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.”

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.

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.

Das Tub

Short Film, 2009 (Full Length)

Das Tub kickstarted an award-winning run of CGI short films for Media Design School students working under their 3D animation tutor, director James Cunningham. Part live-action, part CGI, its tale of a German U-boat crew facing danger under the ocean pays homage to submarine classic Das Boot — before a Pythonesque twist which features a cameo from writer Nick Ward. Short, sharp and lovingly rendered, the film won 'best short short' at the 2011 Aspen Shortsfest, while Cunningham (Poppy, Infection) took Best Director at the Honolulu Film Awards.

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.

The Magical World of Misery

Television, 2006 (Excerpts)

Artist Tanja Thompson, aka Misery, joins her Mum Rochelle to take a magical tour of Tanja's life — from childhood and time as a graffiti artist, to the rise of her art, fashion and toy empire. In the second excerpt, Misery leaves her boutique next to Illicit Clothing in K' Road, and visits the Taipei Toy Festival to unveil her 3D characters. She also shows us animated footage inspired by them. Mark Albiston made the documentary for arts slot Artsville, after featuring Misery on his own arts show The Living Room. It won Best Arts/Festival Documentary award at the 2006 Qantas TV awards.

Time for Change

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length)

The adage that in a long-term relationship things can get a little like clockwork is given a twist in Time for Change. A simmering spousal feud between two wooden figurines on the town clock of an Austrian village, comes to a head with unexpected results. Lederhosen, accordions, and desire for a young blonde are oiled with a keen sense of black humour. Made by students in the 3D course that director James Cunningham teaches at Media Design School, the film won viewers online, selection for SIGGRAPH, and a Big Kahuna (best animation) at the Honolulu Film Awards.

James Cunningham

Animator, Director

James Cunningham made a name for himself after creating a run of stylish CGI-animated shorts — from 1997‘s Delf, and Cannes-selected Infection, through to acclaimed WWI tale Poppy. Now teaching 3D animation at Auckland’s Media Design School, Cunningham is also directing live action shorts, while developing a CGI feature with producing partner Paul Swadel.

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.