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.
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.
Shirley Horrocks, ONZM, is one of New Zealand’s leading directors of documentaries about the arts. Her work has chronicled the work and lives of artist Len Lye, photographer Marti Friedlander, writer Albert Wendt and playwright Roger Hall. Her films have won awards, and screened at festivals from France and Italy to the United States.
Leon Narbey is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and lauded cinematographers. His talents have contributed to roughly 20 features, including Whale Rider, Desperate Remedies, The Price of Milk and No.2. Narbey's work as a director includes movies The Footstep Man and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed drama about Chinese goldminers.
Australian-born, but long based in New Zealand, Mark Ferguson won a loyal following as dastardly Darryl Neilson, whose Shortland Street escapades included abduction, assault and all-round unreliability. Ferguson’s varied screen work includes fantasy (Xena: Warrior Princess), satire (Spin Doctors) and a run of narrating and presenting gigs (faux reality show Living the Dream, improvisational series Scared Scriptless).
Although he may not be keen to do so, Bill Toepfer can claim a place in global television history as the man behind the Popstars reality TV juggernaut. Toepfer has enjoyed a long and accomplished career in New Zealand television, editing and producing hundreds of hours of documentaries and TV specials.
Actor and director Michael Hurst is a Kiwi creative institution. Even leaving aside his work as a director and stage actor, Hurst's screen resume runs to 50 roles and counting: including playing everyone from painter Toulouse-Lautrec, to Hercules's sidekick Iolaus, to politician Rodney Hide.
Roger Horrocks has been raising the quality of debate about New Zealand film and television for nigh on half a century. At Auckland University he campaigned for, then ran, the country’s first and biggest film studies course. Horrocks has written extensively about Kiwi culture, including writing the definitive book on Len Lye. He is also a filmmaker and was a founding board member of organisation NZ On Air.
Kiwi acting legend Jennifer Ward-Lealand began acting at age seven; her first screen role followed at age nine. Since then she has starred in big screen dramas Desperate Remedies and Vermilion to critical acclaim, and appeared in a long run of television shows, from TV drama Danny and Raewyn to Australian comedy show Full Frontal.