Thursday, 20 January 2011

Following up on Gifford: 1980-1985

The ninth and final post in a series 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, but some may have etill slipped through the net.

Reading through this chapter of Gifford's book, the most striking thing is the vast amount of student films - entire pages are taken up by nothing but. The independent animation community of the sixties and seventies seems to have dwindled away considerably, with a new community rising up under the roofs of the country's art schools.

Beyond this, it was hard to make out any real trends over these few years. This post turned out to be very dry to write; looking back we can see that it Gifford's book actually ends at a transitional period, between the eras of sixties-seventies independents and large studios such as Halas & Batchelor, and the era of Channel 4.

Night Club, a student film by Jonathan Hodgson. More stills here.

I'll begin with the student films. I am not entirely sure what Gifford's critera for inclusion was. Obviosuly, not all student animators from this period are covered - one animator missed by Gifford being Chris Daykin, who emailed me in regards to his absense.

At the Royal College of Art were Jonathan Richardson, who made Once Upon a Time; Lys Flowerday, who made Bal Masque with the help of Stephen Quay; Gill Bradley, who made Give Me Some Action; Gary McCarver, who made Stolen Pride; Jonathan Hodgson, who made Night Club, Arty Film, Menagerie and Train of Thought; Sue Young, who made Trafalgar Square and Carnival; and finally Christine Tongue, who made Flight.

Another student film by a soon-to-be prominent talent: Sue Young's Carnival.

Meanwhile, at the National Film School, Alex Brychta made Flora Dance; David Anderson made Dream Land Express; Nick Willing made The Golden Grape; Dennis de Groot and Tim Ollive made 1884; Alison Snowden made Second Class Mail; and Mark Baker made The Black Bicycle, featuring the voice talent of a before-he-was-famous Nick Park.

At the West Surrey College of Art Michael Smethen made Second Sight; Daniel Greaves made Alarm Call; Russell Brooke made Comic Story; Mark Baker directed The Three Knights; Paul Rosevear made Gypsy; Malcolm Hartley made The Journey; Simon Margetts, Julian Caldow and Caroline Grebbie made Low Odds; Tim Webb, Ron McRae and Terry Donner made Berlin; Stephen Weston made The Wreck of the Julie Plante; Quentin Mills made Bar Code; and Simon Margetts made Electric Palace.

Another notable institution is the Leicester Polytechnic, where Nik Lever made John Barlycorn; Nicola Gibson made Clown; Jane Beecham made Holiday on Death Row; Carol Ziegler made Roger the Dog; Harry Dorrington made Jaws; King Mon Chan made Space Visitor; Arthur White made Drawing with Light; and Mark Fuller made Gallery.

Moving on to St. Martin's School of Art, Matt Forest and Andy Morahan co-directed Space Invaders; Augur Schiff made Weekend Epic; Ravi Narayanswami (who had previously made In Flagranti with the Greater London Arts Association) directed Just Walking; Rashad Salim made Basics; Joanna Woodward made The Poet of Half Past Three; Stephen Pride and Christopher Delaney made Peacock Feathers; and Cathryn Marshall made Siamese Cat Song.

At the Gwent College, Pete Turner made Pandora; Richard Fawdry made The Egg and the Griffin; Stephen Shore made Louis the Conquerer; and Joan Asworth directed Macbeth. At the Bath Academy of Art Alastair Taylor made The Fridge D'or and Gigue; and Art Parker made Cabaret.

At Middlesex Polytechnic, Sara Bor directed You're the Cream in my Coffee; and Jeff Newitt made Monster Man. At the Croydon College of Art Tim Summers directed Panopticon: The Firm's Eye View; Shahryar Bahrani made The Idol Breakers; Victor Kulisz made Fruit Machine and Janet Simmonds made Struggle After Death.

Meanwhile, at the Hull College of Higher Education, Keith Roberts made The Pudding Factor; Anne Whiteford made In the Mood, in the Nude; and Liz Spencer made Sredni Vashtar. At Goldsmiths College James Heyworth made Proserpine and A Tale of Gothic Horror; Steve Watts, Garry Martin and Paddy Morris made To Mom with Love; and Charlotte Worthington made Who Exploits Whom.

