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Ronin Films


Lee Whitmore

I spent hours as a young girl watching my father create illustrations for stories in the 'Woman's Weekly'. I watched him mix colours and lay beautiful washes on pencil drawings. I learnt all about making pictures that tell stories. When I grew up it was only a small step for me to imagine making 'moving pictures' that tell my own stories.

In 1974 I married the writer Mark Stiles. In the same year I enrolled in a theatre design course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. I moved from painting and illustrating children's books to getting involved in small theatre groups and architecture revues. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was designing short films with friends. So began my involvement in performance and film.

My first major task was as graphic artist in the art department on the feature NEWSFRONT (1978) directed by Phillip Noyce. I found it to be so much fun as everyone was pitching in doing whatever had to be done. Other short films followed as well as work as production designer on two feature films: STIR (1979) directed by Stephen Wallace, and THE WINTER OF OUR DREAMS (1980) directed by John Duigan. The work was hard and exciting but I knew I still needed to tell my own stories.

In 1984 with the help of the Women's Film Fund I retreated to the solitude of my studio and made my first animated film NED WETHERED. The success of NED WETHERED set me on the path of making more animated films - each one a story about my family and my childhood. Around this time Mark and I had two beautiful children Alice and Harry. ON A FULL MOON was made in 1997, ADA for SBS in 2002, and THE SAFE HOUSE in 2006. These films are all made using techniques my father had introduced me to - pencil drawing, charcoal and pastels, and oil painting. To my surprise my family stories seemed to mean things to other people. They have been shown extensively at festivals around the world and have received awards and recognition in Australia and overseas.

These days I work almost solely on my own work, though over the years I have enjoyed teaching drawing and animation and creating animation sequences and graphics for other filmmaker's projects both dramas and documentaries. These include making animated sequences the feature films BREATHING UNDER WATER (1990), LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI (2000) and WESTALL '66 (2010).

In 2016 I wrote a script for a feature length animation CRYING SKY. This story was heavily influenced by my experiences teaching animation to international students at the University of Technology Sydney. This was an ambitious project and as yet has not been realised.

In 2018 I launched my latest complete work SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. This is built around a teacher I had when I was about fourteen and a poem our teacher read to us by Matthew Arnold.

In 2019 I began developing TRAVELS ON MY DONKEY. This story takes place in Egypt and is about the adventures of my great great uncle Mr Hill who joined a famous expedition to the pyramids of Giza in 1837.


HAND-DRAWN HISTORIES: The Films of Lee Whitmore »

While Lee Whitmore has contributed animation sequences to many feature films, shorts and documentaries, it is her body of four short personal works that are her most unique and original work...


The first of Lee Whitmore's personal animations, recording her memory of her childhood and a visitor who often called on her family...


Contemplative memories of childhood and family by animator Lee Whitmore, lovingly animated frame by frame by pencil and pastel on paper...


The most ambitious work to date by one of Australia's leading animators, Lee Whitmore: a careful, loving recreation of a quiet suburban street in Sydney in the 1950s and the moment when larger issues intruded in the form of the Petrovs, ASIO and the newspapers...


This miniature masterpiece by animator Lee Whitmore draws on memories of her childhood, and especially the stillness and silence of her elderly grandmother...


WINNER! Yoram Gross Award for Best Animation, Sydney Film Festival WINNER! The Sergio Aragones Award for Best Animated Film, Ojai Film Festival, California Sohrab and Rustum is an animated film by Lee Whitmore about a charismatic young English teacher reading a famous poem to her class of fourteen year old girls whose concerns are pop music and nail polish...