The incredible journey of monarch butterflies at the center of the Quebec animated film ‘The Legend of the Butterfly’

When preparing for the production of The Legend of the ButterflyAn animated family film that follows the adventures of a flock of monarchs emigrating to Mexico, director Sophie Roy fell off her chair when she realized that the world of butterflies had never been explored in a feature film of this kind before, not even in Hollywood.

“I couldn’t believe this had never happened before,” the director said in an interview with the Journal.

“However, there are butterflies all over the world. During my research I watched films [d’animation] with butterflies as secondary or tertiary characters, but never as main characters. I am therefore lucky to be the first to make an animated film with butterflies! »

The Legend of the Butterfly tells the story of Patrick, a brave butterfly who dreams of undertaking the great journey of the monarch butterfly migration, even though he cannot fly because of a smaller wing. Without listening to his mother’s instructions, he decides to go on the journey anyway, with the help of his friend Martin, a caterpillar who desperately wants to become a butterfly, and Geneviève, a butterfly who is afraid of heights.

“Iconic” wings

To create the world of The Legend of the Butterfly, producer Marie-Claude Beauchamp, director Sophie Roy, and screenwriters Heidi Foss and Lienne Sawatsky spent a lot of time studying monarch butterflies. They quickly realized that they had to take some liberties with the depiction of the butterflies, especially with the coloring.

“We decided not to depict the monarchs’ bodies in black and white as they are in real life because it would have been very difficult technically, but also because we wanted to create a more diverse world,” explains Sophie Roy.

“We wanted to play with color palettes, with purple and pink. It also allowed us to differentiate the characters from each other. On the other hand, it was very important to me that we didn’t change the look of the wings. Because the wings of monarchs are what we first recognize. They are iconic! »

Recreating the monarchs’ wings on screen posed an immense challenge for the animation team (around 150 people) who worked on the film for three years in the Montreal studios.

“There’s a reason why there hasn’t been an animated film about the world of butterflies yet,” laughs producer Marie-Claude Beauchamp (La guerre des tuques 3D).

“That’s because it’s very demanding in terms of animation. When you create an animal character in an animation, you generally have four legs and a body. However, with our butterflies it was more complex as we had to add two wings and two antennae. We had to overcome all sorts of technological challenges without having the budgets of the big Hollywood studios.”

The Legend of the Butterfly

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A journey of 5000 km

It makes perfect sense that the first animated film set in the world of butterflies is 100% a Quebec production. Because it is the monarchs that travel from Quebec to Mexico every fall and undertake the longest migration journey.

“The fascinating thing is that it takes four generations of butterflies to travel from Mexico to Quebec. But the butterfly that leaves Quebec to travel the 5,000 km to Mexico makes the entire journey. So it is our butterfly that is the super monarch, Sophie Roy likes to say.

The director also carefully examined the monarchs’ route: “At the beginning of production, I did a Google Map search to see what the route between Quebec and Mexico looked like. All the locations we see in the film are therefore based on real places. For example, when you enter the Grand Canyon, it is inspired by a canyon called Palo Duro. And when we arrive in Mexico, it’s obviously Michoacan [l’habitat hivernal du papillon monarque] “.

“The Legend of the Butterfly” hits theaters on October 13th. Antoine Desrochers, Catherine Brunet, Sophie Cadieux and Julie Le Breton lend their voices to the characters in the film.