The Four Directions Productions animation studio has already produced its first feature, "Raccoon & Crawfish," which has won numerous awards at film festivals across the country and has even been screened in, of all places, a theater made of ice in Finland.
"I can remember my grandmother telling me this story," recalled Dale Rood, an Oneida who runs studio operations for Four Directions, owned by the Oneida Indian Nation. "My goal is to preserve the Oneida culture, the legends that have been played out from generation to generation. What better way to do that than to bring them to life through animation?"
Rood credits nation leader Ray Halbritter with supporting the production group's efforts.
"For an Oneida person," said Rood, a member of the tribe's Turtle Clan, "it's really gratifying that the nation and Ray had enough foresight and a vision to utilize resources in a way that preserves our culture."
The animators are housed on the lower level, their offices crowded with huge computer screens and high-powered processors. Rood said Four Directions uses more computer processing power than the rest of the nation combined, including the Turning Stone resort complex.
On a digital tablet on the left side of his desk, Waller demonstrates how he created the image of Crawfish, whose googly eyes dangle above his head on antennae. As he draws a stylus across the screen, Crawfish's oversized head rotates and changes in color from pencil gray to a rusty tan.
"You take a Native American legend and you have to make it more exciting for animation," said Legwaila, a native of Botswana who started work at Four Directions when "Raccoon & Crawfish" was about half finished. "The computer stuff is easy. It's coming up with the good story that works and makes people laugh, with that message you're trying to put out that's the hard part."
The group is working on a second feature, and while no one will say officially what the subject is, an entire wall downstairs is filled with drawings that sketch out the tale of the turtle and the beaver.