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It’s one of Easter Island’s biggest mysteries: How were hundreds of giant statues moved across the landscape centuries ago, over distances as long as 11 miles, by people who lacked both draft animals and wheels? Over the years, many theories were put forward as to how this was actually accomplished but none emerged as the most plausible mode of locomotion until now.

In print, it’s nearly impossible to convey an accurate sense of motion, so to illustrate how the giant statues – or moai – may have been moved, video director Hans Weise collaborated with staff artist Fernando Baptista and producer Spencer Millsap to try something new: They created an animated film that would demonstrate how each theory worked. Using hand-painted action figures, miniature clay moai, and an entire Easter Island set made from scratch, they created a three-minute film using digital SLR cameras. Shot over the course of two months, the film required more than 3,000 carefully posed frames to create the final piece.

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