by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Tuesday 27th November 2012

Slides from Melbhattan, a new animated short film by Oslo Davis

Slides from Melbhattana new animated short film by Oslo Davis

I had the great pleasure of meeting OSLO DAVIS yesterday, when he hand delivered a few sweet framed drawings to TDF Open House!  Whilst we did interview Oslo last year, I haven’t met him in person before, and I must say I was a little starstruck – after all Mr Davis is a bit of an enigma!  It was quite odd to finally put a face to the name we all know so well.

Oslo Davis is a familiar name in Melbourne.  He’s one of Melbourne’s busiest and best known cartoonists and illustrators.   As many of you know, Oslo’s ‘Overheard‘ cartoons grace the pages of The Age each week, and his familiar sketchy characters are can often be spotted on a Readings shopping bag.

This week, though, is a particularly big week for Oslo.  He has spent the best part of this year writing and directing his first animated short film, based on his own drawings, with the assistance of a grant from the City of Melbourne.  The film, entitled Melbhattan, launches this Saturday at Rooftop Cinema, and will screen before every Rooftop Cinema screening through December!  Oslo is pretty chuffed that his film will be seen by so many movie-goers at Melbourne’s iconic outdoor cinema – ‘It was such a coup to get this venue’ he says, ‘I can’t think of a more perfect venue to view an animation of Melbourne’.

We asked Oslo a few questions about this epic project! –

Can you tell us a little about Melbhattan – what is it about and what spurred this transition from paper to the silver screen?

Melbhattan is a short film that mimics the opening sequence of images at the start of Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan. I have drawn and animated 61 images of Melbourne that copy the scenes in Allen’s film. For example, in Allen’s film there is an image of a guy looking into a New York bookshop window – in my version a guy looks into a Readings bookshop window.

I’ve always been a big fan of Allen’s work, especially his very ‘New York’ early work. The black and white images that open Manhattan are truly spectacular; it is Woody Allen’s and cinematographer Gordon Willis’ grand love letter to a monumental city.

Many Melbournians see our city as a kind of mini-Manhattan. The architecture on our CBD grid informs this, as does the good natured, cocky attitude that we seem to have in Australia’s creative capital. Melbourians ‘get’ Manhattanites: we relate to (or at least we think we can relate to) the ‘anything’s possible/forget about it’ swagger that New Yorkers have. And where once we went to London, now everyone is drawn to New York.

In the end I hope Melbhattan is viewed as part-homage to, and part-pastiche of, Melbourne.

We all used to make and love flip books as kids – their only downside was that unless you had Walt Disney expertise they took ages to make. With this in mind how long has Melbhattan been in development?

I applied for funding last year and began in earnest to create the work early in 2012. I made a decision early on that I wasn’t going to make Disney-esque animation (mainly because I couldn’t!) so I thought of it as drawing Overheard, with moving parts. While I used computer technology to make the work, I’ve tried to keep it looking like it’s been put together by hand. Viewers are forgiving when it comes to animation – they can interpret an animated sequence even if looks scratchy – so I am banking on this forgiveness with Melbhattan.

Drawings for Melbhattan by Oslo Davis
How did the movie come about and who is involved?

Melbhattan is something I worked on when in between doing commercial work. It has been my year-long side project. The City of Melbourne supported it with an arts grant last year, and Volley Australia helped finance the original music.

Biddy Connor, a local musician and composer who has worked on a lot of short films, wrote an original score for Melbhattan. It was important for me to get original music for Melbhattan because the George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ in Allen’s film is an essential component in making that movie iconic. Biddy has created a piece that both references Gershwin’s work and has a very Melbourne sound.

If you’re in Melbourne, pop along to catch any film at Rooftop Cinema throughout December and you will be treated to a screening of Melbhattan before your movie starts!

Interstaters, don’t fret, half way though December, Melbhattan will be viewable online at

AND for the die-hard Oslo Davis groupies out there, you might like to check out the four framed original drawings we have by Oslo at TDF Open House!  Now… all I need is a wall to hang them on…. it’s getting pretty chockers in there!

Drawings for Melbhattan by Oslo Davis

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Tuesday 27th November 2012


  • Merryn 4 years ago

    Wow!! Each day that I receive a TDF digest I wish I was still a resident of Melbourne! Melbhattan is amazing!!! Oslo Davis is truly talented. You have the best job Lucy!!

  • Siobhan C 4 years ago

    This interview just made me go and YouTube the opening title to Manhattan. Thank you.

  • Phillip 4 years ago

    I dont usually leave comments, but many people ask me why I don’t like Melbourne and I have always said it has no personality of its own and is always comparing its likeness to another city.

  • librarygirl 4 years ago

    Love Oslo’s work – have just bought his little “Overheard” book as a Christmas gift for my daughter.
    Woody and Oslo – stellar combination. Thanks.

  • Annie 4 years ago

    Phillip, one could say Melbourne has pockets of Paris, London, NYC etc, but essentially isn’t this reference just assisting the listener in forming a visualisation based initially on architectural and cultural similarity? I think what Melburnisns, or at least me for one are saying, is that the sum is greater than its parts. No surprise so many from so many continents keep emigrating to this great city!! And Australia generally, before our other great cities get upset!
    Love Oslo and TDF! Can’t wait to see the film. Still laugh when I read some relevant Oslo overheads which have been stuck on my fridge for years!

  • Annie 4 years ago

    Melburnian and overheard. Why does this IPad think it spells better than me!? Thanks.

  • Samantha 4 years ago

    Amazingly inspiring work, thanks for sharing! :)

  • Margie 4 years ago

    Now, if only we could convince someone to fund “Bris Vegas” and “Syd Angeles”…

  • Margie 4 years ago

    Phillip, isn’t that what we do as humans? Compare and contrast? It’s how we categorize and create meaning in our experience of reality… I think all places have a personality – of one sort or another.

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