The first leg of Peter Hayden’s journey across latitude 45 south takes him across the Waitaki Plains and up to Danseys Pass. He visits the site of a moa butchery and the sunken circular umuti (cabbage tree ovens) of early Māori. Guided by colonial literature, he visits New Zealand’s tallest tree (a eucalypt, which he finds horizontal). Drought busting desperation of 1889 and the provenance of Corriedale sheep is also covered. In a riparian side trip, Hayden heads up the Maerewhenua River where gold miners succeeded only in ravaging the landscape.
Tales of the Mist was an 80s series for children that dramatised six stories by writer Anthony Holcroft. Peppered with folklore, magic and animism (the belief that things in the natural world posses a ‘spirit’) the six stories feature encounters with otherworldly beings in rustic New Zealand settings: The Island in the Lagoon, The Tramp, Girl in the Cabbage Tree, The Night Bees, and Rosie Moonshine. The show was directed by NZ kids television veteran (Woolly Valley, Count Homogenized) Kim Gabara.
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 documentary backgrounds the process of turning Murray Ball's comic strip into New Zealand's first animated feature. Who will voice the iconic Dog? Pat Cox, the original producer, stays off-screen; but there are interviews with perfectionist Footrot creator Murray Ball, fellow Manawatu scribe Tom Scott and John Clarke, who argues he narrowly beat Meryl Streep to provide the voice of Wal. Amongst the making of footage, the late Mike Hopkins (who won Oscar glory on Lord of the Rings) lends his feet to the sound effects. Tony Hiles writes about the making of the film here.
Short film Decaff (1994) marked a hyperactive and energetic screen debut for director Greg Page. In 2003 he wrote and directed his first feature, horror movie The Locals. Page continues to be a prolific director of television commercials and music videos.
Jim Hopkins's screen career has ranged from science reporting to shed anthropology. The long-time public speaker has been an NZ Herald columnist, talkback radio host, “thoroughly boring” Waitaki district councillor, and author (Blokes & Sheds). Though his television encounters have often been quirky or comedic, Hopkins has also multiple stints as a reporter (including 1980s science show Fast Forward).
The consummate all-rounder, Murray Wood began arranging and performing music for television in the 1970s. Later he founded computer sales company MagnumMac, and spent seven years as managing director of Canterbury Television. Wood died in the collapse of the CTV building, in the earthquake of February 22 2011.
Russell Smith still gets recognised for his portrayal of milk-obsessed vampire Count Homogenized. Smith first played the affro-haired vamp on late 1970s series A Haunting We Will Go, then starred in spin-off show It is I, Count Homongenized. Smith's screen career is a study in adaptability. After early work in children's television — including co-hosting Play School — he joined the cast of pioneering show A Week of It, one of many comedy roles. In the late 80s he played a hard-bitten detective in Wellington cop show Shark in the Park. Smith has also directed on childrens shows Bumble and Mel's Amazing Movies.
Kim Gabara's long Kiwi television career began in the late 60s. He went on to create and direct a run of children's programmes, including the iconic It is I, Count Homogenized and puppet series Woolly Valley.