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.
On a holiday to Mt Tarawera with her scientist parents, teenager Jenny (Katrina Hobbs) finds an odd shard of metal. By touching it she unwittingly awakens 'Drom' — a survivor of an alien mission to deactivate a planet-annihilating space gun (aka the volcano!). Local kids Tessa and Lloyd also own key pieces; if Drom and the teen trio can't defeat the gun-toting mechanoid ... human and alien species extinction is imminent! The internationally successful six part series was a South Pacific Pictures and Canadian co-production; it screened in 1991.
This 80s precursor to Dancing with the Stars took the competitive community spirit of Top Town to the dance floor, with dancers twirling and dipping in sequinned spandex for the ‘Top Dance City’ trophy. Hosted by radio personality Lindsay Yeo, this 1982 final follows the foxtrot and samba at Wellington’s Majestic Cabaret. Beside regional bragging rights, winners take home a Pye Vidmatic 10 inch TV. The Northern Ballet Company (the one from Auckland, not the company from Leeds) interrupt proceedings for a Venusian space travel interlude that won't soon be forgotten.
On a holiday to Mt Tarawera, teenager Jenny (Katrina Hobbs) finds an odd shard of metal. In this third episode of the kids sci-fi series she meets its owner: 'Drom' — a survivor of an alien mission to deactivate a planet-annihilating space gun (aka Tarawera itself). They find themselves under siege from a Predator-like 'Guardian' of the gun. If Drom and Jenny and local kids Tessa and Lloyd (future What Now? presenter Anthony Samuels) can't defeat the mechanoid, catastrophe is imminent! The South Pacific Pictures series found international sales and cult repute.
Do robots dream of mechanical owls? A young woman in distress wakes up to find she has a 'robot problem' in her apartment. As the wee ‘bots (resembling animated cuisenaire rods) cause mayhem, she calls for help on her rat-phone. Roused from the Winter Gardens, an exterminator and his giant caged owl come to the rescue. The promo was one of several shot for The Mint Chicks by Crystal Bear-winning short film director Sam Peacocke (Manurewa). To create the miniature robots, life-size puppets were shot in front of a green screen, then composited into the action.
Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio has been fashioning idiosyncratic, futurist computer pop ever since he acquired his first Commodore 64 at age six, taping the game soundtracks with his sister's boom-box. An early adopter of online music distribution, "D-rad" released his album Charisma in 2010 as a free download with optional donation. "Robots will one day enslave the planet, so at least I'm going to go down as a musician who celebrated their existence, and maybe my future offspring shall be spared."
This bright, electro-poppy blurring of the lines between human and robot was the debut single for Zowie — a persona created by Auckland musician Zoe Fleury (the artist formerly known as Bionic Pixie). For the video, production team Special Problems eschewed CGI and had Zowie spend a day lying on a floor while their pinball machine inspired arrangements of dominos and machinery fell all around her. A Best Video finalist at the 2011 NZ Music Award, it lost out to another Special Problems clip (for 'Punching in a Dream' by The Naked and Famous).
Hosts Olly Coddington, Gabrielle Paringatai and Candice Davis front this TVNZ youth series from the era of Bebo and Obama. The series flavours youth TV fare (music videos, sport, online competitions) with reo and tikanga. This final episode from the show’s first year is set around a roof party on top of Auckland’s TVNZ HQ. Hip hop dance crews, Shortland Street stars and DJs are mixed with clips of the year’s 'best of' moments: field reports (from robot te reo to toilet advice and office Olympics) and special guests (from rapper Savage to actor Te Kohe Tuhaka playing Scrabble).
"I dig robots. I make beats." Wellington/New York-based musician Nigel Stanford (aka John Stanford) has released four albums of ambient electronica. He channelled his interest in visualising sound waves into inventive music videos ('Cymatics', 'Automatica'), which garnered awards and millions of YouTube views. Stanford began playing in rock bands at Rongotai College, before exploring digital sounds. Stanford is an IT entrepreneur (formative in Trade Me and FindSomeone). He also founded Wellington film equipment provider Rubber Monkey, and backed movies Second-Hand Wedding and Shihad - Beautiful Machine.
Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.