'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.
Winter is going. This impressionistic take on spring in Aotearoa focuses on details of regeneration, from the mountains to the sea. Director Ron Bowie and cameraman Grant Foster capture signs of the season: ice melt like tadpoles under snow grass, gannets nesting on their Cape Kidnappers tenement, fern koru unfurling, kōtuku and royal spoonbills perched in Ōkārito trees like Dr Suess characters, willow buds and kōwhai flowers. And of course, lambs and daffodils. The camera aptly obeys the title to end. Patrick Flynn (Don’t Let it Get You) composed the score.
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.
Burton Silver has created comic strips about dope-smoking hedgehogs and books about artistic cats. He also operated some remote-controlled canines on Country Calendar.
From the time-honoured music video making tradition of "throw a party, add a horse costume and film the results" comes a frenetic clip directed by Andrew Moore. Love's Ugly Children were at their belligerent best on this song from their second album. Drummer Jason Young was the waylaid missionary; and guitarist Simon McLaren got to talk to a horse on the phone and display hitherto-unseen break-dancing skills. The carpet of their flat came off second best in an encounter with some red body paint. Extra marks for the cheese and pineapple hedgehog.
This Touchdown series profiles the working lives of rangers who work for the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries, whose office is "the great New Zealand outdoors". This opening episode meets three rangers looking after threatened taonga: Al Hutt is a sea shepherd to Akaroa's Hector's dolphins; lizard hunter Keri Neilson rescues a chevron skink on Great Barrier Island; and Steve Sawyer defends dotterel nests from cats, hedgehogs, stoats and boy racers on the Wherowhero Lagoon beach (near Gisborne). The series screened on TV One in early 2002.
Actor Mark Hadlow first appeared on our TV screens as a teenage bully in Children of Fire Mountain. Later he worked alongside Ilona Rodgers and Billy T James in the sitcom version of The Billy T James Show. His flair for comedy earned him starring roles in the film Just Me and Mario, and TV series Willy Nilly. Hadlow has worked twice with director Peter Jackson – first providing voices to a range of characters in Meet the Feebles, and then playing both a dwarf and a troll in The Hobbit trilogy.
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
Designer Garnet Nelson has a distinctive attitude to fashion for the rural sector, showcased in a range of clothes combining style and practicality — although the after five combinations may be a step too far. This might be one of the celebrated Country Calendar spoof episodes, but the buy-in from models who could only be farmers and not actors is a sight to behold. And the fashion tips don't end there. Reporter (and long time Country Calendar producer) Frank Torley adds his own sartorial note with an unfeasibly long shirt collar that has a mind of its own.
Burton Silver has presented persuasive evidence that cats can paint, dogs can be remote-controlled, and hedgehogs can worry. Despite his supple comedic sense, much of this evidence has been accepted wholesale. Silver began by creating long-running Listener cartoon Bogor, about a hedgehog and a woodsman. He also wrote 1981 TV fantasy The Monster's Christmas, and was a key player behind a series of beloved hoax Country Calendar episodes. Since then he has written global bestsellers about cats that dance and paint, and invented a new sport: GolfCross, a variation on golf that's played with an oval ball.