Margaret Mahy was a renowned author of children's books who also wrote for television. Amongst her many international awards is the Hans Christian Andersen Award (known as the Little Nobel Prize) for a "lasting contribution to children's literature". A highly  visual writer, Mahy both wrote for the screen (Maddigan's Quest, Strangers), and her books inspired a number of programmes. She passed away on 23 July 2012.

When you work for television or film or anything like that, you work as a member of a team. When you write a book, on the whole you write as a solitary individual; sometimes very solitary. It’s a different process, and of course each process has got something to enjoy... Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy's Rambustifications

2012 - 2013, Presenter



2012, Original Author


Kaitangata Twitch

2010, Original Author - Television

Kaitangata Twitch follows the adventures of 12-year-old Meredith (Te Waimarie Kessell) who faces mysterious happenings on Kaitangata island. Meredith is the only one who can apprehend the island's 'twitch' and prevent tragedy repeating. The Māori Television series was adapted from a Margaret Mahy story by long-time collaborator, director Yvonne Mackay, and was filmed in Mahy's Governors Bay hometown. Newcomer Kessell stars alongside Charles Mesure and George Henare (in a Qantas-winning turn). Twitch sold to ABC Australia and won international awards.


Kaitangata Twitch - First Episode

2010, As: Storyteller, Original Author, Associate Producer - Television

Kaitangata Twitch follows 12-year-old Meredith, who sees eerie visions as a Governors Bay island is drilled for mining. The Māori Television series was adapted from a Margaret Mahy story by long-time collaborator Yvonne Mackay. Mahy makes a rainbow-wigged cameo in this episode where the locals protest a subdivision, and Meredith apprehends the island's 'twitch'. Newcomer Te Waimarie Kessell stars, with Charles Mesure and George Henare. The mix of the Māori concept of wairua with a willful 21st Century teenage heroine won a Remi Award at Worldfest-Houston 2010.


A Tall Long Faced Tale

2008 - 2008, Subject - Television

In this 70-minute documentary children's author Margaret Mahy is interviewed at her Governors Bay home by friend and fellow author Elizabeth Knox. Knox is aided and abetted by Mahy's beloved storybook characters who put her on the spot about their origins. In this excerpt the famous lion from A Lion in the Meadow thanks her for making him yellow, and Mahy talks about eating porridge thrice a day as a young solo mum. Yvonne Mackay directed this seamless mix of real life and Euan Frizzell-created animation. The doco screened as part of TV ONE's NZ Festival series.


Maddigan's Quest - First Episode

2005, Writer - Television

This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe on their quest to save the city of Solis. Conceived by Margaret Mahy and developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, the award-winning series was produced by South Pacific Pictures. A young Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) led the cast, acting with a caravan of Kiwi veterans. Māori elements mixed with rural West Auckland sets in the ‘solar punk’ rendering of the future. Here, Garland (McIver) faces tragedy but meets two boys (and a baby) with magical powers.


Maddigan's Quest

2005, Creator, Writer - Television

This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack. 


Made in New Zealand - Margaret Mahy

2004, Subject - Television

Made in New Zealand is a documentary about acclaimed New Zealand children and young adults writer Margaret Mahy. The film takes a line from her award-winning story The Changeover — "...made in New Zealand, it said, Wisdom Laboratories, Paraparaumu" — and uses it to talk about the importance of New Zealand settings in Mahy's work, her international successes, and her life as a writer. Mahy is filmed at her home in Governors Bay, speaking to children in her famous rainbow wig, and out and about on Akaroa Peninsula.


The Magical World of Margaret Mahy

1994 - 1994, Creator


Typhon's People

1993, Writer - Television

After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and The Castle star Sophie Lee, it sold as both a mini-series and as a 90 minute tele-movie.


The Great White Man-Eating Shark

1991, Original Author - Short Film

Norvin has razor teeth and looks as much like a shark as any young boy can. So he makes a dorsal fin out of plastic and sets off to scare everyone out of the water. Now Norvin has the cove to himself. Or does he? The success of animator Euan Frizzell's wry adaptation of the Margaret Mahy picture book saw four more Mahy tales follow (collected on DVD as The Magical World of Margaret Mahy). Among a trio of awards, The Great White Man-Eating Shark won best children's short at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Ray Henwood provides the droll narration.



