Pat Cox has been bringing television commercials to the screen since the 1970s. As a producer, he was instrumental in turning longrunning comic strip Footrot Flats into an animated feature. Footrot Flats: A Dog's Tale went on to become the most successful New Zealand feature of the 1980s.
One Monday morning I walked into my office and decided I would try to produce a Footrot Flats animated feature film. Pat Cox
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.
A hunter heads home, to add his latest catch to an extensive wall of animal trophies. Then he sets about making some music. But things do not go to plan: with a mouse loose in the building, the chase is on. The third film by Kiwi king of the kooky, director Grant Lahood was nominated for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, and took away a special technical award. It was also judged best short film at the 1993 NZ Film and Television Awards. The Singing Trophy was filmed at Kahutara Taxidermy museum in the Wairarapa.
The Footrot Flats soundtrack marked Dave Dobbyn's first steps as a solo artist. Inspired by his love of 50s crooners, 'Oughta be in Love' accompanied Wal Footrot's wooing of Cheeky Hobson (but sung, perhaps mercifully, by Dobbyn and not Footrot's voice, John Clarke). The video shows Dobbyn hard at work as a jobbing soundtrack composer on a song that has taken on a life of its own. Winner of a Silver Scroll and Single of the Year, it has become a Dobbyn classic and perennial wedding favourite (even gracing Hayden and Loretta's nuptials in Outrageous Fortune).
The 1986 adaptation of Murray Ball's beloved Footrot Flats comic strip was a huge hit in Aotearoa and Australia. Born from a John Barnett idea, the movie’s trailer doubled as a promo for the Dave Dobbyn-Herbs theme song: one leveraged the other. Directed by cinematographer John Toon (Rain) while the song was being recorded at Wellington's Marmalade Studios, this screened before Crocodile Dundee in Australian cinemas. The single spent four weeks atop the Aussie charts. Back home ‘Slice of Heaven’ was 1986 Song of the Year, and reached unofficial National Anthem status.
In 1986 Footrot Flats: The Dog's (Tail) Tale and its theme song ‘Slice of Heaven’ were huge hits in New Zealand and Australia. The adaptation of Murray Ball's beloved Footrot Flats comic strip marked Aotearoa's first animated feature. There were a lot of big questions to answer: Will Wal become an All Black? Will Cooch recover his stolen stag? Will the Dog win your hearts and funny bones? Punters answered at the box office. This John Toon-shot trailer doubled as a promo for the Dave Dobbyn-Herbs song, and smartly leveraged both. Tony Hiles writes about the film's making here.
This classic ad was made on a shoestring budget: milk bottle silver caps stood in for soldier’s dog tags and a Wellington quarry apes a Korean War-zone of the evergreen MASH TV series (from the naming of “O’Reilly” at the top of the mail call through to the 1953 country and western tearjerker used in the soundtrack, sung by Jacqui Fitzgerald and adapted by Murray Grindlay). The anachronism of cassette tapes in Korea proved a charming twist on the traditional ‘Dear John’ letter; and the ad was later voted Best Australasian commercial of the 80s.
Framed by the distinctive burr of influential Scottish thinker RD Laing, this 1977 doco questions how the Western medical system handles childbirth: in Laing's view, "one of the disaster areas of our culture." Supported by arresting hospital footage and impassioned interviews with mothers, the film argues that women are often deliberately sidelined during the process of birth, and babies' needs ignored. Screenings in the UK and US saw it contributing to a debate about newborn care; one that remains ongoing. Birth won a Feltex award for best documentary.
Solo is a story about three people on the edge of nowhere, struggling to decide how much of themselves to share with those they care about. Young Australian hitchhiker Judy romances solo Dad Paul, who finds peace flying fire patrol planes above the forest. Paul's precocious son reacts badly to losing pole position to Judy, and takes to the air. Inspired partly by the oft-painful times when we are "more acutely in touch” with our emotions, Tony Williams' romance helped launch the Kiwi movie renaissance. But as he writes in the backgrounder, there was no fun in filming it three times.