Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
Buckle up as we blast from the past Russ le Roq, gameshow host Paul Henry, tweenaged Kimbra and catwalk model Rach. Paul Casserly primes the collection: "pig out on these pre-fame Kiwis, gaze upon their fresh faces and remember the good times, before they were famous, before they became household names, movie stars, action figures and flavours of ice-cream."
Actor Bruno Lawrence rounds out a handful (Buck, Billy T, The Topps, Crumpy) of Kiwi icons who have achieved sufficient mana to be recognised by an abbreviated name. His charisma was key to ground-breaking films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Jack Nicholson reputedly had Bruno envy. This collection celebrates his inimitable performances and life.
“These three birds are over half the world population of their species.” Peter Hayden’s narration lays bare the stakes for the Chatham Island black robin, and the Wildlife Service team (led by Don Merton) trying to save them. Merton’s innovative methods include removing eggs from nests – to encourage the last two females to lay again – and placing them in riroriro (grey warbler) foster homes. The black robin documentaries helped forge the reputation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit. Paul Stanley Ward writes about the documentaries here, and the mission to save the black robin.
Record label Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music, and with autonomous DIY, bottom-of-the-world creativity. This collection celebrates the label's ethos as manifested in the music videos. Selected by label founder Roger Shepherd: "A general style may have loosely evolved ... but it was simply due to limited budgets and correspondingly unlimited imaginations."
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.
This collection celebrates rugby in New Zealand as it has been seen onscreen: from classic bios and tour docos, to social history, dramas and protest. In the accompanying backgrounders, broadcaster Keith Quinn looks at the on air history of rugby in NZ; and playwright David Geary asks if rugby is a religion, and argues it is a good test of character.
Classic Kiwi play Joyful and Triumphant followed the Bishop family over four decades, from 1949 to 1989. Written by Robert Lord, it charted changes in New Zealand society by focusing on the minutae of Christmas Day family dynamics. The play was first performed to sellout audiences in 1992, a month after Lord died. It won multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Directed by Peter Sharp (The Fire-Raiser), this TV adaptation features Robyn Malcolm and Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry — plus Catherine Downes and Bruce Phillips, who both appeared in the original production.
The golden age of rock is recaptured in a studio mock-up of the Wellington Rock 'n' Roll Revival Club. Hosted by Paul Holmes (under the name Wonderful Wally Watson), the show features Tom Sharplin and his band. Dalvanius Prime also puts in an appearance, delivering a wonderful version of 'The Great Pretender'. The show mixes studio and location sequences, as it delivers hits made famous by the likes of 50s legends Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. Actors Marshall Napier and Brian Sergent are on hand to play a couple of bodgies, referencing the milk-bar cowboys of the era.
In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.