Canary Image


By Sabina Dana Plasse | November 1, 2022

The animated short Canary is a simple story with significant meaning. A metal, clunky coal operation sits in a beautiful, serene high-mountain valley. Directors/writers Pierre-Hughes Dallaire and Benoit Therriault, with co-writer Thomas Michael, tell the story of what’s lying underneath the picture-esque terrain. Offering the literal meaning of the expression “a canary in a coal mine,” the film shows how a bright yellow canary in the dusty black underworld is used to ensure the coal miners’ safety from deadly toxic leaks and the release of methane gas into the air caused by mining.

Circa 1920, a young boy named Sonny (Eric Johnston) minds a canary for a crew of adult male coal miners. Sonny wishes to escape the coal mine and realizes the bird will play dead when it sees a sunflower seed. The canary’s trick convinces the miners to go above ground, where Sonny and the canary enjoy the sun. Unfortunately, the miners send him back down with the canary when an actual chemical release occurs. The stakes are life or death for Sonny, the bird, and the miners.

“…a bright yellow canary in the dusty black underworld is used in a coal mine to ensure the coal miners’ safety…”

Canary is beautifully illustrated and designed. Its 3-D animation and detailed crafting and modeling of smoke, air, and destruction, which utilizes light, shading, and movement well, is breathtaking to behold. The filmmakers offer a genuine emotional connection through the impressive animation of big and tiny characters underground. They’re visually realized immediately, as is the past world of coal mining and its primitive past and needing a bird for safety.

To give context to a well-known and used expression, Canary offers meaning and insight into life above and below the surface. The film expresses the beauty of timeless storytelling in vibrant contemporary animation.

For screening information, visit the Canary Facebook Page.

Canary (2022)

Directed: Pierre-Hughes Dallaire, Benoit Therriault

Written: Pierre-Hughes Dallaire, Thomas Michael, Benoit Therriault

Starring: Eric Johnston, Bill Bullbeck, Michael McCaron, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Canary Image

"…expresses the beauty of timeless storytelling in vibrant contemporary animation."

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