Chilean movie brings the real Robinson Crusoe to life

The stop motion children’s picture was co-produced with Argentina and Uruguay and took more than a decade to make.

One of the most dramatic tales to come out of Chile is the story of Alexander Selkirk, a swashbuckling Scottish sailor who was abandoned on an uninhabited island in the Juan Fernández Archipelago in the early 18th century.

Left stranded for four years, Selkirk’s story provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s literary classic, Robinson Crusoe.

And now it has been transformed into a South American children’s movie: Selkirk, El Verdadero Robinson Crusoe (Selkirk: The Real Robinson Crusoe).

It all started back in the 1980s, when Chilean filmmaker Fernando Acuña began studying the story behind Robinson Crusoe and decided to transform Selkirk’s remarkable story into a cinematic production.

The original plan was to film the movie with actors, but today – almost 30 years later – it has evolved into an animated picture, using the stop motion technique made famous by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the popular Wallace and Gromit stories.

Like Selkirk’s time on Robinson Crusoe Island, producing the film was a painstakingly slow process. It took almost a decade to design and construct the 1,070 images that form the backdrop for the movie’s various scenes, while the story was recorded frame by frame using delicate plasticine figures.

In a collaborative effort, shooting took place in Uruguay, the voices were recorded in Argentina and post-production work was carried out in Chile.

Along the way, Acuña enlisted the help of Walter Tournier, the Uruguayan director who pioneered the stop motion technique in Latin America, and Chilean special effects expert Alejandro Rojas.

Rojas said the film was worth all the effort, as it marks an important milestone in Latin America film production.

“We need to have children’s cinema created within the region,” he told La Segunda. “As a culture and as a country, we have things to say in a distinctive way. It’s also important for shaping identity.”

Selkirk, El Verdadero Robinson Crusoe was developed with funding from Chile’s National Arts and Culture Council (CNCA) and will be distributed in Latin America by Disney.

The film is set to premiere in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay in February 2012.