ernie is to take centre-stage in a family Christmas movie that shows how Santa and his pack of talking dogs save the happiest town in the world.
Santa Pups will be filmed for four weeks starting mid-October, on location on Second Avenue, Fernie Museum, Fernie Courthouse, City Hall and Coal Creek barn.
More than 100 cast and crew will fill several hotels and use the city’s restaurants and shops during filming, and many locals are being cast as movie extras.
The cast includes Charlie’s Angels actress Cheryl Ladd as Mrs. Claus and Seinfeld actor Danny Woodburn as Santa’s head elf.
Director Robert Vince is behind many other talking animal family movies, including Air Bud, the Santa Buddies, Space Buddies and the recently-released Spooky Buddies.
Production and Location Manager, Darcy Wild, says Fernie will represent the fictional town of Pineville – the happiest town in the world.
In the movie everyone in Pineville is preparing for Christmas, when the town’s Christmas spirit is ruined by a misunderstanding. Santa, his elves and his team of Great Pyrenees puppies must travel from the North Pole to save the day.
Wild said: “Anyone who knows Fernie is going to be pretty amazed at how much it is going to be represented in the film. It is going to highlight all the beautiful, historical buildings far more than Hot Tub Time Machine or any other films have done.”
Wild added that the Canadian director chose Fernie as the movie’s main location after touring a number of small B.C. mountain towns in July, including Rossland and Nelson.
“When we visited Fernie, everyone was so helpful, and told us that if we needed any help we could always call them,” said Wild.
“As we were driving away, our director Robert Vince turned to me and said, ‘I think Fernie actually is the happiest town in the world.’”
Christmas decorations, signage and snowbanks will begin to appear on Second Avenue from October 11, ready for filming to begin October 17.
Filming will take place between noon and midnight most days, and many restaurants and bars are planning to stay open late in order to deal with the cast and crew’s meal breaks.
The area around the Fernie Museum will be closed to vehicles from October 14, although pedestrians will be able to pass through and the road will be re-opened during breaks in filming.
The museum building will represent a radio station in the movie, and other shops on the block will be decorated to represent businesses in the fictional Pineville.
A courtroom scene was added to the movie so that the interior of Fernie Courthouse could be used as a location, and the outside of the building will represent a school. The outside of Fernie City Hall will be used for a Christmas tree lighting scene.
An ice rink will be built outside Coal Creek barn for the filming, and local skaters will be used as extras.
The only scenes not to be filmed in Fernie are those set in Santa’s workshop in the North Pole, which will be shot in a studio in Vancouver.
Snow machines will be used to create snow at each location or, if the temperature is too high during the filming schedule, blocks of ice will be shipped in from Cranbrook and crushed to create artificial snow that is not toxic to the animal cast.
Wild said that creating snow is still preferable to dealing with uncontrollable snowstorms in winter.
“The movie will be released in Christmas 2012 and in order to meet deadlines we have to get filming done this fall,” he said.
“All the dogs talk in the film, and there is around six to eight months of animation work to make their muzzles move.
“We are also aware that in December there could be five feet of snow in Fernie. Having to add snow in October is easier to control than the potential of too much snow in winter.”
He added: “This is going to be a great opportunity for Fernie, there are a lot of potential economic benefits during filming and after the movie comes out.
“It is going to be a busy place during filming, and all the crews are going to have meal allowances to spend in the local restaurants every day.
“We don’t want people to think downtown is closed off because of filming – come down and watch, most kids will know these movies and will be very excited to know that one is being filmed in their hometown.”
By Rebecca Edwards