Sunday, 28 November 2010

Antoinette Starkiewicz: Puttin' on the Ritz and High Fidelity

Born in Poland and currently living in Australia, Antoinette Starkiewicz at one point worked in the UK. She studied animation at the London Film School where she made Puttin' on the Ritz in 1974; two years later she made High Fidelity with backing from the BFI.

More about the latter short can be found on the BFI's website; see her own site for her more recent work.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Following up on Gifford: the 1960s

The seventh 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.

As Gifford's book only covers animated films that were released into cinemas, the coming of television animation will not be covered in-depth in this post; however, as TV adverts provided a source of funding for independent work, its impact can still be seen.

Once again, we start with the familiar names. In 1960 the Larkins studio came out with The Marriage, a Barclay's Bank advert for distribution in West Africa; John Halas and Joy Batchelor directed Piping Hot for the Gas Council; Allan Crick, now working for Technical and Scientific Films, directed Guilty or Not Guilty for the General Dental Council; and Bob Godfrey and his cohorts at Biographic put together Polygamous Polonius, beginning a cycle of bawdy cartoons.

Power Train, an instructional short made by Industrial Animated Films for Ford Motors, has a credits list which serves as a cross section of early sixties animation talent: it was produced by George Dunning, directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, and written by Dunning, Stan Hayward and Richard Williams. Dunning, a Canadian, moved to Britain in 1956 to head a London-based branch of UPA; this venture proved short-lived but resulted in the founding of TVC. One of TVC's early works was a short comedy entitled The Wardrobe, directed by Dunning and written by Hayward; Gifford lists it as a 1960 release but other sources identify it was being made at the tail-end of the fifties.

Also created in 1960 was the Fanta the Elephant Series, a set of five three-minute road safety cartoons backed by Shell and BP. Originally made for television, they were released into cinemas in 1965. Gifford does not credit the makers of the series.

Halas & Batchelor's Hamilton the Musical Elephant.

In 1961 Halas & Batchelor released four more films: The History of Inventions, a collaboration with Italian animator Bruno Bozetto; For Better ... for Worse, for Philips; The Wonder of Wool, for the International Wool Secretariat; and Hamilton the Musical Elephant, the first of two cartoons starring the Hamilton character.

Bob Godfrey's The Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit, which can be viewed online here.

Gifford lists Biographic's proto-Python short The Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit as being released the same year; other sources place its release in the late fifties. Also in 1960 Educational Films of Scotland - which had funded Sir Patrick Spensthe previous decade - backed Edward and Elizabeth Odling's Burns adaptation Holy Willie's Prayer; while someone not credited by Gifford made Higher Profit for the Small Dairy Farms, a promotional film for Fisons.

George Dunning's classic The Flying Man.

In 1962 more films were directed by George Dunning at TVC: The Apple, a short comedy written by Stan Hayward, and the experimental The Flying Man; meanwhile, Richard Williams directed two shorts under the banner of Williams Films: Lecture on Man and Love Me, Love Me, Love Me. Biographic released an animation/live-action hybrid satirising advertising, The Plain Man's Guide to Advertising; and Halas & Batchelor concluded its Hamilton series with Hamilton in the Music Festival. Beyond that the year gave us several propaganda, advertising and instructional films: TVC's The Ever-Changing Motor Car for Ford and The Redemption of a Retailer for Gillette; Ken Woodward's Spaghetti Varieties for the British Macaroni Industry; Halas & Batchelor's The Commonwealth for the Nuffield Foundation and the Commonwealth Institute, and The Colombo Plan for the tenth anniversary of the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic Development in South and South East Asia; and Industrial Animation's Mr. Know-How in Hot Water for the Gas Council.

Richard Williams' Love Me, Love Me, Love Me.

