By Jakki Galloway, NZFA Programmes Developer
For the last few years I have been involved in programming Mini-Sized Square Eyes a holiday screening aimed at young people living in Wellington. Having young people myself I thought this was a super idea, as movies at mainstream theaters these days are so expensive! I wanted to make great kids shorts from the past and present accessible.
Initially I curated the programmes from our collection, which included the first ever Mickey Mouse classic early animation Steamboat Willie (1928), Mary’s Little Lamb (1936) and Jack and the Beanstalk (1933) by U. B Iwerks (who won two Academy Awards for animation in the 1920s). The programme included New Zealand animation like Len Lye’s Monkey Tale (1933) and Fred O’Neill’s Plastiphobia (1964), as well as favourites like Margaret Mahy’s The Boy With Two Shadows (1994) and The Witch in the Cherry Tree (1994). There were classics from my childhood: Little Toot and Ferdinand the Bull.
We soon realised that we shared our name, Mini-Sized Square Eyes, with the Square Eyes New Zealand Children’s Film Foundation founded by fellow Wellingtonian Nic Marshall. The Square Eyes Foundation aimed to promote the “the best of world cinema for young New Zealand audiences” and was involved in the children’s programming for the New Zealand International Film Festival.
So we did the only sensible thing and contacted Nic, who came in and had a chat. That chat led to a collaboration, and the contemporary version of Mini Sized Square Eyes was born!
Now we had access not only to archival footage, but to all of the newest children’s short films from around the world. Nic had friends everywhere! And she was so lovely that they gave her material. What was important about this series was that it got kids interested in film. In quality film. In the kind of film they didn’t get to see on television, and that wasn’t often available even at the cinema.
Nic was appointed to help programme the New York International Children’s Film Festival. We reluctantly agreed to say goodbye to her for six months on the condition she would bring some films home for New Zealand kids. So she did! On her return we brought my daughters, their friends, and Nic’s nephews and godchildren in for a private screening and let them help curate the next programme. They chose stories about a mother who turns into a monster, a Leprechaun who is having an identity crisis, and a sabertooth housecat. Black & White (2007), about two square friends Steven and David, proved the massive hit of the year. In my house we sang “I am not a Leprechaun” for months.
The year’s programming developed a format: the April holidays would be audience favourites from the previous year, the July holidays a screening curated by me (this year it was Hooray for Weston Woods and included Where the Wild Things Are  and Be Safe with Officer Buckle ), and for the September holidays Nic would bring in some new films from overseas. Currently showing these October holidays are The Little Bird and The Leaf (2012), A Girl Named Elastika (2012), and more!
We are currently making plans to start screening Mini-Sized Square Eyes programmes at other locations around New Zealand. Govett-Brewster in New Plymouth and Dunedin City Art Gallery have expressed interest, so hopefully we can soon start extending the programme to these regions and others.