|Released||June 28, 2005|
|Written by||Barry Authors|
|Studio||MBP, Ogopogo Productions Ltd.|
Mee-Shee: The Water Giant is an Anglo-German family film shot in New Zealand and released in 2005. It stars Bruce Greenwood, Rena Owen, Tom Jackson and Daniel Magder. Jim Henson's Creature Shop supplied visual effects, including the title creature.
The film is based on the Canadian myth of a water monster known as the Ogopogo. This folklore began with Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and while the film was in production, complaints from one Aboriginal chief about cultural appropriation caused the film and its titular monster to be renamed "Mee-Shee". These complaints and the renaming drew media attention and generated controversy.
In the United States and Canada, Mee-Shee was released directly to DVD and was never released theatrically.
A United States oil company loses a drill, intended for work in the Arctic, while flying over a Canadian lake. Company employee Sean is contacted to go to Canada to find it. The catch is the he had to cancel plans to take his son to Walt Disney World. Disappointed, his son Mac, agrees to go with his father to Canada. Once in Canada, they meet a local Indian named Custer who helps Sean and another employee on their mission.
Using an underwater submarine, they visit the lake, and after taking pictures of the bottom of the lake they discover incredibly deep giant rivets. The legend of Mee-Shee is that the rivets lead to the ocean. Sean and Mac rent the home of Mrs. Coogan, a kindly lady who Sean refers to as "Mary Poppins."
Mac, Sean and others see vague images of Mee-Shee that spark their curiosity. Upon meeting Custer's daughter Pawnee, Mac goes with her to a cave where local Indian woman "Crazy Norma" feeds Mee-Shee. This is where they first meet the unique creature. Mac runs back to the house to tell his dad, but Mrs. Coogan warns that Mee-Shee's life could be endangered if the outside world knew of it.
Meanwhile, saboteurs Snead and Watkins, agents of a rival oil company who pose as Greenpeace representatives, destroy Sean's equipment and search for the drill themselves. Their first time under the water, they see Mee-Shee and shoot him with a harpoon. When Mac finds him again in the cave he removes the harpoon, and tells environmental ranger Laura about it. Events lead to a search for Mee-Shee and conflicts with the saboteurs.
According to Canadian folklore, the Ogopogo is a creature that lives in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. It has been compared to the Loch Ness Monster, another supposed water creature in Scotland, or with a plesiosaur. Aboriginal peoples have claimed that belief in the Ogopogo is a part of their culture, although they called it Niataka or N'ha-aitk, and the name "Ogopogo" was invented by a board of trade in 1926. The folklore has also been commercialized, inspired merchandise and drew tourism for the Okanagan. With this commercialization, one reporter found it natural that the Ogopogo would also inspire a film, saying that "Eventually movie makers were bound to sit up and take notice, and movie makers did."
Canadian scriptwriter Barry Authors wrote the screenplay for Mee-Shee after reading about the Ogopogo in a magazine. It was written in 1996, and originally entitled Loch, a British word for "lake". Authors resided in Britain at the time, but eventually opted for a more Canadian feel and renamed his work Ogopogo. Authors also wanted to portray his film as a "showcase for Canadian talent and storytelling" and "a cross between Free Willy and E.T."
The film version was directed by John Henderson, who had previously directed Loch Ness (1996) about the similar Scottish folklore. They first made plans to film the story on Okanagan Lake, the supposed domain of the Ogopogo, but had troubles with the scenery and relocated to Lake Winnipeg. Whoopi Goldberg was to play a Native Canadian, which would require make-up since Goldberg is African-American. However, due to concerns that Lake Manitoba might experience a winter, the project was moved to New Zealand. Goldberg was unwilling to travel there, and was replaced by New Zealand actress Rena Owen. Authors' son Jeff Authors, who had worked on the White Fang television show, had suggested New Zealand, saying "New Zealand can double for Canada. Not only is it beautiful, but it looks just like Canada in all the remote spots you want, and you'll probably find a more remote lake there."
The creature itself was both CGI and a puppet made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop and modeled after the late US actor Walter Matthau. The film cost $40 million. The filming in New Zealand took place on Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown in 2002. Authors remarked it was nice to work in New Zealand because "The crews were very, very keen to do anything that was required... New Zealand had just done Lord of the Rings, and they had a taste of major motion pictures". Other filming was done in England with a water tank, and the CGI work was carried out in England in 2003 and 2004.
According to Barry Authors, most Canadian Aboriginal leaders supported using the name "Ogopogo" in the film. However, one Aboriginal complained that the legend was too holy, so Authors renamed the creature "Mee-Shee." The Aboriginal who did not want the name "Ogopogo" used was Stewart Phillip, a Penticton chief. Phillip asked that the names "Ogopogo" and "Okanagan" not be used because "It's an international concern among indigenous people about the exploitation of spiritual entities and being and whatnot for commercial purposes. This is not an isolated incident." The Māori people, natives in New Zealand who owned the land on which the filming was taking place, supported Phillip. Phillip's requests attracted some media attention and generated debate. One newspaper writer accused Phillip of "xenophobia" threatening "free speech." This writer suggested that Aboriginal cultures can be "respected", but others can still appropriate the cultures because "Nobody owns a culture." The famous Canadian writer W.P. Kinsella weighed in on the issue, criticizing the name change by saying, "Filmmakers can tell any story they want any time they want, and they don't need permission from these troublemakers... Make the movie. Fuck them all." A Canadian scientist, Ed Bousfield, even objected to Aboriginal claims to the Ogopogo because he felt the Ogopogo was real. (At the same time, Bousfield attacked non-believers, accusing his "ivory tower colleagues" of "the worst kind of scientific elitism.")
