New Zealand film-maker: Andrew Adamson

New Zealand director Andrew Adamson showcased his homeland to the world through one of his favourite childhood novels.

New Zealand film-maker Andrew Adamson's love of his homeland landscapes shine through in his big screen adaptations of British author C.S. Lewis's classic childrens' series The Chronicles of Narnia.

Hollywood-based Adamson returned to New Zealand to shoot the first of the series - The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - introducing iconic New Zealand landscapes from his childhood, such as Coromandel's Cathedral Cove, into the much-loved tale. Three years later, he was back again to shoot The Chronicles of Narnina: Prince Caspian (2008).

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe received three Oscar nominations and was the third highest grossing film worldwide in its first year of release. The followup The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) grossed US$419.6 million at the box office.

Kiwi bonds

Auckland-born Adamson still has strong bonds with his homeland and his wife is also a Kiwi. Although their base is in Los Angeles, work and family often bring them home.

Adamson's latest project, Mister Pip (2012) - from a novel by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones - starred Hugh Laurie and was shot in New Zealand and on location in Papua New Guinea, where Adamson lived during his teenage years.

Iconic summers

Adamson still has special memories of summer holidays in New Zealand - vacations that he and his family still try to take today.

When Adamson was young, his family often holidayed on the Coromandel Peninsula - an iconic New Zealand holiday spot east of Auckland. He now owns a holiday home there.

Growing up in the west Auckland suburb of Blockhouse Bay, Adamson spent hours creating his own cartoons, and was good at both art and maths at school.

He broke into the world of animation literally by accident. Originally set to study architecture, a car crash and a broken leg meant he missed university enrolment and ended up studying animation.

"I've always been someone who's liked a lot of things but never particularly excelled at any one thing because I've always got the hang of it and then moved onto other things. Film-making kind of allows for that. I get to deal with music, imagery, people, storytelling and writing," Adamson told the NZ Herald.

Television ads

Adamson started out in computer animation in 1985, working for an Auckland company called The Mouse That Roared. He designed 'flying logos' for television show introductions and commercials.

Six years later, he was recruited by Pacific Data Images to work in its new Los Angeles office, where the company was becoming involved in feature film effects.

Adamson made more television ads before branching out into a new, big-screen world, as a technical director on movies such as Toys (1992) and Angels in the Outfield (1994). He was visual effects supervisor on two 'Batman' movies - where his work was twice shortlisted for Oscar nominations - before ending up back in animation.

While on holiday back home in New Zealand, Adamson ended up in Wellington helping out fellow Kiwi director Peter Jackson on his film The Frighteners. He stayed for three months helping get the visual effects crew up and running, and met producer John Garbett on set.

Epic fairytale

Five years later, as one of the producers on Shrek, Garbett dragged Adamson on board the fairytale epic - diverting hime from a plan to become a writer.

"I realised I wanted to be a storyteller. I was planning to go and spend a year working on the writing when Shrek came up. I sort of went into it kicking and screaming and agreed to give it a three-month trial, and then ended up just doing it for the next three and a half years," Adamson told the NZ Herald.

Adamson, however, should have no regrets at making his directorial debut. Shrek won the 2001 Oscar for best animated feature film, and Shrek 2 broke multiple box office records including highest-grossing film of 2004. Adamson also worked on Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010).

Narnia Chronicles

As a child, Adamson loved reading the Narnia Chronicles, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, in particular, was a book that was "very important to me as a child".

Adamson credits the opportunity to recreate these novels to Peter Jackson whose Lord of the Rings Trilogy showed that faithful adaptations of English fantasy were achievable and successful.

Andrew Adamson - filmography

  • Shrek (2001) - director
  • Shrek 2 (2004) - director
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - director
  • Shrek the Third (2007) - executive producer
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - director / producer
  • Ballast (2008) - executive producer
  • Shrek Forever After (2010) - executive producer
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) - producer
  • Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away (2012) - director / producer
  • Mister Pip (2012) - director / producer

Visual Effects:

  • Toys (1992) - technical director
  • Heart and Souls (1993) - animation supervisor
  • Batman Forever (1995) - visual effects supervisor
  • A Time to Kill (1996) - visual effects supervisor
  • Batman and Robin (1997) - visual effects supervisor