There’s been another toxic spill. For the city councillor responsible, it’s just a big nuisance, having to endure media scrutiny until the crisis has passed. For the creatures in the lake, however, it’s a catastrophe. One turtle, in her desperate hour, summons up the courage to leave her home and speak truth to power. Turns out there’s more at stake than just the lake.
Animated directly under the camera by Lynn Smith using paint and collage, What Rhymes with Toxic is both funny and deadly serious, and a sharp reminder that we are all interconnected.
Chemical sludge is spilling into the lake. One turtle, in her desperate hour, summons up the courage to leave her home and speak truth to power.
Animated directly under the camera using gouache paint and collage, this short film tells the tale of a turtle who, in her desperate hour, summons up the courage to leave her home and speak truth to power.
Chemical sludge is spilling into the lake. For the city councillor responsible, it’s just a big nuisance. For the wildlife, it’s a catastrophe. One turtle, in her desperate hour, summons up the courage to leave her home and speak truth to power. Turns out there’s more at stake than just the lake.
Chemical sludge is spilling into the lake. For the city councillor responsible, it’s just a big nuisance. For the wildlife, it’s a catastrophe. One turtle, in her desperate hour, summons up the courage to leave her home and speak truth to power.
What Rhymes with Toxic, the latest short by multi-award-winning animation filmmaker Lynn Smith, tells a story that is both funny and deadly serious. With pointed wit, she deftly channels her anger toward polluters by presenting what first appears to be a gentle tale about an anxious talking turtle, then leading the film up to an explosive climax.
Animated directly under the camera with paint and collage, What Rhymes with Toxic demonstrates Lynn’s virtuosity and ever-curious artistry, while making it clear that we all need to commit to ensuring the right of all living creatures to a healthy environment. Because there’s more at stake than just the lake.
The turtle is voiced by Smith in the English version of the film, and by globally acclaimed Indigenous director Alanis Obomsawin in the French version.
This film was developed out of anger. I am angry.
In 2003, a very dear and courageous friend of mine, who never smoked, died of lung cancer within five months of receiving her diagnosis. She was 59. In early 2013, out of nowhere, a friend’s younger brother died unbelievably quickly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And why, back in the 1970s, did my uncle and his wife die of cancer within two months of each other, both before reaching their 50th birthday?
In November 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After an operation and radiation treatments, it seems I am now cancer free.
What had we all been exposed to?
One of the obvious potential culprits is all the carcinogens released into the environment. On a global level, this connection has been proven.
Since I began this film, many news stories have appeared that reiterate the warnings expressed in my film. Some are old stories that keep resurfacing, like Flint, Michigan, or Attawapiskat, Ontario, while it seems there are new violations every few months! What is at the root of this endless procession of crimes? To me, it’s greed, callousness, racism and the sad reality that perpetrators are so seldom punished.
Who is protecting our safety and that of the planet’s wildlife, who have no voice of their own? Why is it so difficult to identify the polluters so they can be held accountable? How can we, as individuals, respond to such criminal acts? The issues addressed in What Rhymes with Toxic are serious and, I believe, relevant.
If polluters cannot act morally, they should at least consider the fact that, like the rest of us, their feet are held fast to this planet by gravity, and if they continue to pollute the Earth, it is a sure bet that their loved ones, and even they themselves, will suffer the devastating results of their unconscionable actions. Through this film I hope to add a significant voice to the ongoing protest.
In many ways, I am the turtle.
A note about technique:
The animation is created “directly under the camera” in gouache paint combined with cut-outs and collage elements. This particular combination is a graphic experiment that has its own very specific limitations, but whose exploration I find endlessly engaging. I also loved animating the two main characters. My comments about animating may sound odd, given my anger regarding the painful subject matter, but as a good friend once told me, “You can still enjoy yourself while protesting.”
written and directed by
design and animation
Compositing and additional animation
Pierre Yves Drapeau
voice and foley recording
Jean Paul Vialard
technical direction and VFX
animation technical specialist and R&D
stock shot provided by
Rosalina Di Sario
senior production coordinator
a Lynn Smith and National Film Board of Canada co-production