Australian animation in the 1970s

Now in production by this studio is a feature that promises to be very special. It’s called ABRA CADABRA and is being shot in Panavision and 3D! It’s due for release in Decembe 1983 and the synopsis goes like this:

“Will Abra Cadabra thwart the plans of rotten B.L.Z’Bubb and nasty Klaw, the Rat King, to control all of the known and unknown universe? Of course he will, with the aid of beauti¬ful Buttercup, Mr. Pig and Zodiac the space dog, among others. But not until the. end!”

It is being shot on a Neilson-Hordell computer-controlled animation rostrum, onto which is fitted a multi-plane-style addition of 4 separate platens above each other. Using the Zoptic back projection system (which made Superman fly), the animation can be filmed in 3D using the 4 planes, then back-projected while filming another 4 planes in 3D giving an S-plane option to utilise. (Whew!)

It is shot with a Triangle 3D lens which was invented and developed in Australia. The audience will view it with light blue and magenta glasses. It sounds very promising.

But the big complaint that Australian animators have is that while they can readily sell their productions overseas, it’s hard to get wide showings locally. Film distribution in Australia is controlled mainly by overseas companies, and even though MARCO POLO JNR. vs THE RED DRAGON was praised by critics, it was only offered weekday morning sessions in school holidays. So, despite its having adult appeal, it wasn’t very widely seen at all. The same thing has happened to other locally animated features, while (as in the case of MARCO POLO JNR. in 1973) other children’s films like Disney’s PINOCCHIO and TALES OF BEATRIX POTTER were shown in the evening sessions.

And, 10 years later, it is still happening. Recently, two of my local theatres were showing animated films during the school holidays. One had a re-run of Walt Disney’s PETER PAN at 10 a.m., 12.15 and 7 p.m. – seven days a week – and the other theatre (owned by the same people) had the first-run of Yoram Cross’ AROUND ThE WORLD WITH DOT at 10 a.m. only – Monday to Friday Only.

So, it seems that if you want to see Australian animated feature films in Australia, you’d better be prepared to take a day off from work.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 7 (Winter 1983)