Saturday, 11 December 2010

Following up on Gifford: the 1970s

The eighth in a series of posts using Denis Gifford's book British Animated Films, 1895-1985: A Filmography to provide a decade-by-decade analysis of British animation's history.

Disclaimer: Although wide-ranging Gifford's book is not perfect. He missed out several films and sometimes provided incorrect dates or crew information. I have done my best to correct any errors which I have found myself repeating in these posts.

In 1970 Halas & Batchelor was once again the most active studio, releasing This Love Thing, directed by Geoff Dunbar; The Wotdot; Children and Cars, for British Petroleum; The Five, for the British Life Assurance Trust; Sputum, for Boehringer Ingelheim; and Ways and Means, a Lewis Carroll adaptation made in collaboration with Bob Godfrey. This was not Godfrey's only film from that year: he also directed Henry 9 Till 5, and collaborated with the Larkins studio on The Electron's Tale, a promotional film for the fiftieth anniversary of Mullard. Larkins also made The World of Automation for the Foreign Office that year.

Richard Taylor's Jobs for Early School Leavers, a public information film targeting teenagers. More stills can be seen here.

Richard Taylor continued his work in instructional animation, directing Jobs for Early School Leavers and providing animated sequences for Richard Crosfield's Corporate Planning in British Railways (made for British Transport Films, who also commissioned Bob Privett's Careful Charlie). Taylor also directed a promotional film for Vickers, The Patient Analyst.

Richard Crosfield's Corporate Planning in British Railways is mostly live action, but contains a few animated sequences to get its points across. Here, a well-run railway is compared to a ballet.

Derek Phillips made three more independent films - Airport, The Battle and Now - while George Dunning and the rest at TVC made the science fiction short Moon Rock and two films for the National Coal Board, titled A Sense of Responsibility and The Self-Rescue Breathing Apparatus. World Wide Pictures also released three films: After the Arrow, Glyn Jones' Post Office ad; Problematics, an IBM advertisement made as a student project by R.A. Lord; and Magnetism, made by Eric Wylam for Philips Electrical.

Public information superstars Joe and Petunia. See this post for more on them.

Nicholas Spargo directed Flags, the first public information film in his Joe & Petunia series. Gifford also lists a 1971 film which he refers to simply as Joe & Petunia; most likely this is Acceptance of the Country Code, the only short in the series that was released that year. The others are not listed, presumably because they were not shown in cinemas. And finally, Bernard Queenman directed the seventeen-minute The Pied Piper of Hamelin while Peter Roberts made the sardonically-titled A Film.

A Film, by Peter Roberts, was the first of two animations made by Amber Films, the other being The Jellyfish. See this Screenonline article for more on this collective.

In 1971 Halas & Batchelor made Milestones in Therapy, an instructional film for Abbott Laboratories; the six-part Condition of Man series, directed by Geoff Dunbar and Tony White; A Short Tall Story, directed by John Halas; and Football Freaks, by Paul Vester.

Kama Sutra Rides Again, one of Bob Godfrey's adult cartoons.

The same year Bob Godfrey directed the Oscar-nominated Kama Sutra Rides Again; Biographic made I'm Glad You Asked That Question (promoting North Sea Gas) and A Cat Is a Cat; Larkins promoted the British Insurance Association with The Square Deal; and the seemingly unstoppable Derek Phillips made For Your Pleasure and Who's Next.

Biographic's A Cat Is a Cat.

The other films of 1971 are from new names. Donald Holwill directed Sisyphus for Films of Scotland; Peter Dockley made the experimental Cast for Intergalactic Films; Roy Evans made the BFI-backed Love Affair; Hitch Hitchens directed the National Westminster Bank advert Dreamcloud; and Central London Polytechnic student Monica Mazure made The Saga of the Scrunge ("A knight called Floop goes on his horse called Phleke to kill the fearful dragon Scrunge", says the British National Film Catalogue).

Donald Holwill's Sisyphus, which can be viewed online here.

