Penal pals: ‘Sval and Bard’ show visitors how to commit Svalbard’s ten deadly sins by acting like total wankers


They arrive in Svalbard after one sticks his head out of a plane, causing the resulting suction to send them plummeting 10,000 meters into a glacier they demolish a hefty portion of. So, yeah, they merit a place somewhere in the ranks of Svalbard’s most clueless tourists in recent years.

After surviving that fall, it’s not surprising  the scoundrels known as Sval and Bard manage to live through polar bear maulings, burial in the droppings of a thousand seabirds, crashing through gift stores on a snowmobile at high speed and getting stranded in winter storms with shelter.

Their hijinks, captured in a series of ten short stop-motion videos that will be available online and shown at various locations around Longyearbyen, are intended to show visitors the consequences of violating a list of ten common sense regulations in Svalbard.

One of the first two episodes, available at the project’s Facebook page, shows the pair drinking heavily in a tent and tossing their bottles and other trash into a giant pile outside the tent. They then decide it’d be fun to set the pile on fire and resume drinking in their tent, only to have an drifting ember ignite and destroy the tent faster than you can say “cheers.” Despite still clutching mugs of beer, their merriment in the open winter night is short-lived.

“In this case we started with a real situation,” said Daniele Di Domenico, the director of the series, during a presentation and advance screening of several episodes this week at The University Centre in Svalbard. “It’s very common for people to build a trash pile on the ground and burn it. We thought what would be the negative consequences?”

The episodes combine real backdrops of Svalbard with stop-motion characters, buildings and props (no chance that Darth Vader helmet Sval and Bard try to put on a polar bear will attract lawyers as well as the police).

Di Domenico said production involved a lengthy process of shooting photos and video in Svalbard, often coming up with creative ways to depict misbehavior such as a first-person view of a snowmobile zipping through the center of Longyearbyen at high speeds, followed by extensive work at his studio in Italy.

“The first step is the screenplay, the story writing, and then we work on the storyboard,” he said. After that comes an animated storyboard consisting of black and white sketches to determine the exact timing and length of each scene, which he said is critical before shooting the final footage.

Di Domenico said the idea for the series came when he saw the common sense rules, provided by Visit Svalbard, while working with a colleague on another different project here in 2011 since “rules sometimes – or always – can be boring.”

The project was funded with a grant from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund, although Di Domenico said that turned out to be about a quarter of what they normally would need.

“Most people would give up at that point, but three or four of us put our efforts in for free,” he said.