Frizzell put life and soul into animated characters

21:00, Oct 25 2012
Euan Frizzell
GIVING LIFE: Euan Frizzell with friends. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity.

Of all the adjectives to describe Wellington animator and director Euan Frizzell, the word "kind" makes the most appearances in conversation with his family, friends and the hundreds of colleagues he supported and mentored.

Frizzell's award-winning career spanned more than 30 years and ran the gamut from traditional 2-D animation to 3-D computer animation and 3-D stop-frame work, VFX and mixed-media (animation and live action) for the global television, motion picture and advertising industries.

A celebrated storyteller, Frizzell worked on the globally popular The WotWots television series and directed animated adaptations of children's books for television and film. These included DVD collections The Magical World of Margaret Mahy and Hairy Maclary, the claymation television series Oscar and Friends, and more than 200 animated television commercials.

This year, despite struggling with the bowel cancer that was to take his life, Frizzell waved his directorial wand over the animated series RuggerTales for the Small Blacks television series, and completed work for a DVD compilation of Mahy poems and stories called Rumbustifications.

His special interest lay in character and character animation.

"When animated characters live for more than a few shots, they inevitably develop lives of their own," he once told an interviewer. "When that starts to happen, you begin to get a soul in the character and something you really work with. It becomes a personal piece of expression and collaboration with the character, which is a huge amount of fun."


So prodigious was the 58-year-old's talent, and his output, that he received several international awards. Of particular pride were the accolades for his 1991 adaptation of Mahy's The Great White Man-Eating Shark, which paved the way for directing another four Mahy tales. Collected on a 1994 volume of The Magical World of Margaret Mahy, they reached platinum sales. Frizzell then animated characters for A Tall, Long Faced Tale, a documentary about the late Mahy.

Born on the Canterbury Plains, the son of farmers Noel and Win, Frizzell moved to Wellington in the mid 1970s to study for a diploma in visual communication at Wellington Polytechnic.

He bought a second-hand 8mm movie camera and began experimenting with animation.

By the time he graduated, in 1975, he had found his niche and began working as an animator and cameraman.

Frizzell worked at England's pioneering Halas & Batchelor animation studio, including work on the critically acclaimed feature film Heavy Metal (1980). Back in Wellington, he launched his own animation company, Gnome Productions, with producer/managing director Shaun Bell.

He specialised in children's films, such as The Wizard and his Magic Spells, Shopping with a Crocodile and Oscar and Friends.

His adaptation of the stories of Kiwi author Lynley Dodd really won the hearts and minds of fans. Narrated by actress Miranda Harcourt, the Hairy Maclary television series became the bestselling Kiwi video title of 1998 and continues to delight a new generation of fans.

Frizzell's feature film legacy also included work in the Glenn Standring horror story The Irrefutable Truth About Demons and Jonathan King's Under the Mountain.

Frizzell helped establish the AnimFXNZ conference which is held annually in Wellington and attracts leading figures in animation, gaming and design industries, including Hollywood studios such as Disney and Pixar.

Dedicated to his family and work till the end, Frizzell was checking the animation of a snail days before he died at Mary Potter Hospice.

The gifted animator and insightful director was a loving husband and father and possibly the kindest person in the New Zealand animation/film industry.

Fairfax Media