The barren and unforgiving farmland inhabited by film’s latest computer animated hero, Mosley, is far removed from the lush rolling hills and pristine beaches that surround Huhu Studios – the Auckland company that created the film.

Located at Snells Beach, on Auckland’s northern coast, Huhu Studios is now standing tall in the larger-than-life world of computer animated films with Mosley, named after its title character. The feature is the first official co-production between New Zealand and China.

Huhu Studios is a burgeoning Auckland creative industry success story. The company was part of the Tripartite Economic Alliance held in Tāmaki Makaurau in 2016, which saw delegations from sister cities Los Angeles and Guangzhou foster relationships with export-ready Auckland businesses.

Released during New Zealand’s school holidays on Thursday, 10 October, the film tells the story of Mosley and his family – fictional four-legged creatures called thoriphants – who live a life of servitude to Simon, a sullen and mean-spirited farmer.

In the pursuit of freedom, Mosley is forced to leave his family behind and embark on a perilous journey. With its story being a timeless adventure of courage, love and hope, the movie is set to become a family favourite.

The Huhu Studios-China Film Animation three-year production had a $29 million budget and 14 months’ animation ‘shoot days’; 150 people were employed. Local and international talent were attracted to work on Mosley, including crew who had previously worked with studio giants Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Weta.

Huhu Studios and Snells Beach became home to all the film’s creative artistic leads including the director, production designers, animators, modelers and story artists. The well-known voices of superstar Kiwi actors Rhys Darby, Lucy Lawless, Temuera Morrison and Teuila Blakely brought the vibrant characters of Mosley to life. 

Auckland’s wider creative sector also contributed to Mosley, with voice recording and sound design, editing and mixing executed by the experienced team at Digipost, a post-production and visual effects company in Epsom.

The film’s US director, Kirby Atkins, says making the film in Snells Beach was a fantastic experience: “New Zealand is an inspiring country and I would love to continue making films here. The screen creatives are incredibly skilled at their craft and I’m looking forward to collaborating in the future.”

Trevor Yaxley, CEO and Founder of Huhu Studios says Mosley is a huge accomplishment for both New Zealand and China. “It really is a big deal that a small studio in Snells Beach has been able to make an impact on the world stage, showcasing our gifted and talented creative community.

“We’re delighted we could deliver such a fantastic film with China Film Animation. Mosley is an example of what can happen when two countries successfully collaborate. We’ve achieved a fantastic result with not only the crew in Snells Beach, but also a team in China who we collaborated with via daily video calls.”

Pam Ford, General Manager of Economic Development at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) says the region’s screen industry is booming and productions such as Mosley help contribute to Auckland’s economic growth.

“The region’s screen production and post-production industry is absolutely thriving. In 2018, it earned gross revenue of more than $1 billion for the second straight year running – including an estimated $315 million of international investment – and this was before the announcement of the Netflix original series Cowboy Bebop and the Amazon Studios series based on Lord of the Rings,” says Ford.

“Productions such as Mosley make a fantastic contribution to Auckland’s economy and provide high-value jobs for Aucklanders. But they also attract international talent to our shores. This has an awesome knock on effect – Auckland’s screen creatives get to not only showcase their talent but are also mentored by some of the best in the business. It’s a win-win for Auckland’s film community.”