Snells studio releases animated blockbuster

New Zealand’s first 3D animated feature film – produced in Snells Beach and China – will be released next month.

The $29 million film Mosley is a co-production between Huhu Studios in Snells Beach and China Film Animation. It features the voices of Temuera Morrison, Lucy Lawless and John Rhys-Davies.  

It is New Zealand’s biggest animated feature since the 2D film Footrot Flats – an Australian-New Zealand comedy released in 1986.

Huhu Studios took the lead on Mosley, providing all the creative direction for the film and its lead artists.

To do so, it attracted talent from major studios such as Disney, Pixar, Weta and DreamWorks.

The 96-minute film took around four years to make and, at its peak, more than 100 employees worked at Huhu, including about 50 artists.

Staff in New Zealand would participate in daily video-conference calls with another team of Chinese animators to give direction on scenes created on storyboards in New Zealand.

It took one animator about a week to produce three to five seconds of animation.

The film tells the story of Mosley, one of a species of creatures known as thoriphants. The thoriphants live a life of servitude on four legs, but the discovery of ancient cave drawings suggests thoriphants might also walk upright. Mosley embarks on a quest to find the mighty Uprights and free his family.      

Mosley film editor Kathy Toon left a job at Pixar, in California, to come to Snells Beach and has worked on Mosley for the last three years.

She says the editor’s job requires using the animation, recorded dialogue, sound effects and music to piece the story together – sometimes suggesting more drawings and new scenes to better tell that story.

“Editors have a huge amount of influence over the tone and pace of the final film,” she says.

Ms Toon’s past credits include Toy Story 4, Finding Dory, Rio, and Horton Hears a Who, but she considers Mosley to be “quite a unique” adventure story.

“I think the tagline – There is Something Noble Inside of You – asks a question that many people have inside of them. Are they all that they can be?” she says.   

She considers the production of Mosley to be a “massive accomplishment” for New Zealand filmmaking – particularly as it has been made in 3D, adding an extra layer of complication.

“I’m so proud this film came out of Snells Beach, and I really hope New Zealanders get behind it and support it.”

She imagines the film has had considerable economic impact. In addition to the big stars and animators, the film has provided work for dozens of other technical specialists, local actors and film-related industries.

Ms Toon says she is unsure what Huhu’s next big project will be.

“At times like this you are holding your breath to see how your film does. Then you can plan on what to do next. We are in a little bit of a holding pattern right now.”   

Mosley opens on October 10.