-winning Animation Arts Centre.

Erica Procunier, a Toronto-based composer, worked with the creative team to compose original music for the film, which will be performed live in concert with the TSO and shared with other orchestras across Canada.

“For many of the students, working on a production like this is new,” Barney says. “They’ve grown by leaps and bounds. They are a team and they’ve come out of this experience to be industry-ready professionals. It’s a huge leg up.”

The Seneca team consisted of eight to 10 students working full time on the project and five faculty members who provided assistance and mentorship. The students were divided into groups to work on background, characters and rigging.

For Lucy Ray, a third-year Animation student, designing the film’s background to showcase the changing four seasons involved researching iconic Canadian style references, such as the Group of Seven paintings.

Both Lucy and Cherese also designed the film’s poster image (pictured above) with Kjell.

The Seneca Summer Animation Institute has been placing graduating students on a variety of productions since 2004. Its first partnered film, Ryan, won an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2005.

“Seneca is known for this kind of collaboration and we’ve been established in the industry as a training leader,” says Mark Jones, Chair, School of Creative Arts and Animation.

Also a producer for DAM!, Mark says opportunities like this give student a competitive advantage after graduation.

“It’s the students who do the animation,” he adds. “It’s an ambitious project and we pulled it off in a short time. It’s a personal record.”