NZ On Screen's Car Collection is loaded with vehicles of every make and vintage, as a line-up of legendary Kiwis get behind the wheel — some acting the part. The talent includes Bruce McLaren, Scott Dixon, Bruno Lawrence, a clever canine, and a great many bent fenders. Onetime car show host Danny Mulheron tells tales, and picks out some personal favourites here.
Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
In the anthropomorphic (and non-PC) tradition of the chimpanzee tea party and PG Tips ads comes this contribution from the National Film Unit. Here chimpanzees provide safe cycling lessons for children. Chaplin-esque scenes ensue as Charlie the Chimp disregards road-rules: "if that young monkey gets to school in one piece he'll be lucky ... he'll get killed sure as eggs". Directed by pioneering woman filmmaker Kathleen O'Brien — who got the idea after seeing them in a visiting variety act — the film contrasts vividly with the brutality of contemporary road safety promos.
This 2011 anti-drink driving ad campaign became a Kiwi pop cultural phenomenon, spawning countless parodies, memes, t-shirts and over a million YouTube views; phrases from the ad entered the vernacular (“you know I can’t grab your ghost chips”). Eschewing the usual shock and horror tactics, the Clemenger BBDO campaign for the NZ Transport Agency was targeted at young male Māori drivers, and used humour to get the message across that it was choice to stop a mate from driving drunk. Directed by Steve Ayson, it won a prestigious D&AD Yellow Pencil award in 2012.
Taken from an unflinching anti-drink driving road safety campaign, this 1982 ad was made for the Ministry of Transport by Kiwi ad company Silverscreen. The concept was inspired by controversially imagined scenes in Oscar-winning 1979 Vietnam movie The Deer Hunter, in which US soldiers are forced to play Russian roulette by their Vietcong captors. The idea of equating the risks of drunk driving with Russian roulette has been repeated many times since, including campaigns by advertising agencies in Thailand and Italy.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
It's a Wonderful Life meets driver education in this NFU film that aims to scare those who would be careless in bad weather conditions. This now-quaint precursor to 2011's Ghost Chips road safety ad sets up a low-key mystery plot, as five naive unfortunates find themselves at a bus stop in pea-soup fog. Purgatorial befuddlement — the bus goes via 'Infinity Terrace' and a saucy angel is handing out harps — turns to moralizing, complete with flashbacks and a lecture from the weather god, as they discover why they've ended up en route to 'Elysian Fields'.
New Zealand’s first CGI short film gives “eyes on the road” a new meaning as a pair of eyeballs drive to a mind-bending purgatory. A collaboration between visual effects man John Sheils and his brother Michael, Scream was shot in early 1991; finally 25 minutes of footage was “brutally” edited down to three, and fulsomely scored by John Gibson. The sly ‘based on true events’ title-card nods to the makers’ ambitions to “treat animation like live action.” In 1994 it screened in NZ cinemas as opener to the ILM wizardry of Jim Carrey hit The Mask, followed by a number of overseas festivals.
Shot in black and white (by Terry King and future Harry Potter cinematographer Michael Seresin), this early Tony Williams directorial effort answers its road safety instructional mandate with style. A jazzy soundtrack scores the setting up of a literal ‘lives collide’ plot. Two lovers go rambling; a gallerist in a goatee takes photos on a car trip, a beau takes his girl for a Wellington coastal drive, a musical duo drive from a 2ZB recording session ... all the while emergency room flash-forwards are intercut and the clock ticks as basic road safety lessons are ignored.
Using music to bring home an important message is an age-old technique, used to good effect here by Senior Constable Bryan Ward and Bobby, his talking police dog. Joined by a bunch of enthusiastic kids and members of emergency services, they make some moves while reworking lullaby 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' into a road safety message. Producer and children’s TV icon Suzy Cato is among those making a direct appeal for drivers to slow down on roads, before a final karaoke verse which viewers can sing along to at home.