Based on Holling C. Holling's book of the same name, Paddle to the Sea is Bill Mason's film adaptation of the classic tale of an Indian boy who sets out to carve a man and a canoe. Calling the man "Paddle to the Sea," he sets his carving down on a frozen stream to await spring’s arrival. The film follows the adventures that befall the canoe on its long odyssey from Lake Superior to the sea.
Bill Mason looked at securing film rights to the book Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling as early as 1960. It was originally intended for the non-theatrical (educational) market, but was eventually blown up to 35 mm and distributed theatrically, which led to an Oscar nomination in the best short subject category. Parts of the film were shot near Mason’s home at Meech Lake.