When Darcy Prendergast welcomes the world each morning, he pops out of bed and walks straight out the door. He doesn’t touch his bed or make breakfast. He doesn’t have time. He heads straight for a colourful old garage in Brunswick where the unlicensed pyrotechnicians, unappreciated comedians and animators that make up his company Oh Yeah Wow reside.
“Why would I bother making my bed when I can just start sculpting straight away?” says Prendergast from his desk in the garage.
He’s a champion of the chaos theory and while his life is a disorganised mess, his unorthodox film career is blossoming. “Mum always says I’m great at animation, hopeless at life," he says.
Prendergast is a sculptor, filmmaker and animator best known for his work on Mary and Max, the Adam Elliot directed clay animation starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana and Toni Collette, which won a host of awards including best feature at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 2009.
Before Mary and Max, Prendergast created his own break with Ron the Zookeeper, the revolting but hilarious clay animation based on a rare grey panda and his friend Ron, the man charged with saving the ailing species. Prendergast wrote, directed, scored and even voiced parts of the film and also acted as the cinematographer.
After the film gained accolades throughout Europe, Prendergast’s dream of becoming a fulltime filmmaker was realised when Adam Elliot cast him on Mary and Max. “I started as an assistant animator on Mary and Max, but before too long Adam came to love my sculpting style. He moved me into a lead sculptor role to carve out the characters you see in the film,” Prendergast explains with a jolt of pride.
Joining forces with his long time friend and collaborator Ash Nicholls, Prendergast started animation, gaming and design company Oh Yeah Wow only a few years ago, but already the company has gained a solid reputation and a stable of some 20 creatives.
As he describes it, the Oh Yeah Wow studio is something quite out of the ordinary: a space that is inherently unconventional. “We call it our Neverland,” Prendergast says, speaking for the animators and creatives that work incessantly in the space, eating at strange hours and playing like children. “Picture if a child was locked in a supermarket overnight, that’s my diet. Ice cream is my breakfast food most days. Why wait for desert when you can wake up to it? Don’t ruin the dream with logic,” he says with a wry smile.
If a chaotic creative space is one half of the operation, then a constant schedule of new projects is the other. Oh Yeah Wow has taken on some serious projects over the winter, with Prendergast bringing his trademark dark, whispy characters into real life settings.
“We're animating a new music video for Wax Tailor [and] Aloe Blacc which should be out by late September,” says Prendergast. “It’s been almost three months in production now, shooting everyday in the Melbourne winter. It’s been arduous to say the least, but the scale of this animation hasn't really been seen before.”
Prendergast’s resume reads like a who’s who of the Australian music industry: Gotye, Art Vs Science, Eskimo Jo and most recently British India. His wistful films are completed with an effortlessness and grace. His most recent release – the film clip for British India’s new single, I Can Make You Love Me – personifies his style, combining clay sculpture with ethereal direction and photography and pacing cuts in sync with British India’s slow-building rock epic.
Talking about the making of the clip, Prendergast recalls a mistake on set that still makes him laugh, epitomising the bizarre balance between chaos and meticulous order that seems to push the filmmaker forever in the right direction.
“Jack, our minotaur man had them [the prosthetics] applied the night before and then tried to sleep in five kilograms of rubber, which didn’t work out so well. He had a mini panic attack when the rubber around his neck started constricting his breathing mid sleep. So to calm him down, we gave him a shortlist of DVDs from our library that he could watch to relax. Your comforting, feel-good stuff, like Lethal Weapon and The Fugitive,” he laughs.
“He chose Chopper. He only got about two hours sleep in the end.”
Watch the film clip here: