Imax Space Doc Pioneer Toni Myers Honored With Order of Canada, NASA Tribute

Toni Myers at IMAX theatre with A Beautiful Planet on-screen-H 2019
Courtesy of Imax Corp.

The 'Beautiful Planet' director is "a very deserving recipient of one of her nation’s highest honors," said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Toni Myers, Hollywood's ultimate space heroine for turning around 120 astronauts and cosmonauts into moviemakers for Disney's A Beautiful Planet and Warner Bros.' Hubble 3D and Space Station 3D, has received the Order of Canada and a NASA achievement award.

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Alfonso Cuaron created classic space epics, but as directors never actually sent anyone in spaceboots and with a camera into Earth's stellar depths. But Myers, a Canadian filmmaker with nearly a 50-year career at Imax, has sent astronauts into space — after she taught them how to use Imax cameras and the basics of lighting, framing and recording sound — and directed them as they sent back images for giant-screen documentaries she either wrote, directed, produced or edited.

Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn on Monday praised Myers' storytelling skills for Imax films that, starting with The Dream Is Alive in 1985 and then Blue Planet in 1990, pointed cameras from space back to Earth to reveal the planet as never before.

“With a keen understanding, a masterful eye, and a way with words, Toni Myers has led audiences on the most remarkable journeys exploring our beautiful planet and our mysterious universe. She’s a true pioneer, an Imax legend, and now a very deserving recipient of one of her nation’s highest honors," Horn said in a statement.

Myers for decades has made films for Imax that use high-resolution photography and video to project a bird’s eye view of a fast-changing Earth from space onto giant screens.

“Toni is a visionary storyteller and beloved member of the Imax family who has taken millions ... around the world to incredible places they could only dream of going," said Imax CEO Richard Gelfond. "I am fortunate to call Toni a dear friend of 25 years. We can’t thank her enough for the enormous contributions she has made to the world of film and to Imax's legacy."

The Order of Canada was awarded to Myers in Toronto during a private ceremony led by Julie Payette, the governor general of Canada and fittingly herself a former Canadian astronaut who has logged two space flights. "Her award-winning films, notably The Dream Is Alive, Destiny in Space and Blue Planet, have moved and inspired worldwide audiences of all ages, taking them deep under the sea and far into space," Payette said in a statement.

Myers' most recent film is the 2016 Imax space documentary A Beautiful Planet, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence. She also produced and directed Hubble 3D, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and produced, edited and co-wrote director Howard Hall’s 2009 underwater Imax 3D adventure Under the Sea 3D, narrated by Jim Carrey.

Imax co-founder Graeme Ferguson, who first met Myers in 1965 in New York City, said she has created landmark space films seen by over 100 million viewers. "The astronauts who filmed Toni Myers' space films have learned that they can trust her to tell their stories accurately and with sensitivity," he added.

Myers earlier received a contingent of American astronauts in Toronto, where she received the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Award, given for contributions to further the mission of the U.S. space program. Others to have received the NASA tribute include Ridley Scott and Stephen Colbert.

During the 2010 SXSW festival, NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino, with Myers at his side, talked at the premiere of Hubble 3D about the value of an Imax documentary to help describe to his own family and a global audience the wonders of what he and fellow astronauts had seen in space.

"When you see the stars and everything beautiful that I've seen ... the frustrating thing is I don't have my wife and my children and my friends and all of you with me watching, and how do I describe this, and nothing describes it like this movie does, and we knew that was a possibility [with Imax]," Massimino said.

Myers has also inspired Hollywood filmmakers, most notably Christopher Nolan, who in a 2014 short film for Imax pointed to her film documentation of space exploration as having helped him with Interstellar to give his own audience a sense of physically being in orbit.

Recalled Nolan, "One of the first things I wanted to do for research was to view some original prints [of Imax documentaries], and we did a whole day's viewing, hours and hours of incredible images, and the name on the films, it was Toni Myers."