Gifford lists one more film from 1971: And Now for Something Completely Different, a Monty Python feature containing 25 minutes of animation by Terry Gilliam.

One of Terry Gilliam's sequences found in Monty Python's big-screen debut And Now for Something Completely Different.

In 1972 films from new directors began to outweigh work from established names. While Halas & Batchelor produced the educational films Mothers and Fathers and Girls Growing Up, Larkins made The Gas Genie for the Gas Council, Richard Taylor directed the informational films Hot Water Bottles and Panic Man and Derek Phillips made The Gulf, New Force and The Visitor, an array of new faces began directing. John Gibbons, with the aid of the BFI, made Windows, described as "A personal view of the surreal quality of windows" by the British National Film Catalogue; Dennis Hunt made I Had a Hippopotamus; Alan Shean made You are Ridiculous for Steve Melendez, son of Peanuts director Bill Melendez; Peter Tupy made the independent film Pardon; Ron Inkpen directed the pornographic Sinderella ("Embarrassingly puerile throughout", says the Monthly Film Bulletin of this film - the censors weren't amused either); Jack Stokes made Boom Bom Boom for S.C. Films; John Tully gave us The Film of Mr. Zyznik, a promotional short for the Gas Council; and John Daborn directed Cluster Analysis, an instructional film about computer programming.

George Dunning's anti-drug film The Maggot.

In 1973 Halas & Batchelor stepped up production again, releasing the adverts Grape Expectations, Carry on Milkmaids and Making Music Together, the instructional film Neville and the Problem Pump, and Children Making Cartoon Films. Larkins made This Is B.P. and the instructional film The Case of the Metal Sheathed Elements, while TVC made Dandruff, Horses of Death, Plant a Tree, How Not to Lose Your Head While Shot Firing, The Maggot and Damon the Mower.

Disgusted, Binchester shows inequality through the ages to make a case for the Race Relations Act.

Nicholas Spargo directed the propaganda film Disgusted, Binchester and the public information film Fooling About, while Derek Phillips made two more shorts: The Sculpture and Weird. Other independent creators active that year include Derek Hayes and Phil Austin, directors of Custard; and Peter Roberts, who made The Jellyfish.

Peter Roberts' The Jellyfish. More about this short can be found at Screenonline.

A couple of shorts came out of the London Film School - John Verbeck's The Ostrich and Thalma Goldman's Green Man Yellow Woman - while Bristol University student Janet Johns made Jumping Joan (not to be confused with Petra Freeman's 1994 short of the same name) and Rachel Igel and Eric Money of the Royal College of Art created Many Moons. Peter Neal animated a balance sheet for World Wide Pictures' Who Needs Finance and Digby Turpin, a director who was previously seen in the fifties, directed the Guinness advert Think Twice. Jim Duffy made Benny for Melendez Productions, while Ron Inkpen made a Sinderella sequel entitled Snow White and the Seven Perverts. And finally, the BFI funded another experimental short, Peter Hickling's Generation Gap.

1974 saw the the release of two more films classified by Gifford as British animated features, although neither is generally included in lists of such: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which contained several animated sequences by Terry Gilliam; and the Anglo-Italian The Glorious Musketeers, directed by John Halas and Jeffrey Veri. Halas directed a shorter co-production with Italy that year - the film The Christmas Feast - as did Joy Batchelor, with The Ass and the Stick. Other Halas & Batchelor productions from 1974 include the Alan Aldridge-designed The Butterfly Ball and the promotional films Kitchen Think and Contact.

Lee Mishkin and Alan Aldridge's The Butterfly Ball. More stills here.

