Kaw Tay Whee students bring animation, Wiiliideh films to Dead North festival

A smackdown brews after the a van releases a killer robot in a downtown Yellowknife cafe, taking Frostbite the puppet's service job. 

Frostbite is part of Frostbitten's animated world created by the students at Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah, N.W.T. It's one of the films submitted by students for the circumpolar film festival Dead North.

The second film is called Wiidza, a film directed by student Jozef Fowler. It's based on a story about who has the strongest medicine. 

The films air at Dead North starting Thursday to Sunday in Yellowknife.


An elder in Dettah shared the story, translated by Wiiliideh speaker Mary Rose Sunberg. 

"There's no English at all in the movie, except for the subtitles," said Fowler.

The students had days to practice the script and get all the nasal and low tones right, he said. 

"The film is about the past and it really was about how kids played back then without electricity or modern things," Fowler said. 

The production was a community effort. They had pants, jackets and boots sewn from caribou leather. Fowler's grandmother sewed fox and beaver hats.

Even at -30 C, the actors were sweating, he said. 

School fosters animating talent

The Kaw Tay Whee School Film Program has been fostering talent at the school for years. In past years, the students made films like Flight of the Tentacle, Snacktime and Frostbite — winning some awards.

The school has a space that's a dream for an aspiring filmmaker. 


Educator Neil Penney oversees a Maker Space, a rich learning environment where students can create with technology.

Penney brought in Andrew Silke, a graphic artist who gave Frostbitten's four animators some lessons in editing programs Adobe After Effects and Procreate.

Student Tanisha Charlo is the lead illustrator. Madison Liske illustrated and worked on the country and rap soundtrack.

It took them a day or so to learn the basics, they said. 

Kaw Tay Whee School Film Program/Facebook

"I drew this guy," said Liske, pointing at an animation of a burly man. "This gangster that's dropping off the box."

The animation is inspired by Super Mario and 8-bit video games, said Charlo. 

"You know how Mario defeats Bowser? And after that, it's like 'BOOM, POW.'"

One of Charlo's dreams is to pursue animation. 

"Once I get to college and university, I'm going to take some graphic art and learn about animation and maybe make kids shows," she said.