Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Welsh animation

Jerry the Troublesome Tyke.

Identified by some as the father of Welsh animation, Sid Griffiths created the Jerry the Troublesome Tyke series in the twenties. This is one of several series made in Britain at around that time starring dogs - 'Orace the 'Armonious 'Ound, Bonzo, Bingo, Pongo and Sausage were amongst the others. Like most of his contemporaries Jerry owed a debt to contemporary superstar Felix the Cat.

Welsh TV star SuperTed.

Jerry appeared in forty-odd cartoons, but despite this promising start Welsh animation doesn't appear to have flourished until decades later. In the era of TV animation it was Welsh studios tat were responsible for the likes of SuperTed and Fireman Sam, while in 1992 Les Orton directed the first Welsh animated feature, a fifty-minute made-for-TV adaptation of Under Milk Wood.

The VHS release of Under Milk Wood.

Arguably the biggest Welsh contributions to animation have come from S4C. The channel's remit requires it to air a certain quota of Welsh-language material, and as Clare Kitson points out in her book British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor animation is ideal for this - by its nature it is easier to dub into other languages, and so by funding animation S4C was able to produce Welsh-language work that was appealing the UK, not to mention international markets.

The feature film Otherworld is a good example of S4C's international work: produced by Cartwn Cymru in Cardiff, it was animated largely by Christmas Films in Moscow, with additional work handled in London and Budapest.

S4C has been involved in a cycle of animated films and series adapting literature, folktales and religious texts - Shakespeare: The Animated Tales; Operavox, condensing several operas; Testament: The Bible in Animation; The Canterbury Tales; Animated Tales of the World; Animated Epics, adapting Beowulf, Moby Dick and Don Quixote; The Miracle Maker, about the life of Christ; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Otherworld, based on the Mabinogion. These were made in collaboration with international animators - Animated Tales of the World, for example, was based on folktales from around the world, and in most cases each episode was made by a studio from the same country as the source material. Sold largely on the basis of their educational value these stylish productions regrettably seem to have flown under the radar as far as much of the animation community is concerned, although The Canterbury Tales succeeded in winning a BAFTA and earning an Oscar nomination.

Joanna Quinn's contribution to The Canterbury Tales, which can be viewed online here.

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