Lion Man Craig Busch, and his unlikely colleagues — African lions and white Bengal tigers — were a ratings and international sales success across three TV seasons. The Lion Man went behind the scenes at his Zion Wildlife Gardens animal park. In this first episode of the Great Southern TV show, Busch talks about his introduction to working with the big cats — and the scars that are part of the job. There's also a peek at the making of an award-winning Sky TV promo that featured his lions. Busch, and the park, were later to be the centre of regular controversy.
Craig Busch aka The Lion Man is a self-taught big cat handler who has brought Barbary lions and white Bengal tigers to New Zealand. With both species extinct in the wild, Busch launched a breeding programme to add to limited numbers remaining in captivity. Great Southern Television produced three series following the often controversial Busch and his giant feline charges, from the early days of his Zion Wildlife Gardens park near Whangarei (later relaunched as The Kingdom of Zion). An international sales success, the show has played in more than 120 countries.
This National Film Unit documentary follows the British Lions 1959 rugby tour to New Zealand. Prior to live televised sports coverage, match highlights were rushed onto cinema screens; NFU tour coverage was later edited into this feature length doco. On the field the series was won by the All Blacks 3-1, including the first test where Don Clarke famously kicked six penalties to beat the Lions’ four tries. Off the field, the Lions visited farms and resorts, drove trout and tried Māori song and dance with guide Rangi. A star back for the Lions was Peter Jackson.
This boisterous Geoff Dixon-directed commercial dates from the time when craft beer was yet to make a big mark, and Lion Red was NZ's number one beer. Hyperactive in a flannel shirt, a pre-Hercules Michael Hurst takes the mic at a pub talent quest, and sings a war cry for Kiwi blokes against wimpy pretenders like champagne cocktails and Mexican beers. Local advertising veteran Roy Meares wrote the "anti-yuppie commercial" (he was also behind the long-running Speights 'Perfect Woman' campaign). The Murray Grindlay-composed song became a pub anthem.
September 1994 marked a turning point in Peter Jackson's career. With the debut of his film Heavenly Creatures, many critics began to see him in a new light. This One Network News piece interviews Jackson at Wellington Airport, shortly after winning a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Heavenly Creatures. Jackson says he plans to keep making movies in New Zealand, and pays tribute to his late producer Jim Booth. Five months later, Jackson was nominated for his first Academy Award. Three months after that, he began Hollywood-funded movie The Frighteners in NZ.
Producer Rachel Gardner studied at the London School of Economics, and worked as a journalist at the BBC. After returning downunder in 2002 she moved into producing: her work on hit show The Lion Man resulted in an invitation to spend time as Head of Drama at Great Southern Film and Television. Gardner has also worked with Angela Littlejohn on a run of short films, plus features Apron Strings and Show of Hands.
NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
Naturalist Ramari Stewart never tires of the view from a subantarctic hut. "This is the only place I know where I can see a whale out my window and it’s never let me down." The documentary follows Stewart as she spends a summer and winter monitoring wildlife at remote Northwest Bay in Campbell Island. Southern right whales, Hooker's sea lions and elephant seals all feature. Stewart, who later became a whale expert, displays a jaw-dropping bond with the animals. At the end of the programme, the whales cause a stir when they play perilously close to Stewart's boat.
Some of the great names of international rugby can be seen both playing and reminiscing in this hour long history of British and Irish Lions tours of New Zealand. 1930 Lion Harry Bowcott is the oldest player here, conceding his side were surprised by the toughness of the New Zealand style of rugby; tough like 1950 All Black captain Ron Elvidge, who came back on to crash through a tackle and score a try, despite a fractured sternum and stitches in his head. The documentary concludes with Gavin Hastings’ 1993 Lions team. It was made as a preview for the 2005 tour.