Underwater adventure now online


A fishy film 15 years in the making will entertain children during Covid-19 restrictions.
Billy the Cod is the story of deep sea diver Hard Hat Harry who gets kidnapped by pirates who bully him into finding a shipwreck filled with treasure.
During his underwater adventure he makes friends with a blue cod called Billy.
With the help of his high-tech helmet computer, Hard Hat Harry is able to identify local fish and marine life.

The series is narrated by children’s entertainer Suzy Cato, diver Pete Crabb plays Hard Hat Harry and Gillian Pugh plays other female characters.
It also features Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum Macleod as the voice of Billy the Cod.

The concept was devised by experienced underwater cameraman Andrew Penniket, of Wanaka, who has spent more than 30 years filming documentaries for organisations including Natural History New Zealand and the BBC, and shared an Emmy Award with his fellow cinematographers for the 2011 documentary One Life.

Mr Macleod first thought of making a children’s series in 1993, but the idea gained momentum when he was filming at Baikal in Russia –— ‘‘the big, big sea in the middle of Siberia’’.
‘‘I met a few locals there and this one chap had an old diving suit, the old deep sea diver’s suit with a helmet, which they were still using in Russia until recently,’’ he said.
He bought the suit and it triggered his imagination to create Hard Hat Harry and write about his underwater adventures.
He decided to make a blue cod the hero of his series because they were such inquisitive fish — ‘‘they come up and surround you’’.
‘‘They have all these different postures and their eyes move around, they interact and chase each other, they are just real characters.
‘‘I figured they would make great stars in a children’s programme’’.

The series was shot at Ulva Island near Stewart Island, before it became a marine reserve.
‘‘All the fish and all the marine life are just what people would find around Otago and Southland, so it is very relevant to the locals.’’
Producing the series was a low-key affair, and friends and family got involved.
‘‘I was fortunate that I had a whole group of friends who had all these different abilities and talents,’’ Mr Macleod said.

His son Logan Penniket created the music, and recently his daughter Charlotte Penniket had been helping him re-format the video and upload it for viewing online.
Although the series was filmed about 15 years ago it had not been seen by that many people, apart from some DVDs that were distributed a few years ago.
Aims for a television series did not eventuate, so Mr Penniket decided because many children were at home, now was the time to put the series online.
‘‘With this Covid thing, and with all the kids sitting around looking for educational entertainment I thought this was quite a good time, really.’’
The series for children can be seen by visiting Youtube and searching for ‘‘Billy the Cod’’.

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