Alberta oil-sand mining exposed: La Moustache for H2Oil

Happy Friday, Mographer fans! And what better way to celebrate the end of the week, than with a timely dose of ‘issue’ animation.

La Moustache, the new animation company operating out of Montreal have created these compelling animation segments for the acclaimed new documentary H2Oil. The documentary, produced by Loaded pictures exposes the ‘enterprise of epic proportions’, which is the Alberta Oil sands industry.

So what’s up with extracting oil (or bitumen rather) from Alberta’s oil sands and why do we need to know about this? Well extracting bitumen from oil sands (Often referred to as tar sands) is a hugely energy intensive process, requiring industrial scale heating (using natural gas) and 4 barrels of fresh water to produce one barrel of oil. So right there you have the depletion of the planet’s most valuable and scarce resource, clean water, along with the burning of natural gas to create another carbon emitting fuel…and so it goes on. Add to this the explosion of ‘rare’ cancers in areas where post industrial contaminated water is let back into the environment, and you have a bona fide, 100% proof environmental catastrophe on your hands. And tar sand mining is only going to increase as the world’s conventional oil wells dry up…

Despite the animation itself being rendered by the friendly hand of James Brathwaite (of I met the Walrus fame), it makes for uncomfortable viewing and in as much it does its job perfectly. Sequences are inventive and dynamic whilst tonally staying in keeping with—and never overshadowing—the subject matter.

For me, viewing this work and the trailer for the film came as a real wake-up call. I try and keep up with environmental news as best I can, yet I still thought of tar-sand mining as the institutionalized crazy uncle who’d never actually get released. After watching these clips it’s obvious that the lunatic has well and truly taken over the asylum.

Also, please remember that budgets for documentaries and specifically documentary animation are ridiculously low, especially compared to commercials and studio features. So La Moustache have almost certainly invested much of themselves into making animation of this level for a documentary film that doesn’t yet have a wide scale theatrical release.

For a fairly neutral overview of tar-sand mining check this link.

H2Oil produced by: Loaded Pictures
Animation Production: La Moustache
Narration: Catherine Kidd
Animation Directors: Dale Hayward & Sylvie Trouvé
Illustration: James Braithwaite
Animation: Dale Hayward & Sylvie Trouvé

About the author

Simon Robson

Live in London with my girlfriend Emma. Animation director with Nexus Productions. Moving to Sydney for a while in October. Likes: anything that dings my creative dong, sushi, spongebob, crap Saturday evening TV, White chocolate, Muai Thai. Dislikes: Plagirism, PNAC, cleaning up my cats' sick.


Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Great animation by La Moustache and great work on this informative post, Simon. Looks like an epic environmental disaster up there …

Simon Robson

yes indeed, let’s hope the film does sterling work in shedding light on the goings on in Alberta…


Thanks Simon,

This is a great writeup, and unpleasant reality. I think not being afraid of the reality, and shedding light on it, forces us to coming up with better options. Using the power of the visual and auditory medium, can push us further towards a unified reality.

Info graphics:


thanks Simon for the great article. This project was definitely a project that we all put a lot of ourselves into, the budget was low, but the message is extremely important, so it was definitely worth it. We also didn’t have a clue on what craziness was going on up there. All you have to do is look at a satellite map of Fort McMurray & you get a massive slap in the face to the destruction our governments are causing. I say our governments because there’s so much money being made there that every major player is tapping into the tar sands.

I extremely encourage everyone to be a part of the solution


hey there
it must be a really good piece because it looks like the site has gone down… all the links return 404s now :( rats!
just lettin y’all know…


doh! just heard from their web guy to say it’s all back up now.. sorry for the irrelevant posting.
thanks to motionographer they blew their site’s 30gig bandwith limit in 3 days!


beautiful work, chilling message. its mind boggling what it takes to extract that oil and what the results of it are. its like a lose, lose, lose scenario.

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