Conversely, The Vancouver Sun suggested that "Obviously, we're best off when native people tell native stories. Witness Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the debut film of Inuit film". Meanwhile, the Ogopogo "joins Santa Claus and Christ as cultural icons that have been so celebrated and abused it's hard to view them as any particular group's property". Thus, this newspaper suggested that Barry Authors should be pleased that with this incident, he "raised awareness of the Ogopogo's cultural importance to native people" while the film itself would be "a trifling confection of no particular consequence." Writer Randy Boswell connected this debate with similar controversies over appropriation that had been going on for over ten years, and also noted Aboriginals had been previously upset with a contest to catch or photograph the Ogopogo in 2001.
- Bruce Greenwood as Sean Cambell
- Daniel Magder as Mac Cambell
- Rena Owen as Crazy Norma
- Tom Jackson as Custer
- Luanne Gordon as Laura Simmons
- Phyllida Law as Mrs. Coogan
- Charles Mesure as Watkins
- Joe Pingue as Jim Neilds
- Shane Rimmer as Bob Anderson
- Joel Tobeck as Snead
- Jacinta Wawatai as Pawnee Custer
Jim Henson's Creature Shop
- Creature Designer: Sharon Smith
- Animatronic Supervisor: Jamie Courtier
- VFX Supervisor: Sean Lewkiw
- Visual Effects Supervisors: B. J. Rackham, Adam Bruckner
- VFX Producer: Jeremy Hall
- 2D Supervisor: Aaron Barclay
- CG Creature Modeling: Adam Lucas
- Water FX Supervisor: Jesh Krishna Murthy
- Performance Animator/Animation Supervisor: Mak Wilson
- Performance Animation Consultant: Hal Bertram
- Sculptor: Ray Scott
- Puppeteer: Phil Eason
- Technical Animatronics Director: Verner Gresty
- Art Finishers: Chris Fitzgerald, Graham High
Mee-Shee premiered in London on June 28, 2005.
While the film was released in some theatres around the world, in Canada it was only released on DVD in July 2006. Authors wanted the film to run in theatres, but remarked that "We got caught up in an unfortunate series of events that's very upsetting". He also said the German producers were responsible for the film not playing in theatres. Later, in October 2006, the film ran in the Fantasy Worldwide Film Festival in Toronto, with one journalist calling it "a family-oriented feature about a giant whale."
In 2002, Maclean's discussed the film and described the Ogopogo creature/legend as a success since it was "ready for a $32-million movie close-up." The blurb also read, "Move over, Nessie", referring to the Loch Ness Monster. Ultimately, Maclean's critic Brian D. Johnson called Mee-Shee a "good yarn" and complimented the acting and setting. However, he claimed that some of the special effects looked "pretty cartoonish". Johnson and a few other Canadian critics also pointed out the irony in the fact that British Columbia has been used in films to portray other places, but this time another place was portraying British Columbia.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Johnson, Brian D. "Ogopogo gets drawn Down Under", Maclean's, July 31, 2006, vol. 119, issue 29, page 56.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Joseph Brean, "Natives in two nations spear the elusive Ogopogo: Moviemakers give in to demands", National Post, Don Mills, Ontario, March 8, 2002, p. A.1.FRO.
- ↑ Karen Boden, "Debate of monstrous proportions just silly", Alberni Valley Times, Port Alberni, B.C., March 7, 2002, p. 4.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Marke Andrews, "New Zealand stands in for B.C. in flick based on the Ogopogo myth," The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, B.C. Jul 15, 2006, p. D.3.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Randy Boswell, "A monster of a debate: WHO 'OWNS' OGOPOGO? The fabled B.C. sea creature has surfaced into the latest storm over what native leaders call an 'invasion of our spirituality' by non-native artists", Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Alberta, March 17, 2002, p. D.4.
- ↑ "Exploiting Ogopogo", Nanaimo Daily News, Nanaimo, B.C., March 19, 2002, p. A.4.
- ↑ Randy Boswell, "Renaming Ogopogo movie 'absolute idiocy,' W.P. Kinsella charges: Outspoken author urges filmmaker not to cave in to native 'troublemakers'", The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, March 9, 2002, p. A.3.
- ↑ "Cultural appropriation and real consequences", The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, B.C., March 9, 2002, p. A.26.
- ↑ Guy Dixon, "TREAT YOUR GARDEN GNOMES," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario, October 27, 2006, p. R.17.
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ "Commuters forced to endure hours in Okanagan Valley traffic: Rumours and things," Penticton Western News, Penticton, B.C., Jul 23, 2006. p. 10.