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‘Curious George’ Documentary Traces the Origins of the Beloved Children’s Classic

"The life-long journey of Hans and Margret Rey, whose creation continues to touch the hearts and minds of children around the world today."

Project of the Day – Curious George

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Curious George Documentary

Logline: “Curious George Documentary” explores the extraordinary lives of “Curious George” creators Hans & Margret Rey and how their narrow WWII escape brought us the world’s most beloved monkey.

Elevator Pitch:

We all know Curious George. But what about his creators, Hans and Margret Rey? From fleeing Nazi-occupied France on handmade bicycles to encounters with exotic animals in Brazil, this mixed-media documentary explores the untold story of “Curious George” – the life-long journey of Hans and Margret Rey, whose creation continues to touch the hearts and minds of children around the world today.

Production Team:

Ema Ryan Yamazaki – Director / Producer / Editor
Raised in Japan and England and currently based in New York, Ema has always loved telling stories – first as a dancer, and now as a filmmaker. She has directed documentaries such as “Monk By Blood” and “Neither Here Nor There” that have been seen around the world. As an editor, Ema’s work has screened on HBO, PBS, CNN, at Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, among others. Read more about her work here.

Jacob Kafka – Lead Animator
The son of a rabbi and a seismologist, Jacob grew up in Massachusetts and has been making movies since he was five years old. His animated short films “Based on a True Story” and “Cold Feet” have played in festivals such as TIFF Kids, Woodstock Film Festival, Animation Block Party, ASIFA-East Animation Festival, and been featured on Cartoon Brew. He developed the animation software RoughAnimator for mobile devices, which has been used by thousands of animators around the world. Using this app, Jacob has been creating animation for this Curious George documentary for the past year and a half. Ultimately, Jacob and his team will need to draw and color over 15,000 drawings for the animation in this documentary.

Marc Levin – Executive Producer
In his 30+ years as an independent filmmaker, Marc has won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the Camera D’Or at Cannes, National Emmys and duPont-Columbia Awards. His work includes “Slam,” “Heir to an Execution,” and the “Brick City” TV-series. Ema has been Marc’s editor on various projects since 2013.

The Production Crew
During Ema’s time at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, she met Marc Katz (Director of Photography), Zach Stoltzfus (Gaffer), Will Thompson (Co-Producer / Sound Recordist) and Emily Harrold (Co-Producer). Ever since, we have been making films together. Each being directors or directors of photography in their own right, the team’s work has been seen at Cannes Lions, Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and Atlanta Film Festival as well as countless other festivals around the world, and their projects have been Vimeo Staff-picked numerous times. For this documentary, Marc, Zach and Will traveled across America with Ema to interview over 30 subjects who had known the Reys or had studied their life. Emily has been in charge of the archival materials and other producing-related matters.

Additionally, we have a team of people working on post-production of the film. Jason Cummings (Composer) and Rachel Lightner (Music Supervisor) are developing and creating the score, Matt Posorske and Naoko Saito are working on graphics, and Ines Farag has gathered hundreds of hours of archival materials for the film. Janice Rim (Background Designer) is working alongside Jacob in expanding the animated world, as well as many others who have helped out along the way. We also have Erin Sanger (Narration Writer), Adam Gundersheimer (Researcher / Developer), Giancarlo Baldino (Post-Production Supervisor), Eric Nyari (Consulting Producer), and One Thousand Birds (Sound Design and Mix) on our team.

About the Film:

Having a Japanese mother and an English father, I grew up back and forth between my two home countries. At 19, I moved to NYC to pursue filmmaking. Like the Reys, I lived on Washington Square Park and saw the opportunities that lay ahead in a new land. The first time I heard audio recordings of the Reys, I was surprised by their strong German accents and their migrant, multi-cultural background. As a filmmaker interested in telling stories transcending national and cultural borders, I was drawn to the Reys whose legacy continues to impact childhoods around the world.

Current Status: Post-Production.

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