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From Len Lye to Gollum - New Zealand Animators Television (Full Length) – 2004 Documentary Animation

From Len Lye to Gollum - New Zealand Animators

Television (Full Length) – 2004 Documentary Animation

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Tracking the history of animation

From Len Lye to Gollum was a chance to capture the history and talk to some of the characters of the New Zealand animation scene who I had heard of or met throughout my career. The idea for the documentary was a collaboration between myself and production manager Dawn Aronie. It was directed by award-winning director/writer Chris Wilkes. 

From the outset we wanted the documentary to have something different and this become an animated narrator: Mr Pencil, based on a traditional animator's blue pencil. The late and wonderful animator Euan Frizzell brought Mr Pencil alive; the character was animated in different ways, depending where he was at in the history of New Zealand animation.

We start with Len Lye, New Zealand's first animator, with his amazing scratch film techniques, to the early days of commercials: John Ewing, Sam Harvey, and the young Dick Frizzell, who remarks "animation was the only thing I actually learnt to do. Everything else I make up as I go along.”

We meet many people along the way like George Port who talks about the beginning of what became Weta Digital. Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop comments on Lord of the Rings "We always realised that to tell the stories that were in Peter's head, we were going to have to push the technology to a greater degree than what we had." One of these technologies was the Massive software program used in the crowd and army scenes, as well as new developments used for the character Gollum.

Other animators in the documentary include Andrew Adamson, who talks about his early days in 3D animation through to directing Shrek; and Ian Taylor of Animation Research in Dunedin who comments that he wants his team to design software for what they want to see in the future.

Many of the animators in the doco refer to the Kiwi "can do" attitude: "the making do"; " if you didn't have it, you built it"; "don't worry about limitations". It was all about creativity, talent, innovation, ingenuity and passion.

It's been my great fortune and pleasure to be apart of this very exciting and fascinating world. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

- From Len Lye to Gollum producer Ray Ruawhare has provided effects and animation for everything from NZ On Air's Eric the Goldfish to The Lord of the Rings and Predicament. He was one of the founders of conference Animfx NZ.