Some more old faces turned up again in 1963. The Grasshopper Group, an independent outfit which had begun animating in the fifties, released three shorts: A Short Spell, a drawn-on-film animation themed around the alphabet; The Rejected Rose, about the rivalry between a painter and a musician in love with the same girl; and Victoria's Rocking Horse, about a little girl who steals a horse from a merry-go-round. Meanwhile, Bubble and Squeek creator George Moreno Jr. collaborated with Fred Thompson on the Merry Music Shop series: Bumble Bee Fair, The Land of Birthday Toys, Little Mr. Robin, The Little Swiss Whistling Clock, Thunderclap Jones and Jack O' Diamonds.

Halas & Batchelor's Automania 2000.

World Wide released a couple of films that year: John Reed's Your Digestion and Ken Woodward's Your Hair and Scalp, both for Unilever. A company called De La Rue Films made House Warming, a promotional film for Thomas Potterton Ltd.; and Industrial Animation made a second Mr. Know-How film for the Gas Council, Mr. Know-How in All Round Comfort. And, of course, Halas & Batchelor continued to produce shorts: Pulmonary Function, an instructional film for Boehringer-Ingelheim; The Showing up of Larry the Lamb and The Tale of the Musician, based on SG Hulme Beaman's characters (later used on television in the seventies); and Automania 2000, a satire on car culture which is today amongst the studio's best-remembered works.

Halas & Batchelor's Ruddigore, which I posted more about here.

Over the rest of the decade Halas & Batchelor produced Man in Silence, based on the drawings of Augustin Ibarola; A Midsummer Nightmare, satirising modern obsessions with television; The Axe and the Lamp, based on Peter Breughel's 16th century painting; Flurina, an Anglo-Swiss co-production about a girl rescuing a small bird from an eagle; Bolly, about a character in space; To Our Children's Children's Children, a musical cartoon; the instructional films Flow Diagram, The Question, Functions and Relations, Linear Programming, Topology, Metrication, Matrices and What is a Computer; and the anti-smoking film Dying for a Smoke. Alongside these was Ruddigore, a fourth feature-length production and Britain's second mainstream animated feature.

Jimmy T. Murakami's The Insects.

TVC's productions from these years include The Insects, a short by Jimmy T. Murakami; Discovery Penicillin, an instructional film for the foreign office; The First Adventure of Thud and Blunder and its seven sequels for the National Coal Board; Charley, a George Dunning short about a shapeshifting boy; Tidy Why, a propaganda film promoting National Anti-Litter Week; The Chair, a comedy short directed by Bill Sewell; Discovering Radar, by Jim Duffy and John Fletcher; Hands, Knees and Boomps-a-Daisy, another National Coal Board film; and Cod Fishing, another Bill Sewell short. But the best- remembered of TVC's sixties works is, of course, Yellow Submarine, the second British animated feature of the decade and a bona fide classic. George Dunning also directed The Ladder away from TVC.

Yellow Submarine, almost certainly the best-known British animation of the decade.

Meanwhile, the Biographic group made several more shorts: A Productivity Primer, The Rise and Fall of Emily Sprod, Alf, Bill and Fred, Aquarius, Be Careful Boys, Goldwhiskers, Springtime for Samantha, Quodlibet and The Trend Setter. Bob Godfrey also directed several shorts under the banner of Godfrey Films: Rope Trick, What Ever Happened to Uncle Fred and Two Off the Cuff.

The Rise and Fall of Emily Sprod.

The Larkins studio continued to focus on propaganda and promotional films: The Sure Thing, for the British Insurance Association; The Banking Game, The Bargain, Titi and the Woodman, Henry Philpott, Who'll Pay My Mortgage? and The Curious History of Money, for Barclay's Bank; Dream Sound, for Shell; Johnny and the D.K. Robot, for the Oral Hygiene Service; Small Boats, for the British National Export Council; Refining, for BP; and Cool and Calculating, for Midlands Bank.

Richard Taylor's Don't Talk to Strangers uses a style mimicking chidren's drawings.