As far as the other major companies go, TVC made Five Problems in Communication; Larkins made A Better Mousetrap for IBM and Emsleigh Dockyard Computer System for the Ministry of Defense; the Richard Williams Studio advertised Count Pushkin Vodka with Trans-Siberian Express; Richard Taylor's studio made Alice in Label Land; and World Wide Pictures gave us the educational Who Needs the Computer. Other companies active that year include Eothen Films, which made the educational films As Girls Grow Up and How Babies Are Born, both directed by Vivienne Collins; Timeless Films produced Ian Emes' French Windows (boasting music by Pink Floyd); and Videological Productions, responsible for the handy-sounding How to Lie with Statistics.

The BFI funded Chris Majka's Dialogue, the Arts Council sponsored Geoff Dunbar's Lautrec (which features animation by Oscar Grillo and Ginger Gibbons) and the Welsh Arts Council backed Clive Walley's This Is the Life. Derek Phllips made one short, The Losers Club, while fellow independent director Ted Rockley made three: The Inventor, Join the Army and The Day Battersea Power Station Flew Away, the latter in collaboration with Dave Pescod. As well as his work on Holy Grail Terry Gilliam made the short The Miracle of Flight; meanwhile, Bill Mather - probably best known for initiating the Animated Conversations series on TV later in the decade - made Classical Cartoon.

Antoinette Starkiewicz's student film Puttin' on the Ritz. More stills can be seen here.

Mary Turner directed the six films in the Tree Top Tales series, featuring puppets of woodland animals: Hoppy's Hiccups, Dazzling Diamonds, Learning Fast, The Black White Kitchen, How Does Your Garden Grow and Time to Wake Up. Also for children was Lesley Keen's Ondra, about a boy visiting the Man in the Moon. Student work from the year includes Puttin' on the Ritz, by Antoinette Starkiewicz of the London Film School; Herb the Verb, by West Surrey College of Art student Chris Jelley; and The Castaway, made at the Central School of Art by Clive Pallant.

One of Ronald Searle's character designs for Dick Deadeye or Duty Done. More here.

The rest of the decade brought us a few more features. The first was Dick Deadeye or Duty Done, released in 1975; based on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, it was directed by Bill Melendez and featured character designs by Ronald Searle. The same year Halas & Batchelor provided the climactic gladiatorial fight in the French film The Twelve Tasks of Asterix.

Watership Down.

In 1978 came Martin Rosen's Wateship Down, now generally remembered as the country's third significant animated feature, after Animal Farm and Yellow Submarine; the review quoted by Gifford is dismissive but history has been kinder to the film. The same cannot be said for 1978's The Water Babies, directed by Lionel Jeffries; this film featured animation provide by Polish studio Miniatur Filmowych bookended by live action sequences and was very much one for smaller kids. Gifford also lists the mostly live-action films The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle and Monty Python's Life of Brian in the strength of their animated sequences; the Pythons' company, incidentally, also produced Terry Gilliam's short Story Time in 1979.

The Water Babies.

Meanwhile, a feature of the last decade was spoofed in Little Big Films' short Yellow Submarine Sandwich, made for Eric Idle and Neil Innes' parody group the Rutles.

George Parker and Tony White lampoon Heinz Edelmann and George Dunning in Yellow Submarine Sandwich. More stills here.

Aside from Asterix, Halas & Batchelor made How Not to Succeed in Business: Parkinson's Law for the Parkinson Institute, the entertainment shorts Deadlock and Skyrider, the documentaries Chromatographic Separation, Making it Move, Measure of Man and Noah's Arc; the music video Autobahn (directed by Roger Mainwood, who also made the student film The Cage earlier in the decade); and Together for Children: Principle 10, part of a series whose other episodes were made in Mexico, East Germany, Canada, Finland, Russia, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and Poland. The studio collaborated with Bob Godfrey and Yugoslavia's Zagreb Studio on Dream Doll; Bob Godfrey also directed his masterpiece Great in 1975, the X-rated Dear Margery Boobs in 1977 and the five-part Screen Test Series in 1978. He also served as producer on Safe in the Sea in 1978 and on Graeme Jackson's Instant Sex in 1979.

Bob Godfrey's Great.

