Monday, 1 March 2010

Elliot's clay characters hit the road

Adam Elliot at the opening of Mary and Max: The Exhibition
Adam Elliot at the opening of Mary and Max: The Exhibition
From Mount Waverley and New York to Melbourne and regional Victoria: Elliot's clay characters hit the road!

Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor today joined Australian Centre for the Moving Image Director, Tony Sweeney, and Academy Award Winner® Adam Elliot in launching Mary and Max: The Exhibition, and announcing a tour of the exhibition to Victorian regional galleries.

The exhibition, which opens to the public on Tuesday 2 March, explores the creative and technical processes behind the acclaimed Australian animation by showing a selection from the thousands of items created for the film alongside imagery from the finished product.

Mr Batchelor, in his first engagement with ACMI since taking up the portfolio, was today full of praise for the centre.

"I've long been an admirer of ACMI and it is a delight to now be in a position where I can work much more closely with Tony and the team in ensuring ACMI continues to be a key part of Melbourne's cultural landscape," he said.

"Adam has long been recognised as one of the world's finest animators and we're exceedingly proud to call him a local boy - and he is indeed, one of the city's leading practitioners within what is a thriving screen culture industry," said Mr Batchelor.

ACMI Director Tony Sweeney said that Mary and Max: The Exhibition has been designed to reveal the meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail which makes Elliot's first feature-length work so remarkable.

"This exhibition aims to illustrate to visitors the imagination, ingenuity and painstaking work that goes into a 92 minute stop-motion animation project like Mary and Max," he said. "We hope the exhibition will allow people to appreciate the finished product more fully and recognize the incredible artistry of Adam Elliot and his team."

"As a champion of Adam's work for many years, and a champion of claymation through our popular kids' workshops, ACMI is delighted to co-curate this show," said Tony.

Items on display include character models, as well as sets, props (such as vehicles, a phone box, Max's TV and more), conceptual sketches and storyboards. The exhibition will also feature stills and clips from the finished film, time-lapse sequences showing the animators at work, and behind-the-scenes footage shot for a making-of style 'mockumentary'.

Mary and Max (2009) took five years to make, including one year of filming.

The director, writer and designer, Elliot has personally selected the figures, props and sets to include in this exhibition and hopes that visitors will enjoy this behind-the-scenes insight into his craft.

"The diversity and complexity of the sets for Mary and Max was extreme; everything from a desert island to a chocolate heaven needed to be made. The New York skyline set was the biggest and most time consuming and took two months to complete by the entire art department crew of twenty people," he said. "So it's nice to be able to 'lift the veil' on the whole process for ACMI visitors."

Since the completion of the film, a small selection of these items have been displayed in Paris. Now, with the support of the State Government through Arts Victoria, ACMI will take the exhibition on the road to galleries throughout regional Victoria in 2010 and 2011.  Details will be announced by the Minister later this week.

"The people of regional Victoria will be able to explore a filmmaking technique that is extremely popular yet little explored within a gallery context, providing a highlight in their respective cultural calendars," said Mr Batchelor.

As with Elliot's previous works, which he describes as 'clayographies' (clay animated biographies), Mary and Max chronicles two simultaneous life stories. Spanning 20 years and 2 continents, Mary and Max tells of a pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle (voiced by Toni Collette with Bethany Whitmore as young Mary), a chubby, lonely 8-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a severely obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger's Syndrome living in the chaos of New York City.

Mr Batchelor recounting the film remarked; "One of the most charming things about the film was its marvelous Melbourne-ness. The care and obvious fondness with which Adam and his team so lovingly recreated Melbourne's suburbia was clear for all to see."

Elliot is a celebrated independent animator. His short films, Uncle (1996), Cousin (1998), Brother (1999) and Harvie Krumpet (2003), have participated in over five hundred film festivals and won over one hundred awards, including in 2004 the Oscar® for Best Animated Short Film for Harvie Krumpet, the statuette and figure of which have been on display at the centre ever since. They now reside in ACMI's free permanent exhibition, Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television & Digital Culture. His short films are available to view on-demand in the Australian Mediatheque, ACMI's new screen culture resource centre founded in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive in 2009.

Mary and Max, Elliot's debut feature with longtime collaborator producer Melanie Coombs, enjoyed its world premiere as the opening night film of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has since screened at film festivals the world over, winning several coveted awards including Best Animation at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, the Inside Film Award for Best Production Design and numerous others.

Mary and Max: The Exhibition, in ACMI's Gallery 2, opens 2 March for a strictly limited season until 6 June 2010. Entry is free.

Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
[email] claire.butler@acmi.net.au  
 
 
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