A book I've drawn on a few times for this blog is British Animated Films, 1895-1985: A Filmography by Denis Gifford. It really is a tremendous piece of work, attempting to cover every single British animation to have a cinema release - be it a full-length feature, a short, a public information film or an advert. In all, the book lists one thousand, two hundred and eighty-four films, with information on all of them.
The book begins with a brief (eight-page) history of British animation, which makes for an interesting comparison with other such histories. Most notably, more than half of Gifford's overview focuses on an area that tends to be glossed over by other writers: the pre-World War II (and pre-Halas & Batchelor) period. Gifford begins with nineteenth century live-action films of the cartoonist Tom Merry drawing caricatures before the camera, and then moves on to true animation with the work of Walter R. Booth (also discussing America's J. Stuart Blackton and France's Émile Cohl for context). Gifford goes on to touch upon George Ernest Studdy, Lancelot Speed ("the real Founding Father of what soon came to be called the British School of animation"), Anson Dyer, Dudley Buxton ("who first animated the sinking of the Lusitania in all its terrifying drama, three years before Winsor McCay tackled the same subject in the United states. Yet according to film history, McCay's version was the world's first dramatic cartoon film!"), Sid Griffiths and Joe Noble before reaching the era of Halas & Batchelor, Biographic and TVC.
Unfortunately, the book is hard to get hold of nowadays: at the time of writing only four copies are turned up by a search on BookFinder.com, each of them priced at more than forty pounds.
Over the next few months I hope to write a series of posts using Gifford's book to create a decade-by-decade overview of British animation.
Further posts in this series: