Auckland animators' robots conquer US

By Hugh Collins

Animated short film Shelved, which was created by students at Auckland's Media Design School, has won four different awards in two American competitions.

The film won Best Animated Film, Best Director and Best Animated Characters at the Los Angeles Movie Awards and then went onto win Best Animated Short Film at the New York International Short Film Festival.

As well, the film was in the official selection at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin Texas, was a staff pick at Vimeo and has screened at 15 international film festivals to date.

The five-minute film took 12 weeks to animate by the team of 11 students led by director James Cunningham.

Shelved follows two robots that are bored with their dead-end jobs until they learn they are going to be replaced by humans.

The two lead robots were designed by Weta Workshop senior concept artist Greg Broadmore, who originally sent the concept to Cunningham for a potential short film idea. This is the second time Cunningham and the students at Media Design School have interpreted his artwork into a short film and Broadmore says it's incredibly inspiring to see the results.

"It's got to be really encouraging for New Zealand's film and game industries to know that there are such great up and coming talents being fostered by people like James,'' says Broadmore.

Cunningham says that lots of different robots were written into the script so that students could take ownership of particular aspects of them.

"We don't want employers looking at them and saying 'we can't tell what students have done what, they're all the same'"', says Cunningham.

"We're designing stories so students can have ownership of something and can follow that through and go 'this is my piece'".

Cunningham says that there are not many animated short films being produced on same scale as the school.

"The reality is if you were paying for this it would cost a fortune," he says.

"We're actually able to do some short films that are probably not possible any other way."

Media Design School CEO Frances Valintine says the entire Media Design School team and all of the students who worked on Shelved are beyond thrilled with the success of the film.

"We have created something original which stands out from the crowd and puts New Zealand's raw talent and innovative approach to storytelling on show for the world to see."

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