Beyond the Edge

Film, 2013 (Trailer)

Beyond the Edge tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley (Untouchable Girls) mixes archival material with recreations of the English-led 1953 Everest expedition. 3D cameras were used to put viewers in the crampons of the climbers, and evoke the endurance and dangers faced as they ventured to the top of the world. Beyond the Edge debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, where it was one of two runner-ups for the People’s Choice Documentary Award. 

Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game

Short Film, 2011 (Full Length)

Armed with his trusty ray gun and protected by his pith helmet Lord Broadforce's exotic species search on an alien planet is going swimmingly — until the dame gets colonial angst. The short is based on the sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort created by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore (designer on District 9), in which Victorian steampunk meets alien trophy hunting. The live action-CGI film was created over 22 weeks by 11 students of the Media Design School's 3D animation programme, under the direction of James Cunningham. Broadmore followed with a Grordbort video game in 2018.

Poppy

Short Film, 2009 (Full Length)

In Poppy two Kiwi soldiers discover a baby in a muddy WWI trench. For Paddy it will lead to redemption amidst the hell of war. From a David Coyle script — based on his great-grandfather’s war story — Poppy was another successful computer-animation collaboration between producer Paul Swadel and director James Cunningham (Infection, Delf). CGI evokes a bleak Western Front landscape on which the (motion-captured) human drama unfolds. Cunningham spent over 4500 hours making Poppy; the result was acclaim at Siggraph, and invites to Telluride and SXSW festivals.

Series

The Adventures of Massey Ferguson

Television, 2004

Set on a New Zealand farm, this animated series for young Kiwis follows the escapades of Massey Ferguson the talking tractor, Gracie the farm bike, Rusty the old car, and others (Massey Fergusons are an icon of Kiwi farming). Created by broadcaster Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers from company Flux Animation, the series screened on TVNZ. Mora said the series aimed “to be true to farming life, while giving urban children an idea of the life that exists outside New Zealand’s cities.”

From Len Lye to Gollum - New Zealand Animators

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

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.

First Contact

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length)

This live-action CGI short attempts to find the answer as to why UFO sightings have been in decline recently. The truth is indeed out there, but in this sci-fi spoof, it turns out to be the result of alien bureaucratic cover-ups, outsourcing and an unorthodox use of space probes. The film was made by students in the 3D Productions course that director James Cunningham teaches at Media Design School — a one day green screen shoot, 14 weeks of post-production. Written by Nick Ward, First Contact won selection to computer graphics conference SIGGRAPH 2011.

Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Music Video, 2015

For Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s third album, frontman and songwriter Ruban Neilson didn’t have to go far for inspiration. The 'Multi-Love' of the title track refers to an emotionally fraught and short-lived ménage à trois between Neilson’s wife Jenny and “Laura”, a fan who took up lodgings at the couple’s Portland home. Director Lionel Williams takes an abstract view of the singer’s situation, with a 3D tour of a mutating, multi-level psychedelic funhouse. A playable version of the experience was released as an app for both Mac and PC.

Series

Media Design School short films

Short Film, 2009–ongoing

Made at Auckland's Media Design School, these CGI short films combine the expertise of lecturer James Cunningham (director of award-winners Poppy and Infection) with the raw smarts and hard work of his 3D animation students. With established industry talents (e.g. writer Nick Ward and cameraman Simon Riera) helping guide the students, the results have won awards and selection to impressive international festivals, including SIGGRAPH. 2011's effort saw the screen debut of alien hunter Dr. Grordbort, originally created by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore.

Rotting Hill

Short Film, 2011 (Full Length)

This gleefully violent "zombie romcom" is another offering from Auckland's Media Design School, where 3D CGI students collaborate with their tutor, director James Cunningham, and industry veterans. Based on an idea from course grad Philip Magnussen, Rotting Hill sees two lovers — played by Anna Hutchison (Go Girls, The Cabin in the Woods) and Australian actor Jason Smith (Home and Away) — finding that "true love never dies" in a post-human future. The short has netted over one million views on Vimeo. Keep tissues handy: you may shed a tear ... or maybe an eyeball.

Infection

Short Film, 1999 (Full Length)

In James Cunningham’s award-winning short a mutant three-fingered hand attempts a brash virtual heist, seeking to wipe a student loan debt in a government databank. The “digital action thriller” was a third collaboration between Cunningham and producer Paul Swadel. Infection’s fast-paced action, humour, and (then) state-of-the-art 3D CGI rendering (punctured eyeballs, hypodermic needles) was in confident contrast to the realist Kiwi short film tradition. Infection won selection in competition at Cannes, Sundance, and numerous other international festivals.