Monday, 27 August 2012

Derek Phillips in his own words

In an earlier post I talked about Derek Phillips. Despite being one of the most prolific independent animators of his period, there is very little available about his life or work online.

After making the post I was contacted by members of his family and was later put in touch with Derek Phillips himself. He was kind enough to write this short autobiography, which I am posting with permission.

I suppose it all started when I was a 7 or 8 year old and my brother and I were taken up to London to see one of the cartoon cinemas. There were quite a few in the 1930s where they showed hour long programmes of one-reeler Disney cartoons. I was enthralled by the animation but it was the subjects that captured me most. They were Disney interpretations of fables. I remember Ferdinand the Bull, The Golden Touch, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs and many more. These were the pointers that would later guide me to using the medium to express my own philosophies on life. So in affect the ideas came first and the medium second (it is usually the other way around).

I was tinkering about with film from about the mid-fifties. i made several live action films including the usual home movies and some for the Hayes Council. I was then getting one or two short ideas that I didn't quite know what to do with. It was then that I put two and two together and remembered the films of my childhood. I built a rough rostrum attached to my bedroom wall and made my first animated film, about space. It was called The Universal Cycle. In those days we had trouble synchronising picture with sound, but this problem was solved by using 16mm magnetic film. I made the soundtrack first then fitted the picture to it.

I entered films in the Movie Maker Ten Best competition and won about six awards over the years. I went on to make about thirty or forty such films. These got me noticed by the BBC and I was asked, together with Stan Hayward, to be advisers on the Bob Godfrey TV series The Do It Yourself Film Animation Show. From there I did the editing and camera work for Bob's Henry's Cat where he would occasionally come over to me and do a bit of manipulation under the camera, but generally I worked on my own. I then contributed animation inserts and short films for the BBC Further Education Department and for children's shows and commercials, et cetera.

During all this, as a joke, my brother said 'Why don't you make a series?' At that time I don't think anybody had the temerity to make an animated series on their own. So I did a bit of scribbling and produced 13 x 6 minute scripts called Aubrey which were without voice over. I started making them over a period of about six months. They were accepted by Thames TV and I went on to make 26 more. I then made 20 x 5 episodes of Crazy Crow and finally 13 x 10 episodes of Little Brrm.

1 comment:

  1. When Phil Austin and I were at the National Film School, one of the people who came in to see us and show films was Derek Phillips. We had a very interesting day discussing the way he worked and watching some of his work. I'd love to see some of those films again and I think they would be an inspiration to a lot of students struggling to make films on their own. I wonder if there is any way of helping Derek to get them onto the internet; I imagine that the problem would be getting them telecined (i.e. paying for it).