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 was one of two short promos that screened in cinemas to celebrate 100 years of New Zealand film. A stop motion plasticine figure morphs from one classic Kiwi film moment to another. Director Greg Page starts with National Film Unit newsreels, before jumping to the renaissance of Kiwi film that began in the late 1970s. Included are Goodbye Pork Pie, An Angel at My Table and Braindead. The promos (John O'Shea directed the other) were funded by the NZ Film Commission with support from Kodak, the Film Unit and the Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision).
This short film is a lively animation by Fred O'Neill starring a cast of craggy characters made from that ubiquitous children's play dough of the 1960s and 70s: plasticine. Figures cavort and morph to the music in varied sight and sound gags. There's no real narrative, and contrary to the title, it is in fact a celebration of the limitless possibilities of the materials. Figures and shapes form, and transform delightfully, constantly moving, fighting, and dancing against hand painted backdrops. Dunedin-based O'Neill did almost everything on the film himself.
Life on Ben is a partly-animated series for kids exploring the intricacies of life on skin. Gordon and Gloob (voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi) are two symbiotic creatures who go on an unexpected stop motion journey. When their host, 10-year-old Ben, gets an itch in his butt the Plasticine duo find themselves exiled to his nostril; on their quest to get back home they encounter a petri dish of other microbial folk. Created by Luke Nola (Let’s Get Inventin’), the 10 episodes of this two-minute show sold internationally.
Life on Ben is a partly-animated series for kids exploring the intricacies of skin life. Gordon and Gloob (voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Boy director Taika Waititi) are two symbiotic creatures who go on an unexpected stop motion journey. When their host, 10-year-old Ben, gets an itch in his butt, the plasticine duo find themselves exiled to his nostril. On their quest to get home they meet a petri dish of other microbial folk. Created by Luke Nola (Let’s Get Inventin’), the 10 two-minute episodes — in full here — were distributed internationally.
Galaxies away from images of tar-addled lungs on cigarette packets, this film offers an unusual public health message about smoking. Set to rhyming couplets, the plasticine hero tries out to see if he has the right stuff to fly a rocket to Venus. There he battles the demon Nicotine, and (long before Avatar’) convinces Venusians to destroy their tobacco trees. Shot in 35mm by pioneering animator Fred O’Neill, Space Flight was made for theatrical release. For reasons unknown the Health Department, who commissioned it, didn't want the film to go on general release.
Dunedin businessman and artist, Fred O’Neill, whose hobby of making quirky animated films brought him international recognition, sent his Plasticine hero to Venus thirty years before Nick Park got Wallace and Gromit to the Moon. O’Neill’s films encouraged children not to take up smoking, brought Māori legends to the screen in a novel way, and entertained young viewers in the early years of New Zealand television. Image credit: Stills Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Courtesy of the Fred O'Neill collection.
Barry Prescott has directed puppets, policemen, politicians, and plasticine figures. After time as an actor, he made a trio of short films using stop motion animation. In 2005 oddball live action tale The Man Who Couldn’t Dance began winning awards at a wide range of festivals. Since then Prescott has combined directing, design and advertising work with occasional writing on What Now? and Dancing with the Stars.
Special effects man and designer Richard Taylor got his break making puppets for 1980s comedy series Public Eye. He has gone on to become a key part of the Weta effects empire, supervising the creation of orcs, zombie mishaps and miniature cities for movies and TV shows. A passionate advocate for Kiwi talent, Taylor and his team have scored five New Zealand screen awards, four BAFTAS and five Academy Awards.