For the past four years, Amazon Australia has worked with Starlight Children’s Foundation — a charity dedicated to brightening the lives of seriously ill and hospitalised children across the country — to put together a team of toy testers to solve the mystery of what to buy your kids for Christmas. And this year, the 10 selected youngsters have been put in the director’s chair to create a mini-motion picture to help deliver smiles to Aussie children across the country.
This season’s must-see flick
Involving a ransom of one million lollies, a valiant rescue mission and a massive party, “The Playmakers Save the Holidays” is a heartwarming, stop-motion holiday-themed short film, which sees the imagination of the Amazon Playmakers brought to life.
Viewers will watch as treasured household toy mainstays, such as the Interactive Mama guinea pig, and a pirate from the TOMY Pop Up Pirate Action Game, are brought to life on screen and hatch a plan together to save the day.
National Partnerships Manager for Starlight Children’s Foundation, Matt Geraghty, says the animation embodied everything the inspiring initiative stands for.
“Starlight’s mission is to help brighten the lives of sick kids with fun, joy and laughter, and this stop motion film did exactly that. Not only did it help bring happiness and smiles to the children but also to their families, which is a constant objective for us - to lighten and ease the load for all”.
Toy testers become toy directors
Traditionally enlisted to rate and test the cream of the crop of Amazon Australia’s Top 100 Holiday Toy List, this year’s Amazon Playmakers were instead tasked with producing a film starring their favourite toys. Toys that were brought to life by an all-star cast, including Charli Robinson, of “Hi-5” fame and “The X-Factor” star, Johnny Ruffo.
Charli says she was honoured to work alongside such blossoming creativity.
“Being a Mum and having kids myself, I am always amazed by how creative children can be. It was fascinating to watch the way the Playmakers’ imaginations worked when coming up with the scenarios and the characters in the film, and I was thrilled to share in the joy of making the movie with the kids.”
Beyond the big screen
For many young Australians faced with medical complications, playtime offers a moment away from their everyday challenges. It’s a glowing opportunity to dive into the imagination, socialise, build coping abilities, and boost brain power — even in the confines of a hospital room.
South Australian Playmaker and co-director Will, aged 12, says the opportunity to be both a toy tester and filmmaker was a dream come true.
“I love playing with toys and watching movies, so when I was told I’d be able to produce and star in my own toy-movie I was so excited to tell all my friends at school. I played the Rubix Cube in the movie which was one of the top toys I tested from Amazon’s Top 100 Toy List”.
Johnny Ruffo — who is currently battling brain cancer for the second time — says that his own experiences highlight just how important this experience has been for hospitalised kids.
“Having spent a lot of time in the hospital myself, I know how important it is to keep busy and focus your mind elsewhere,” says Johnny.
“It’s precisely what this stop-motion film does, making me feel even more honoured to be a part of it and lucky enough to witness the incredible imagination of each and every kid”.
More than toys, more than a movie
To celebrate the film’s release, Amazon Australia has pledged to donate an additional $1 to the Starlight Foundation for each movie-starring toy purchased during the Black Friday period, up to $45,000, on top of $55,000 worth of toys, games, crafts and funds.
“We released the Top 100 Holiday Toy List - approved by the Amazon Playmakers - to help Aussies choose the best gifts for the little ones in their lives,” says Head of Toys at Amazon Australia, Ian Bradley. “Now we are thrilled to see that it’s taken an incredible new shape that children and families can enjoy for years to come.
“Our team is delighted to be donating an additional $1 for every film-featured toy purchased during the Black Friday period, up to $45,000, to help deliver even more smiles to Starlight beneficiaries. But this campaign is about more than just raising funds — it’s about getting the kids involved, helping them feel important and giving them a respite from the illnesses.”
To watch the film, explore the Top 100 Holiday Toy List and support Australian families with a toy purchase, visit www.amazon.com.au/playmakers2022.
The making of the movie
“The Playmakers Save the Holidays” animator, Melbourne-based, Clem Stamation, reveals some secrets from the behind-the-scenes of the movie’s production.
How did you get involved in the project?
“When I was approached for this project with these very special kids, I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. Right from the very first moment, it was an experience even more special than I ever imagined it could be. From the kids enlisted to work on the film, to the incredible team helping them, every single person had the same mission: to have a whole lot of fun!”
Where did you begin in helping bring to life the Starlight kids’ imaginations onto the screen?
“The first step was to develop the storyboard further and figure out the best way to tell the story on the big screen. These little ones certainly made up for their age in the creativity stakes, so it was a true delight getting to bring their bold vision to life. After mapping out our approach, the next step was to fill my studio with sand for the epic opening scene!”
The Playmakers created their own characters, storylines and dialogue for the toys featured in the stop-motion blockbuster — were you surprised at where their imaginations went to?
“I mean come on, a "1 MILLION LOLLY” ransom and a dinosaur with “a plan” to save the holidays — who wouldn’t want to see this film? I think filmmakers across the globe should be taking notes!”
How long did it take to make the film?
“It took around eight days to shoot 3,293 individual photos, which all came together to create around 90 seconds of film. Luckily, I had the pleasure of working with some very patient actors and dedicated crew members — they made my job a whole lot easier!”
How important is the gift of creative and escapism for children, such as the Playmakers, who are forced to stay in hospital away from friends and family?
“So, so important. Creative projects like this give these kids — who are facing tough challenges — some time to just do what kids are best at: playing, laughing and dreaming big.”
What would you say to encourage audiences to watch the movie?
“The silly season needs a silly film, and the Starlight kids have gifted us exactly that. No matter how old you are, where you live, or what movies you typically watch, this is one film you simply must watch this summer!”