1989, Writer, Creator - Television

The "kids stumble on crims" premise of this kidult thriller series was practically an NZ TV staple in the 80s (Terry and the Gunrunners, The Fire-Raiser); here it's realised with a script by author Margaret Mahy and the director/producer team of Peter Sharp and Chris Bailey (vying with a schedule disrupted by Cyclone Bola). Mahy creates a world of masks, disguises and intrigue for a young cast including Martin Henderson (his screen debut), Hamish McFarlane (fresh from Vincent Ward’s The Navigator), Joel Tobeck (an early role) and deaf seven-year-old Sonia Pivac.


Strangers - Episode One

1989, Writer - Television

This kidult thriller features Martin Henderson (in his screen debut) and Hamish McFarlane (fresh from The Navigator) with a script by Margaret Mahy. Brothers and sisters Emma and Zane, and Kelsey and Morgan are friends, with their own clubhouse and secret society. Their lives change when Zane and Emma witness a jeweller’s shop robbery, and Morgan and Kelsey see two men escape their crashed car after a police chase. The friends find themselves plunged into a world of intrigue, questionable Special Branch agents and a mysterious fire eater and magician.



1988, Original Author


Aliens in the Family

1987, Original Author


Inspiration - Margaret Mahy

1987, Subject - Television

This Inspiration edition profiles NZ’s pre-eminent children's author Margaret Mahy: from her childhood as "Mad Margaret" through her days as an unmarried mother and librarian to an internationally acclaimed writing career. The centrepiece is a specially commissioned – and typically zany – story-about-a-story, (complete with talking mail boxes, typewriters and bookshelves) where Mahy gets meta and explores the role imagination plays in her work. Throughout the Keith Hunter-directed doco there’s vivid evidence of the remarkable bond Mahy shared with her readers.


The Haunting of Barney Palmer

1986, Writer, Original Author - Television

The Haunting of Barney Palmer is a fantasy film for children about a young boy who is haunted by his great uncle. Young Barney fears that he has inherited the Scholar family curse; a suite of 80s-era effects ramp up the supernatural suspense. The film was a co-production between PBS (United States) and Wellington's Gibson Group, which resulted in Ned Beatty (Deliverance, Network) being cast. It was written by Margaret Mahy, based on her Carnegie Award-winning novel The Haunting, and an early fruitful collaboration between her and director Yvonne Mackay.


Cuckoo Land - The Neighbour (Episode Two)

1985, Writer - Television

Petunia and her daughters Patch and Polly have moved into their decidedly unconventional dream house in the second episode of this surreal children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy and directed by Yvonne McKay. Their idyllic new life of music making is soon shattered by their home handyman neighbour from hell Branchy (Grant Tilly). But he has problems of his own with the unwelcome arrival of his three long lost, grasping and perpetually hungry sons. Special guest Jon Gadsby contributes an energetic performance as pie magnate Chicken Licken.


Cuckoo Land - The House (First Episode)

1985, Writer - Television

Musician Petunia (Jennifer Ludlam) and daughters Polly and Patch are tiring of their lives as land yachting "gypsies of the motorway" in the first episode of this hyperactive children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy. Their salvation could be a magic house owned by Crocodile Crosby — a used car dealer with ambitions to be a pirate — but a devious land agent (Michael Wilson) and a dastardly wealthy couple stand in the way. All powerful narrator Paul Holmes orchestrates the action which features extensive use of music and period video special effects.


Cuckoo Land

1985, Writer, Creator - Television

Heavily influenced by the mid-80s MTV-led music video boom, this madcap six part kids fantasy series focuses on an aspiring songwriter and her daughters who renounce life on a land yacht to settle in a house with a mind of its own. Based on scripts by acclaimed author Margaret Mahy (in her first collaboration with director Yvonne Mackay), it utilises then cutting edge video special effects (requiring locked off shots and no camera movement). The soundtrack is by composer Jenny McLeod while Paul Holmes' narrator is omnipotent and petulant in equal parts.



1987,1987, Writer, Original Author


Woolly Valley - Series One Compilation

1982, Writer - Television

The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy. This compilation is the entire first series.


Dance All around the World

1971, Original Story - Music video

This beloved song was written in Wanaka on the first (1971) Blerta tour as part of The Blerta Kids' Show. (The children’s slot was made to allay conservative fears as the busload of merry pranksters rolled into town.) The concept was inspired by a Margaret Mahy story — reshaped by Geoff Murphy — and the music was composed by Corben Simpson. Bill Stalker provided the narration. It became a hit single and synonymous with Kiwi counter culture. There was never a video made, nor extant concert footage: this clip is excerpted from Murphy’s Blerta Revisited doco.