At the London College of Printing Bran Golding and Barry O'Keefe made The History of the Alphabet Part One; someone identified only as "D.J." made Manzigo; Renan Tolon made Dog Day Afternoon and Sleeping Beauty; the Foundation Studies Department made Creation; Brigitte Hartley made Dada; and Andrew Wayne Barrass made Back in the Playground and Money Money.

At the Liverpool Polytechnic Chris Yarwood made Life Drawn; Jonathan Hodgson made Dogs; Chris Bowman made Opus 1 2 3; and Sue Young made Thin Blue Lines. Martin Cheek of the Exeter College of Art made Spring Sonata; the University of York's David Kershaw directed Opus; Goldsmith's College student John Le Pelley made Iron Lady; Carlo Briscoe of the Trent Polytechnic made In the City; while at the Kingston Polytechnic Damian Gascoigne made Ghost Town and Naomi Davies made Me and My Shadow.

And finally there's the Humberside College, where Nigel Winfield made The Attention Seeker and Belinda Moores made The Day That the Circus Left Town.

Sunbeam, Paul Vester's tribute to Hollywood animation.

Moving on to the established directors, Paul Vester made Sunbeam in 1980; the same year also saw Ian Emes' Escher and Vera Linnecar's Do I Detect a Change in Your Attitude. In 1981 Kathleen Houston directed How the Kiwi Lost its Wings, Jimmy T. Murakami made Carousel for TVC; Chris James directed After Beardsly; and Stuart Wynn Jones, formally of the Grasshopper Group, made Organic Canonic Icon.

Dilemma, identified by John Halas as the most important film of his life. More stills can be seen here.

Halas & Batchelor made Dilemma and First Steps in 1981 and Players the following year. Peter Tupy directed Cochlea Heroes in 1982, while Sheila Graber - after making Evolution, Face to Face, Expressionism and Dance Macabre - moved to television in 1983 with the Just So Stories series.

The Elephant's Child, one of Sheila Graber's takes on Kipling's Just So Stories.

Derek Hayes and Phil Austin made Bring it All Home in 1980 and Arcade Attack in 1982;
Bob Godfrey directed Bio Woman in 1981 and Polygamous Polonius Revisited in 1984; Ian Moo-Young directed History of Grease in 1983, and also teamed up with Joachim Krek, Volker Kriegel and Alastair McIlwain on a short entitled The Chord Sharp.

Vera Neubauer's The Decision, a commentary on the role of women in society, flashes between live action and deliberately childlike animation.

Vera Neubauer made The Decision in 1981, backed by the BFI, and the part-live action film The World of Children in 1984.

This Unnameable Little Broom, the Brothers Quay's restaging of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Brothers Quay collaborated with Keith Griffiths on Punch and Judy in 1980 and made Ein Brudermord: A Fratricide in 1981 and This Unnameable Little Broom in 1985.

Miroslaw Kijowicz's Silence.

Bill Mather made Them in 1982; Maya Brandt made Smile Please in 1982 and Inside Job in 1984; Lesley Keen made Taking a Line for a Walk in 1983; Miroslaw Kijowicz, who had previously worked on The Water Babies, made Silence in 1984; and Marjut Rimminen collaborated with Christine Roche on the 1985 short I'm Not a Feminist But.

Geoff Dunbar adapts the much-loved Daily Express strip in Rupert and the Frog Song.

Nicola Bruce and Mike Coulson directed Clip in 1983; Geoff Dunbar directed Rupert and the Frog Song in 1984; and Anna Brockett made Ms. Moon in 1985.

Frozen Ponds Can Be Dangerous, also known as simply Frozen Ponds, a public information film by Richard Taylor and Roger McIntosh. More stills here.

Richard Taylor continued making public information films, directing Air Beds, Frozen Ponds Can Be Dangerous (with Roger McIntosh), Swimsong and Adoption. Meanwhile, the Leeds Animation Workshop advised viewers on health and safety in Risky Business, attacked the government's stance on nuclear war in Pretend You'll Survive and commented on feminism in Give Us a Smile.