The Larkins studio, meanwhile, made Discovering Electricity, What Is Electricity?, Around the World in Eighty Ways and Operation Teastrainer; while TVC produced the Safety Senses Series, Teamwork, The Devil May Care and Black and White Magic; and Taylor Cartoons put out Icarus, Coastguard Telephone and Fishing Accident.

Russell Hall's lavish Count Pushkn advert Imperial Guard Cavalry, made at the Richard Williams Studio. More stills here.

Nicholas Cartoons made Super Natural Gas for British Gas, while Richard Williams' studio advertised Count Pushkin Vodka with Imperial Guard Cavalry and a Canadian railway company with Discovery Train.

Derek Phillips' A Concert.

Way Out, a short from 1975, was a collaboration between three prominent figures of the era: Ted Rockley directed it, Stan Hayward wrote it and Derek Phillips provided the music; the three also directed When I'm Rich together in 1977. Phillips also made A Concert, Switched On and Bigger is Better, while Rockley made A Tale of Two Cities and Hayward directed the experimental computer animation The Mathematician, backed by the BFI.

Early computer animation in Stan Hayward's The Mathematician.

Ian Emes made I Told You So; Freefall, originally shown as a back-projected image for Pink Floyd performances; Heart's Right; Witchflight; Oriental Nightfish, for Paul and Linda McCartney; and The Beard. Tony Hall gave us T'Batley Faust, reimagining Faust as a Yorkshireman; TV personality Tony Hart animated How to Lie with Statistics: The Average Chap and designed What Is a Computer, while Alison de Vere made two more shorts: Cafe Bar and Mr. Pascal.

Alison de Vere's Cafe Bar.

Other established directors active in the latter half of the seventies are Digby Turpin, who made the Guinness ad Is This a Record; Keith Learner, Nancy Hanna and Vera Linnecar of Biographic, who made I'm Sorry You've Been Kept Waiting; Vivienne Collins, who made Responsibility: A Film about Contraception; Peter Hickling, who directed Man and the Motor Car and The Mysterious Moon for Concord; Thalma Goldman, who made Amateur Night, Night Call and Stanley; Derek Hayes and Phil Austin, who made the student film Max Beeza and the City in the Sky; and Geoff Dunbar, who directed Ubu.

Geoff Dunbar's Ubu.

A major new talent from the seventies was Sheila Graber, who is portrayed by Gifford as exploding onto the scene with nine films in 1976 and seven more across the following years of the decade. Gifford's dates don't entirely match up by the ones she herself provided when I interviewed her, with these first nine films actually being made between 1974 and 1976, but this output still ranks alongside that of Derek Phillips in terms of sheer fruitfulness.

The Boy and the Cat, an early film by Sheila Graber, which can be viewed online here. See my interview with her for more on this animator's work.

The closing years of the decade saw early work from directors who would become prominent later on: Vera Neubauer made Animation for Live Action; Ian Moo-Young made The Ballad of Lucy Jordan; Nick Park directed Jack and the Beanstalk at the Sheffield Polytechnic; Michael Dudok de Wit made The Interview at the West Surrey College of Art and Design; Simon and Sara Bor made Father Christmas Forgets; and the Brothers Quay made Nocterna Artificiala. The Leeds Animation Workshop collective also appeared with their debut film Who Needs Nurseries? We Do!

Nocterna Artificiala, the earlest surviving film by the Brothers Quay.

Towards the end of the decade Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel started Cucumber Studios, which made two films in the seventies. The first, Clive Morton and Kevin Attew's Marx for Beginners, was thoroughly atypical - a cartoon history of the world from a Marxist point of view, produced by Bob Godfrey and showing the influence of Robert Crumb. The company later became associated instead with pop promos, such as their second film: 1979's Elvis Costello video Accidents Will Happen.

Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel's Accidents Will Happen, made for Elvis Costello. Go here for more stills.

