Colorful coffins lighten mood at New Zealand funerals

This photo provided by Ross Hall, shows a cream doughnut shaped coffin for the funeral of Phil McLean outside a church in Tauranga, New Zealand on Feb 17, 2021. Auckland company Dying Art makes unique custom caskets which reflect the people who will eventually lay inside them, whether it's a love for fire engines, a cream doughnut or Lego. (Ross Hall via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — At one recent funeral in New Zealand, there were gasps before a wave of laughter rippled through the hundreds of mourners.

The pallbearers brought a coffin shaped like a giant cream donut. It’s the latest creation by the deceased’s cousin, Ross Hall, who runs a business that custom builds colorful coffins called Dying Art.

Other creations by Hall include a sailboat, a firetruck, a chocolate bar and Lego blocks.

There have been glittering coffins covered in fake jewels, a casket inspired by the movie “The Matrix,” and plenty of coffins depicting people’s favorite beaches and holiday spots.

Hall says the tone of funerals has changed markedly over recent years, and people now think it’s a celebration of life rather than a mourning of death.