“Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle”. Denis Glover’s classic poem The Magpies has inspired plays, art by Dick Frizzell, spats about onomatopoeia, and this 1974 short film, produced by publisher Alister Taylor. It centres around Glover musing on Magpies in his smoky Terrace flat in Wellington, during an interview with Glover’s son Rupert. Bookending the interview are two readings of the poem by director Martyn Sanderson. Sanderson’s memorable voice scores scenes of rural decay, and animation interpreting the tragedy of Tom and Elizabeth (the farming couple whose dreams go bad).
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.
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 animated series for young Kiwis visits Ferguson farm, to hang out with Massey Ferguson the talking tractor, and some of his mechanical friends (Massey Fergusons are an icon of Kiwi farming; Sir Edmund Hillary even took them to the South Pole). In this first episode, Murray loses his wedding ring. Massey Ferguson suspects magpies are the culprit, and with the aid of his friend Sallycopter, helps Murray become lord of the ring once more. The series was created by broadcaster Jim Mora (Mucking In) and Brent Chambers from company Flux Animation.
In a wooden cabin on the edge of the forest, a strange young girl referred to only as 'Kid' holds court over her trapper Dad and his isolated bush family; she sits beneath the dinner table, makes animal sounds and refuses to be washed. This pitch-black fable is told through the eyes — and distinctive voice — of her sympathetic brother 'Little Man', who one night makes a fateful decision that liberates her into the wild. Filmed in gas-lit sepia by Leon Narbey, the atmospheric and award-winning film announced the directorial talents of the late Brad McGann.
Shopping marks the feature debut of Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, who were acclaimed for their short films. Set on the Kapiti Coast, the 80s-set drama follows half-Samoan teenager Willie (Kevin Paulo), who is seduced into a world of petty crime. Adrift in muscle cars and boozy lawn parties, he finds stirrings of love, and escape from his volatile Pākehā father. Little brother Solomon (Julian Dennison) must fend for himself. Selected for the Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals, Shopping went on a winning spree at the 2013 NZ Film Awards (including Best Film and Screenplay).
Anna Campion directs her mother Edith and younger sister Jane in this slyly observed short: a re-imagining of Edith’s (reluctant) audition for a small role in Jane’s An Angel at My Table. From when Edith picks Jane up at the airport en route to her Otaki home, the professional and personal roles blur. Anxiety, huffs and matriarchal needling ensue as an often comic, sometimes poignant domestic tango between the former stage actress and film director Jane plays out in front of the camera. Anna was studying at London’s Royal College of Art when the film was made.
Denis Glover's poems are some of the most enduring in our literary tradition. "And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle" from The Magpies is probably New Zealand poetry's best known line. Glover (1912-1980) also established the first independent literary press (The Caxton Press). This documentary, directed by Bill de Friez, takes a candid look at the poet and reveals a larger than life figure ("a great drinker, a great womaniser, a great poet") connected to all the literary personalities of his day.
The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy.
On this episode of the book show hosted by novelist Emily Perkins, the panel discusses Rachael King’s gothic toned second novel Magpie Hall. There’s a visit to Governors Bay on Banks Peninsular to meet a book club with a multi-national feel; and TVNZ journalist Tim Wilson talks about his favourite book – the ultimate in weighty tomes, Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. In his ‘Under the Covers’ piece, Finlay Macdonald explores ‘A Good Keen Man’, Barry Crump’s breakthrough novel from 1960 – the work of a “man of the land with the soul of a poet”.