Mary and Max, the first animated feature film from Academy Award Winner Adam Elliot, will be the subject of a free exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image from 2 March 2010.
The exhibition will explore 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.
Items on display include character models and their various components including plasticine replacement parts used to change facial expressions, as well as moulds, sets, props, conceptual sketches, storyboards, production notes and scrapbooks. The exhibition will also feature stills and clips from the finished film, and behind-the-scenes footage shot for a making-of style “mockumentary”.
ACMI exhibitions curator Fiona Trigg says that Mary and Max: The Exhibition is designed to reveal the meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail which makes the feature-length work so remarkable.
“We’ve tried to illustrate to visitors the imagination, ingenuity and painstaking work that goes into a 92 minute stop-motion animation project like Mary and Max”, she 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.”
“Many of the character models have a great presence and charisma that is really striking,” said Trigg.
The director, writer and designer, Elliot has personally selected the clay 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.
Already there has been international interest in the display of Elliot’s work with some of the pieces shown in Paris last September at the Mk2 Bibliotheque Theater to coincide with the film’s release.
Mary & Max, directed, written and designed by Elliot took five years to make, including one year of filming.
Spanning 20 years and 2 continents, Mary & 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 Horovitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a severely obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger’s Syndrome living in the chaos of New York City.
As with Elliot’s previous works, which he describes as “clayographies” (clay animated biographies) Mary & Max chronicles two simultaneous life stories; Mary’s trip from adolescence to adulthood, and Max’s passage from middle to old age, as it explores a bond that survives much more than the ups-and-downs of an average friendship. Mary & Max is both hilarious and poignant as it takes us on a journey that explores friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, where babies come from, obesity, kleptomania, sexual differences, trust, copulating dogs, religious differences, agoraphobia and many more of life’s surprises.
The voice-cast is an all-star affair, drawing on Collette and Hoffman’s significant talents as well as narration by Barry Humphries, and other characters voiced by Eric Bana (Damien Popodopolous) and Molly Meldrum (Homeless Man).
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.
Mary & Max (2009), 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 and in cinemas across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, Middle-East, South America, the UK and USA. This year it has won several coveted awards including Best Animation at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, the Inside Film Award for Best Production Design and numerous others, including those directly recognising the producer and cinematographer, and is in the running for an Oscar nomination in a competitive field of 20 world-class animations eligible for nomination in 2010.
Elliot is no stranger to ACMI having displayed his Oscar and Harvie Krumpet figure at the centre since 2003. Now it lives in ACMI’s free permanent exhibition, Screen Worlds. Elliot will visit ACMI in 2010 when he presents Desert Island Flicks in Studio 1. In addition, ACMI’s popular free claymation workshops will return in the school holidays to coincide with the exhibition.