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How a fake video of an eagle stealing a Canadian baby fooled the world

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MONTREAL - Relax, world — your baby won't get snatched by an eagle if you visit Montreal.

An online video of the massive bird plucking an infant off the ground was acknowledged by its creators as a fake Wednesday.

The admission came as the video was viewed millions of times on YouTube in the span of several hours and was the subject of news reports by dozens of media around the globe.

It was actually produced by students as a class project at a new-media training institute in Montreal.

Their assignment: create a viral video and a hoax.

They needn't worry about their mark now. They were promised a 100 per cent score if they received 100,000 page views — and within a few hours, sometime after lunch Wednesday, they had smashed that target 50 times over.

"We had no idea what was coming," said a giddy Normand Archambault, who created the video along with fellow students Loic Mireault, Antoine Seigle and Felix Marquis-Poulin.

"We were all speechless."

The video was picked up by newspapers in the U.K., was tweeted by at least one member of the White House press corps in Washington, and it moved on the international news wires through Agence France Presse as well as in numerous international publications.

A Mexican news anchor tweeted it. Russian television aired it, much to Archambault's astonishment.

"Wow, I didn't know that," he said when he was informed by a reporter during one of a slew of interviews.

Claude Arsenault, a spokesman for the Centre NAD where the trio studies, said the video was done as part of a project in 3D animation and digital design. Both the eagle and the toddler were created in 3D animation and integrated into the film afterward, he said.

The idea of an eagle snatching a baby came up after a brainstorming session. The group had surveyed YouTube to see what people were watching.

"Babies and animals are very popular," Archambault, 22, said in an interview. So students combined the two. The group thought "if that works, everyone is going to want to watch it."

An online debate raged about whether or not the video was real, with many people weighing in that it was fake. In the meantime, media picked up the story.

Some treated it seriously. Others warned it could be a stunt.

The Agence France Presse news service noted the proliferation of weird stories emerging lately from Canada.

"A YouTube video of a golden eagle swooping down and lifting a toddler off the ground in Montreal could soar to Internet stardom as the latest episode of animals behaving strangely in Canada," the report began.

"(It comes) just a week after a monkey wearing a sheepskin coat was found wandering around an IKEA parking lot in Toronto."

Comedy writers joked about Canada's animal follies.

Even the bass player for the American band Blink 182, Mark Hoppus, got in on the fun: "Eagle Baby and Ikea Monkey in a buddy cop movie. Cast Balloon Boy as the chief of police. Done. Please wire me my royalties. Thanks."

Scottish actor Greg Hemphill tweeted: "Wean eating eagles in Montreal, Fur coated Monkeys in Toronto Ikea. The Mayans were right but they were only talking about Canada."

It's not the first time a hoax from that school has gotten attention.

An earlier effort showed a penguin escaping from the Montreal Biodome. Although that earlier video of the Antarctic animal waddling down Sherbrooke Street, outside the Olympic Stadium, only got a fraction of the attention generated by the toddler-snatching eagle.

It was also the second time in a week that media and the public had been drawn in by a hoax involving animals in Montreal.

A fake CBC Radio interview where a phoney Montreal city councillor proposed a bylaw requiring dogs in public spaces to be bilingual also caused a tempest before it was denied by the public broadcaster.

In the meantime, the Montreal eagle has shown up with his own Twitter account, saying he grabbed the child because he thought it was a Hobbit.

Samantha L.G. was a little startled when she saw the eagle video.

"Holy crap we have those in Montreal?!" she tweeted.

Some locals were puzzled not only by the sight of an eagle hunting in their city, but of a family playing on the grass in a park.

The video was posted Tuesday. Montreal has been covered in snow for days.

Still, it had lots of people — and some famous media organizations — fooled.

And the students couldn't be happier.

Archambault said of the reaction: "It's like saying, 'Good job.' You do 3D, CGI that people could believe it, so it was mission accomplished."

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