One Larkins animator, Richard Taylor, set up his own company: Taylor Cartoons. This outfit made Demonstration, a comedy about contemporary demonstrators; Uhuru, which poked fun at British colonialism; and The Revolution, another piece of political commentary. Taylor also advertised Barclays Bank with The Rise of Parnassus Needy and The Pilgrim, and promoted the National Wool Textile Export Corporation with The Princess and the Wonderful Weaver. But in 1969 Taylor Cartoons made two films teaching children basic safety - Tell Mummy and Don't Talk to Strangers - and it is with such public information films that Richard Taylor became associated. The same year he also made G.I.G.O.: Garbage in Garbage Out, another Barclays ad, this time at Millbank Films.

Nicholas Spargo's public information film Dinosaur.

Another animator working on public information films was Nicholas Spargo of Nicholas Cartoons, who made Genius Man and Dinosaur for the Central Office of Information and The Air Show for Atlas Copco. He would later create Willo the Wisp for TV.

A prolific independent animator of the period was Derek Phillips, future creator of the 1983 series Aubrey. His shorts of the period were Universal Cycle, Work of Art, The Fan, A Fable, Clever, Square, The Greater Community Animal, A Passing Phase, In Popular Demand, The Line, Same but Different, Credit, Clean, Perfect, Round and Round, Handyman, Oops! and Mine All Mine. Gifford lists the production company behind Derek Phillips' shorts as "Phillips", but his films should not be confused with the numerous animated shorts backed by Philips Electrical such as 1966's Barbarota, made by Reg Lodge of World Wide Pictures.

Peter See made a 1967 short entitled The Professor for Rank Short Films; the same year director Dick Horn collaborated with writer Stan Hayward on Fairy Tale, Errol le Cain directed the Richard Williams-produced The Sailor and the Devil and Bernard Queenman made The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, sponsored by Argo Records in America.

In 1969 Antony Donaldson and Robert Graham collaborated on Soft Orange, an experimental film made using wax; "Erotic images with an undertone of menace", says the British National Film Catalogue. The same year C. Griffith, F. Langford and Ken Gray of Eothen Films animated The Travellers and the Thieves, based on two West African folktales; and Wyatt - Cattaneo Productions (named after producer Ron Wyatt and director Tony Cattaneo) made I Love You, written by Stan Hayward, and Package Deal, a United States Lines advert.

A Mug's Game, or, How to Squash a Lemon Head.

As far as other promotional and educational films of the sixties go, the Scottish Educational Film Association made a 1965 film, Simple Simon, as a reading excercise for small children; A Mug's Game was a somewhat unusual public information film from 1967 discouraging children from throwing rubbish on railways and featuring stop-motion puppets against drawn backgrounds; Alan Pendry directed The Polyolefins for the Shell Film Unit; Derek Stewart made The Right Knight for Bovis; Joan Garrick animated What Exactly Is a Program? for International Computers; Norman Hemsley directed the 1967 stop-motion film The Furry Folk on Holiday (which, starring the cult figure of Tufty Fluffytail, taught children how to keep safe near roads and at the seaside); and Bob Privett, who had worked for Halas & Batchelor, directed Automatic Fare Collection and You for British Transport Films.

A couple of independent animators who would achieve acclaim in later years started out in the late sixties: Paul Vester directed Anima and Repetition, while Alison De Vere (aside from working on Yellow Submarine, in which she was immortalised as the model for Eleanor Rigby) made Two Faces. And finally, the BFI funded two more films: Mel Calman's The Arrow and Abu Abraham's No Arks. Both directors were well-known for the social commentary of their newspaper cartoons, and their animations continued the themes of their printed work.

Abu Abraham's No Arks.

This takes us to the end of the sixties, remembered by some as a golden age of animation in the UK; it was certainly a good decade for short men with big noses. Only two more decades are covered by Gifford's book; in the penultimate post in this series I'll be looking at the animation of the seventies.

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