'Is was the first time Michael Leunig’s cartoons had been animated and through the wonderful work of Freerange Animation, the exhibition conveyed the techniques involved in the transformation of his popular black and white line drawings into delightful animated films', said co-curators Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Susan Hunt.
Leunig Animated, co-produced by the Sydney Festival and the Museum of Sydney, included over 40 original cartoons from 30 years of work, as well as puppets, photographs of the puppet making process, life-size Leunig cut-out characters, models, dioramas and a documentary about Michael Leunig himself. The exhibition explored Leunig’s popular themes, how his work relates to his life, examined his irresistible humour and displayed all the poignancy of his work.
In animation, whilst voice-over performance is incredibly important, the director and the animator are the physical actors. Each puppet is moved frame by frame at 25 movements per second - this equates to 1,500 movements for every minute of animation. Each sequence is acted out by the director and animator before going into a shot, the actions and emotions of each scene then conveyed to the screen through the animators handling of the puppets’ movements. ’It is this process that we showed people’, said Caroline Butler-Bowdon.
One of the biggest displays was Leunig’s Nude Beach. This consisted of a detailed set with puppets, camera, computer and lights. Nude Beach, which appeared in The Age newspaper in 1983, consisted of an intense urban environment in the background, while in the foreground a nude couple have found their own version of paradise as they lounge near a sewer on a sandy shore. It was 3m x 2md x .75m high.
Some of the original cartoons included The Museum of Manners (1983), The Kiss (1985), Waiter, there’s a hair in my soup (1972), The Life You Lead (1985), The First Condoms of Spring (1987) and Gee Dad… You’re fantastic! (1972).
The idea to animate Leunig’s famous characters came from long-time Leunig fans, actor Bryan Brown and LA based feature film director, Roger Donaldson, who thought that Leunig’s life time of work should be brought to the screen. Leunig Animated tied in with an animated documentary that was an inspired mix of animation and live action, exploring the life and work of Michael Leunig and was seen on SBS TV in 2002.
Originally commissioned by SBS Independent and produced by Brown’s company New Town Films, the one hour documentary and animations were financed by Content Capital and SBS Independent and developed through the assistance of the NSW Film and Television Office.
Leunig animated went on to tour Australia in venues including the National Museum of Australia, Queensland Museum and the South Australian Museum.