As well as The Mathematician, the BFI financed Antoinette Starkiewicz's second British film High Fidelity, Jack Daniels' The Miracle, Anna Fodorova's Loop and Donald Holwill's The Adventures of Flutterguy. The Arts Council, meanwhile, funded Chris James' About Face and Tony White's Hokusai while the Greater London Arts Association backed Keith Greig's The Listeners and Michael Coulson and Nicola Bruce's Boolean Procedure.

Tony White's Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook, which can be seen here.

Other films from this period include Norman Stone's Support Your Local Poets; Guy Ferguson's Handle with Care, an instructional film for the Ministry of Defense; the Disney-ribbing Mickey's Nasty Turn, by Jeff Goldner of the charmingly-name Abattoir Fillums; Anna Brockett's science fiction short Newsflash; John Gibbons' A to A; Rick Megginson and Steve Hughes' All Sorts of Heroes; Catherine Andrews' Search for Source; Chris James' Reel People; Chris Sharp's Strip Cartoon and Metamorphosis; Robert Reid's The Case of the Sulphuric Acid Plant; Make-Up, by Joanna Fryer; Man the Inventor: The History of the Heat Engine, by David Oliver and Frank Brown; How the Motor Car Works: The Carburettor, by George Seager; Lane Discipline and Read the Road, by Ken Brown; Nostalgie de la Boue, by Peter Rimmer; Engineering Matters or the Continuing Story of Ogg, by Tim Thomas; The Owl and the Pussy Cat, by Lyn O'Neill (not to be confused with the Halas & Batchelor version from the fifties); Mercurious, by Stuart Wynn Jones; The Garden of Eden, by Marcia Kuperberg; The Adventures of Captain Mark and Krystel Klear, by Brian Early; The Code It Story, by Eric Wylam; Vanessa Luther-Smith's Crackers; Ray Bruce's Spare a Thought; Christopher Taylor's Ersatz; Funny Valentine, by Maya Brandt of the brilliantly-named COW Films; Frank Koller's The Bunyip; Four Moving Pictures, by Alan Andrews; Kate Canning's The Chinese Word for Horse; and the twenty-seven Animal Alphabet Parade shorts by John Williams.

Gifford credits the 1977 films Topiary and Hotel to MGR Productions, but doesn't identify any of the individuals responsible. Similarly, the 1978 Smiths Industries promotional film The Vital Spark is credited only to Animated Productions.

As far as student filmmakers go, London International Film School students Frank Bren, Hans Glanzmann and Ian Cook made A Helluva Bet in the West, La Forza Del Destino and Cathedral respectively; the North West Artists Association's Brodnax Moore directed Arrival of the Iron Egg; 11-14 year old pupils at a Whitby secondary school put together Creation; London College of Printing student Jack Warner made Schizophrenia; the National Film School's Andrew Walker made Too Much Monkey Business (and, after graduating, made the independent short Bob); the West Surrey College of Art student Jo Beedel made Swimming Pool; Mike Smith, also of WSCA, made Sakrazy; Ian Henderson of the Central School of Art and Design made That'll Be the Dej, while the same institution's Inni Karine Melbye made Out of Silence; Leeds Polytechnic's Rob Hopkin gave us Kalamazoo; the Royal College of Art's Morgan Sendall directed Doctor Nightmare; and National Film School student Margaret Allen made Mack the Knife.

As I said in the last post in this series the sixties are widely seen as one of UK animation's best decades, with the seventies implictly seen as marking a decline. But yet Gifford's book actually lists nearly twice as many films from the seventies as it does from the sixties: this decade, then, was hardly a drought.

What we do see is a continuing fragmentation: the films of the established studios, typified by Halas & Batchelor and Larkins, are by now completely outweighed by the output of much smaller studios, independent animators and students. We're also seeing fewer of the advertising , instructional and propaganda films that were once so common, as these had found a new home on television; however, music videos have started to become prominent.

In the final post in this series I will be looking at the animation made between 1980 and 1985, the last six years covered by Gifford's book.

Other posts in this series:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9

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