About this project
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.
In June of 1940, Hans and Margret, who were German Jews living in Paris, narrowly escaped Hitler’s troops by fleeing on make-shift bicycles. Among the limited possessions they carried was an unpublished manuscript of the first Curious George book. A few months later they sailed into the New York harbor and started life anew. Over the next three decades they created a children’s book classic.
Both originally from Hamburg, Germany, Hans and Margret first met when Hans was dating Margret’s older sister. Years later, having heard that Hans was wasting his artistic talents as a bookkeeper in Rio de Janeiro, Margret traveled to Brazil and persuaded him to leave his steady job, marry her and start something together. They took a four-week honeymoon to Paris, where they ended up staying for four years. While there, Hans and Margret accidentally became authors when a French publisher suggested they create a children’s book out of a cartoon Hans had drawn.
Hans and Margret worked on all their books together. They frequently drew themselves into their work, and used memories from their childhood as inspiration for the stories. “We only did what we liked, and it so happened that children liked the same thing,” Margret said. The Reys were very much like George. Time and time again, they used their own ingenuity to problem-solve. Later, they turned their adventurous experiences into fun stories with happy endings.
The astonishing details of the Reys’ escape and other records of their life have been carefully preserved by the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. After combing through over 300 boxes of materials, we have been able to carefully piece together the Reys’ life through Hans’ wartime journals, photographs taken by Margret, letters written to each other and much more. Through unpublished George sketches, brainstorming notes, internal revisions that Hans and Margret worked on together, and letters to and from publishers, we are able to catch a glimpse into the “behind-the-scenes” of how Curious George came to be. We have been so fortunate to have the cooperation of the Rey Estate, and have their full permission to use these materials in the documentary. Using these rare materials to tell the Reys’ story is what will truly set this film apart.
The Reys were great storytellers, so ultimately, we looked to them to guide us. How would Hans and Margret tell their own story? We use audio and video records of Hans and Margret, accompanied by interviews we filmed of those who knew the Reys personally, or studied the Reys’ life. By using a narrator and graphical elements like page turns, we’ve designed the documentary to evoke the feeling of a Curious George book. Visually, the film will be a combination of animated sequences integrated with archival material, and sit-down interviews. It is our hope for audiences to step into the world of the Reys and understand their story through how they saw the world.
For the past two years, this project has been a true labor of love. Almost all the crew has worked for deferred or low payment, coming together to contribute to the project because they were captivated by the Reys’ story and developed a passion for it. It’s been an incredible journey to get this far with the resources available to us. But we can’t bring the film to completion on our own, which is why we are turning to you — for your support.
Also, we wanted to give Curious George fans and others who are interested in the Reys’ story an opportunity to be involved with the project before it’s completed. We would like to incorporate the community we build throughout our campaign into the documentary — a way to demonstrate how the Reys’ legacy lives on into the 21st century. We want to hear from YOU about how Curious George has impacted you or your children’s lives, and will be encouraging you to do so throughout this Kickstarter campaign.
We are here on Kickstarter because we believe there are folks out there who want to help us make this film and do the Reys’ story justice. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, so though we need $300K to finish the entire film (animating a film is expensive!) and get it out there into the world, we have set our Kickstarter campaign goal at $175K, an amount we believe we can reach via crowdfunding with all of your help. We’ll either exceed that goal and reach our needed $300K (yay!) OR we will reach our $175K all-or-nothing goal and continue our search for the remaining funds needed.
Either way, this film WILL be made. It WILL get finished. You WILL be part of it, receive your goodies and get your copy of the final film. Thank you for helping us get to our $175K goal and beyond!
$175K | Animation & Editing | Completing the animation of the film is paramount in telling the story of Hans and Margret’s adventure. We will need a full team of animators to join lead animator Jacob to finish creating the over 15,000 hand-drawn and colored images for the 25 minutes of animation used in the film. With $175K raised, we have the animation and editing costs covered for the film, as well as funds to begin covering the costs of various other components of the film. However, before the documentary can be brought to the public, we would need more funds to fully complete each of these elements for the project.
$200K | Graphics (maps, enhanced stills, journal entries, etc) | With an additional $25K raised, we’d have the funds we need to complete all graphical elements of the film. This includes maps that trace the Reys as they traveled across the globe, enhancements of still images and works of Hans and Margret, and treatments to bring to life journal entries and letters Hans and Margret wrote or received. As we are aiming for the documentary to evoke the feeling of reading a Curious George book, these graphical elements will play a crucial role in executing that vision.
$250K | Video Archival Materials | Telling the story of the Reys’ journey from Germany to Brazil to France to Brazil again and then finally to the U.S. requires various archival video materials. In order to illustrate the various time periods and geographical locations the Reys experienced in their lifetime, we use stock footage. We show images of Hamburg where the Reys grew up, clips of the streets of Rio in the 1930s, and of course, some horrifying images of World War II to communicate the harrowing experience the Reys lived through. Each second of archival footage costs money to license from various sources. We plan on having over 15 minutes of archival materials that we’ll need to pay for before we can share the film publicly. With an additional $50K raised, we would be able to license all the necessary clip to tell the Reys’ story.
$275K | Original Musical Score & Music Licensing | With these additional funds, we’d be able to cover the costs to complete the score of the film, as well as license key music tracks. This is an extremely music-heavy documentary, and our talented composer Jason is scoring over 65 minutes of music for the film. As we travel across time, continents and the various cultural flavors the Reys experienced, music is crucial in setting the the mood and tone for each of the Reys’ adventures. Additionally, the director Ema has her heart set on using Django Reinhardt’s music for parts of the sequences that take place in Paris. Regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Django lived in Paris in the late 1930s, the same time as the Reys. His music perfectly captures the mood of what the Reys must have experienced as they created Curious George. These additional funds would allow for they Reys’ story to be complemented with the perfect score and licensed music of Django.
$300K | Color Correction, Sound Design & Picture Lock | What remains to be funded before the documentary can be shared publicly? With these funds in place, we’d have a complete film with color correction, sound design & mixing as well as all finishing touches so that we’re ready to submit to film festivals and get it to our audience.
To THANK YOU for backing our documentary we have a great selection of the usual favorite Rewards — official film t-shirts, film posters, signed DVDs and more. However, this campaign also offers something truly unique…
Partnering with the Rey Estate and the de Grummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi, our documentary has been granted unprecedented access to original archived artwork, illustrations, sketches and nostalgic memorabilia.
Items marked as “limited” truly are one of a kind items created specifically for this campaign as a unique offering to thank you for becoming a part of the 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 asMONK 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 at www.emaexplorations.com.
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 andCOLD 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) andEmily 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 atCannes 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.
Risks and challenges
The making of Curious George Documentary is close to completion. Once completed, the film will submit to festivals and seek worldwide distribution. We are confident that this film tells the extraordinary story of Hans and Margret Rey, and appeals to a significant Curious George fan base. We believe we are creating a product that will be sought after once completed. That being said, we cannot guarantee mass distribution of the film. But, we believe whole-heartedly in this project; we are determined to share this film with as many people as possible.