Former Spot On presenter Ian Taylor, CNZM, is the founder of computer graphics company Animation Research Limited. ARL made its name providing real-time sports graphics at the 1992 America's Cup, and has gone on to apply their technology to golf, cricket, tennis and Formula One car-racing around the globe.
The great thing about travelling the world is that you get to really appreciate what we have back here. We are a country that has always punched above its weight. Ian Taylor
Presented by an animated pencil, but no less authoritative for it, From Len Lye to Gollum traces the history of Kiwi animation from birth in 1929, to the triumphs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The interviews and animated footage cover every base, from early pioneers (Len Lye, Disney import John Ewing) to the possibilities opened by computers (Weta Digital, Ian Taylor’s Animation Research). Along the way Euan Frizzell remembers the dog he found hardest to animate and the famous blue pencil; and Andrew Adamson speculates on how ignorance helped keep Shrek fresh.
Blokes 'n' Sheds is a documentary where you'll find the content is exactly as titled: a tour of selected New Zealand blokes in their sheds, with the affable Jim Hopkins as tour guide. Based on Hopkins' best-selling book Blokes and Sheds (1998) the television version was made with the direct uncomplicated style that is a hallmark of Dunedin's Taylormade Productions. The contents of the sheds in question include vintage cars, oversize traction engines, a self-designed plane, and an old paddle-boat from the Whanganui River.
During his last session on air, a veteran radio announcer finds himself on a quest through the streets and sewers. His mission: to retrieve a special record, in time to play it for a devoted listener. Signing Off was made by Nightmare Productions, a team of Dunedin filmmakers. The success of this comic adventure helped lead to Scarfies, the feature debut of Nightmare team member, director Robert Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Out of the Blue). A big seller overseas, Signing Off won awards at film festivals from Dresden to Montreal.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway; in 1991, as an unlikely underdog, he came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. But when they get to Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle which includes at least ten major innovations.
Wildtrack was a long-running series that infected a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s and early 90s with enthusiasm for all-things native’n’natural. This 1991 Taylormade episode (neon-lit as ‘Wild T’) explores the mountain life of Aoraki-Mt Cook: from Māori myth, to cheeky kea and solar-powered butterflies. Peter Hayden presents from the studio with a homegrown HAL: Archie the computer. Future actor/director Katie Wolfe is the young cub in field: glacier-skiing, hanging from a crevasse, meeting Mt Cook School’s eight pupils, and hugging vegetable sheep.
Beloved by 70s and 80s era Kiwi kids, Spot On mixed educational items and entertainment. For the final episode, broadcast live on Christmas Day 1988, guest host Bob Parker celebrates the show’s 15 years by tracking down almost every Spot On presenter. There are also clips of fondly remembered sketches and adventures, set to pop hits of the day. The roll call of presenters includes Phil Keoghan, Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Erin Dunleavy, Ole Maiava, Helen McGowan and the late Marcus Turner. Spot On won Best Children’s Programme at the 1988 Listener Film and TV awards.
This Christchurch-based TVNZ science and technology show put science in primetime in the 1980s (notably on Friday nights before Coronation Street). The successor to Science Express, it sought to explain how science was changing everyday NZ life; and reporters (including Jim Hopkins, Liz Grant, Peter Llewellyn and Julie Colquhoun) attempted to engage the public without alienating the scientific community, and vice versa. Its run ended in 1989 when TVNZ decided it couldn't compete with the runaway success of Australian counterpart Beyond 2000.
This third episode in presenter Peter Hayden’s journey across latitude 45 depicts the “new gold” of the booming tourist trade. On the Clutha River, archaeologists race ahead of the construction of a dam, digging for a soon-to-be-submerged mining past. The road to Skippers Canyon induces vertigo. Hayden rafts through the Oxenbridge brothers’ tunnelling feat, a failed project aimed at diverting the Shotover River in the hope of finding gold on the exposed bed. Alan Brady is filmed in his newly-established winery, the first in a region now famed for its wine.
This documentary follows the efforts of the New Zealand rowing eight to win gold at 1984’s Los Angeles Olympics. The eight, coached by the legendary Harry Mahon, had won the past two world champs and were expected to repeat the triumph of the 1972 Kiwi eight at Munich. Amongst training at home, the infamous six minutes of pain — the “erg test” — is featured; one of the most demanding trials in sport. The action then shifts to LA for the Olympic finals. The film offers a gripping insight into the extreme lengths the amateur athletes go to in their quest for gold.
This Feltex Award-winning documentary dives, abseils and squeezes under the mountain — Mt Arthur in Kahurangi National Park — to record the exploration of the subterranean world of the Nettlebed Cave System. At nearly one kilometre underground the system is New Zealand’s deepest cave, and a mecca for cavers from around the world. The cavers relay their motivations and anxieties as they negotiate the uncharted water-carved limestone labyrinth. Directed by Ian Taylor, it screened in the Lookout series. Claustrophobes beware: there are no lattes at Soft Rock Cafe.
Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the popular series include Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to international fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. Janine Morrell directed on the show, and producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson, Robert Sarkies and Paul Middleditch all entered the show’s annual ‘Young Filmmaker’ competition.
Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children, which was first produced in Auckland from 1972, then Dunedin from 1975. The format included songs, a story, craft, a calendar, a clock and a look outside Play School via the shaped windows. But the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the real stars of the show. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music were a call to action recognised by generations of Kiwis. Presenters included actors Rawiri Paratene and Theresa Healey, Russell Smith and future MP Jacqui Hay.