Oscar Grillo's exuberant Seaside Woman.

On the music video front Clive Morton and Annabel Jankel of Cucumber Studios made Genius of Love for the Tom Tom Club in 1982; New Frontier for Donald Fagen in 1983; and Pleasure of Love, also for the Tom Tom Club, in 1984. There was also Oscar Grillo's 1980 Seaside Woman, for the McCartneys.

Harold Whitaker's Grimaldi was one of two sequences in Heavy Metal to be directed by Halas & Batchelor.

Gifford lists three feature films for this decade: 1981's Heavy Metal, a Canadian anthology film featuring segments animated by TVC and Halas & Batchelor; The Plague Dogs, Martin Rosen's downbeat 1982 follow-up to Watership Down; And Pink Floyd: The Wall, a live action film from the same year containing animated sequences designed by Gerald Scarfe.

Martin Rosen's adaptation of Richard Adams' The Plague Dogs.

A wave of new directors made short films in 1981. These include John Sunderland, who directed the 25-minute Kremmen the Movie, starring Kenny Everett's spoof sci-fi hero; Porl Smith of Lincolnshire & Humberside Arts, who made Keep Off the Grass; Brenda Horsman of the London Filmmakers Cooperative, who made The Wife; John J. Miller, who directed Act V; Sue Tee, who directed the four-part series The Vision, a modernisation of The Pilgrim's Progress; Charlotte Jennings, who directed The Big Hit; Strinda Davies, who made Fifty Ways to Look More Lovely; Tara Fletcher, who directed the Hillaire Beloc adaptation Henry King (and, in 1984, The Burgler); Mole Hill, who made Last Respects (and Noblesse Oblige in 1983); Nick Kavanagh, who made Movieola; Robin Whiteman, who made The Way of the Fool; and finally Richard Wolff, who had previously worked as a camera operator on a number of shorts, directed Still Life in 1981 and First Sight in 1983.

Act V, John J. Miller's animated treatment of Hamlet. More stills here.

The new directors of the next few years include Christine Edzard, who made The Nightingale in 1982; Marcus Parker-Rhodes, one of the animators on Cucumber's Marx for Beginners, who made Imbrium Beach in 1982; Stuart Selkirk, who made Lost Causes and Hawk Roosting in 1982; Jon Brooks, who made The Secret Army in 1982 and The View in 1983; Pearce Studios, which made Bits in 1983; Ariane Dixon and Tim Darlow, who made The Princess and the Musician in 1983; Nick Gordon Smith, who made Heaven of Animals in 1984; Alan Hodge, who made The Aeronauts in 1984; Ann Barefoot, who made Circus in 1985; political cartoonist Steve Bell, who made The Journalist's Tale in 1985; and Clive Mitchell, who made Gas Naturally, a 1985 promotional film for BP.

Jon Brooks turns a child's bedroom into a warzone in The Secret Army.

Almost certainly the decade's biggest contribution to British animation was the founding of Channel 4. However, the channel's work with animation was in its early days in these six years, only two Channel 4-backed films made it into Gifford's book: Dianne Jackson's 1982 The Snowman, and the Quays' aforementioned This Unnameable Little Broom.

Ending on a high note: Dianne Jackson's adaptation of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman.

And that brings us to the end of the period covered by Denis Gifford. I hope you enjoyed reading these posts - it was definitely interesting putting them together - and perhaps they'll inspire a little more interest into UK animation's history.

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

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I periodically scour the internet for any footage from "in Flagranti", on which I did the animation and artwork / shooting, with the director Neil Thomson (who went on to the London Film School after St Martins, which is where I met him) - no luck, but I have it somewhere on tape - too lazy to dig it out and convert it - perhaps finding your blog might be an impetus.

    Nice to get a mention re the two shorts I made, although technically "In Flagranti" is a co-production.

    It was a huge amount of work, in retrospect but stylistically sort of fit in to a very short lived trend in commercial animation, for very rich rendered animation, which Richard Williams Studio initiated and a few commercial studios carried on, until Roger Rabbit came along - some would say, thankfully....