Bob Stenhouse worked largely alone to visualise this luminously-animated ode to the "nation of drunkards" (as New Zealand was tagged in the House of Lords in 1838). A shepherd tricks a Mackenzie barman out of a bottle of ‘Hokonui Lightning', but too much pioneer spirit sees him haunted by the devil's daughter. In 1986 Frog was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short; later an animation festival in Annecy, France judged it one of the best animated films made that century. A short 'making of' clip at the end offers hints of the hard work behind the film's distinctive look.
This "essay on global warming" was written by Able Tasmans band member Leslie Jonkers. Bagpipes and spinning pomegranates give away to amoeba and swirling shots of trees. The band are shot in colour amongst Christmas decorations, and in black and white in a forest as the song spins and builds. Shots of a Chrysler Valiant give way to footage of a village in Africa, a forest in Asia, the Golden Gate Bridge and Speakers' Corner in London. And why a frog? Because when water is gradually heated, a frog doesn't notice the changing temperature and will be poached.
Animated plasticine. Talking chickens. Dancing Cossacks. Plus old favourites bro'Town, Hairy Maclary and Footrot Flats. From Len Lye to Gollum, feast on the talents of Kiwi animators. In his backgrounder to the Animation Collection, NZ On Screen's Ian Pryor provides handy pathways through the frogs, dogs and stop motion shenanigans.
In this episode of her TV3 series for pre-schoolers, Suzy Cato creates a farm in her garden and uses songs, stories and animations to introduce a variety of animals. Chickens cluck, a mother pig and her three piglets bathe in mud, frogs catch flies with their tongues — and one of the chickens strays into the family of frogs and has to be returned home. Meanwhile, a baby bird hatches but can't immediately find its mother, the sock puppet family is seen in all of its extended glory and Suzy keeps proceedings moving with her ebullient friendliness.
This 1982 film, made for the New Zealand Council for Recreation and Sport, is an impressionistic exploration of play. Child narrators talk about what play means to them, while the images capture young people engaged in recreation. The focus is on informal play: kids and teenagers at playgrounds, hunting for frogs, reading, skylarking in the snow, doing cartwheels on the beach, fixing motorbikes, skipping, stargazing and playing Space Attack. Seagulls inspire dreams of flight for a young girl, and a fancy dress ball for adults shows the enduring spirit of play.
This morbidly funny short, made by students of Auckland's Media Design School, depicts the demise of 26 alphabetical and animated animals at the hands of nature’s greatest enemy — the human. Framed as a father possum (Phil Greeves) reading his children their favourite bedtime story, the alliterative animal deaths are undercut with cheerful giggling from the two young possums. The film won acclaim at festivals worldwide —screening at South by Southwest in 2016, and taking out Best Animated film in the Comic-Con Film Festival later that year.
Hugh Macdonald’s long filmmaking career encompasses historical epics, Oscar-nominated shorts, and lots of time on the road. Macdonald is probably best-known for three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand, which got crowds queueing at World Expo in Japan, before playing for months back home. A two-decade long stint at the National Film Unit also saw him directing two episodes of historical epic The Governor, and producing the first of many animated shorts.
Created by animator Cameron Chittock, with help from Kiwi animation legend Euan Frizzell, this part claymation series follows a boy named Oscar as he goes off on adventures with two imaginary friends: daring Doris and the sometimes cowardly Bugsy. In these 26 five-minute episodes, Oscar meets pirates, oversized bugs, a frog princess, jumps on a flying carpet and travels through time and space. The series screened in New Zealand from 1995 to 1999. Overseas screenings included on ITV in the UK, where it became the 10th highest rating children's show on the network.
This short animated comedy offers up a pre-Wellywood tale of Hollywood coming down under. In the fictional West Coast town of Whatawhopa, a horror movie film crew has arrived to take advantage of the town's persistent rain. When the forecast fails, the town’s lazy fire fighters — “burning and yearning for a fire”— are finally sparked into action. The National Film Unit production was directed by Bob Stenhouse (Oscar-nominated for The Frog, the Dog and the Devil) who is clearly relishing the chance to go to town on scenes of rain, lightning, fire and monsters with droopy eyes.
Director Peter Jackson's second feature Meet the Feebles offers even more bad taste than his debut. The irreverent, outlandish, part-musical satire is populated almost entirely by puppets, but it is by no means cute. The motley creatures are all members of a variety show that’s working up to a major performance. They include Bletch the two-timing pornographer walrus, an obese hippo femme fatale, a drug-dealing rat, and a heroin-addicted frog — in other words, something to offend everyone. Richard King writes about the creation of New Zealand's first puppet movie here.