Sunday, 19 May 2013

Public information films and the studios that made them

I've often posted about public information films, usually drawing on the Charley Says DVD compilation, but a lot of the time I've been unable to shed light on exactly who made the things. One site - now defunct, but accessible through - provided company details for many of the films in the set, but I had no way of verifying this information. My copy of the DVD doesn't have these details, so I was unsure where it came from.

Eventually I realised that the site could've been drawing on the original VHS release of the compilation; I bought a copy and, sure enough, it was all in the liner notes. So, here is a quick rundown of the studios which were responsible for the public information films.

Halas & Batchelor

Halas & Batchelor cut its teeth on propaganda films during the war, but does not appear to have done a great amount of work in the field of television PIFs. Charley Says volume one includes only two films from the studio; the second has a few more starring the character from Rude on the Road, which were presumably also made by H&B.

 Rude on the Road (1959)

Road Hog - Don't be Rude on the Road (1960)

Nicholas Cartoons

Best known for creating Willo the Wisp, Nicholas Spargo and his company Nicholas Cartoons made quite a few public information films. A strong sense of humour comes through in the character designs.

Dinosaur (1967)


Like Halas & Batchelor, Larkins was a venerable old studio which had been working in the field of propaganda and information films since the second world war but does not seem to have embraced public information films for television. Only one Larkins film is included in the compilation.

Iced Ponds (1969)

Richard Taylor

Tell Mummy (1969)

Polystyrene Tiles (1970)

Motorway Fog (1970)

Charley series (1973)

Protect and Survive (1975)

Flying Motorbikes (1977)

Dazzling Man (1978)

Airbeds (1980)

Frozen Ponds (1980)

Swimsong  (1982)

Rabies Advice (1983)

Positive Furniture Labelling (1983)

Fishing Accident (1983)

New Decade Films

I know next to nothing about New Decade Films, which made a single short included in the set. All I can say is that IMDB credits the company (or a different one with the same name?) with a 25-minute short from 1983 called Manpower, which was apparently about sports.

Stewart Hardy Films

Judging by the BFI database, Stewart Hardy Films (or Stewart-Hardy Films) had a strong run from 1956 to 1985; most of its work seems to have been in educational films. Henry "String" Stringer of GB Instructional was one of its co-founders, and a fellow named Ken Hardy was also involved. Unfortunately, I have no idea who Mr. Stewart was...

Frost Warning (1969)

Beware Fog (1969)

Televideo Productions

I'm afraid I had no luck finding information on the studio behind the stop-motion Tufty Squirrel shorts. The matter is muddied by the fact that several different companies around the world have used the same name over the years.

Under 5s (1973)

VCL Productions

Another studio which seems to have vanished into the mists of time. Any information on who worked here would be appreciated - there's some good cartooning in these two films.

Helen Wiggins Films

The BFI database credits this company with various projects from 1958 to 1972. Another studio which specialised in educational work, it seems.

Prevent Smog (1969)

Guild Animation Ltd.

Outside of a few more credits for educational films at the BFI database, I can't find anything about this studio. I'd love to know who did the designs for these two films...

CJD Productions

According to the BFI database, this company also produced a couple of documentaries, at least one of which included animation.

Dragon Productions

This company was co-founded by Oscar Grillo in 1973 and, amongst other things, was responsible for the Buzby promotional films in the eighties.

Tony Cuthbert Cartoons

This company was active until quite recently - see this archive of its website for more. According to this thread at Roobarb's Forum, Tony Cuthbert himself passed away in late 2011.

Door Chain (1976)

Grand Slam Animation

The liner notes say "Grand Slam", but I'm wondering if this is actually Geoff Dunbar's company Grand Slamm.

Prams and Pushchairs (1979)


The studio behind Yellow Submarine and The Snowman needs no introduction. As with Halas & Batchelor and Larkins, the company appears to have stayed away from public information films during their golden age.

Traffic Shapes (1980)

Direct Effects

The only company by this name which I can find any information on is an American special effects outfit which worked on a 2001 film called Wendigo. I very much doubt they're related...

Animus Productions

This company was founded by Tony White, and was more prolific than its single film in this set suggests - just look at this showreel.

Sea Danger (1982)

Studio Lambert

Presumably this is the Studio Lambert which worked mainly in advertising from the fifties to the eighties, set up by Roger Lambert. Interestingly, his son Stephen Lambert appears to have recently revived the company name, but not for animation this time round.

Malaria Warning (1983)


And finally, we come to the films whose creators are not identified.

Pelican Motorist (1969)

Paraffin Heaters (1970)

Baby Walkers (1974)

Talking Gas (1978)

Zig Zag Pedestrians (1979)

Snow Seen (1980)

Don't Dazzle (1980)

Marine Safety Equipment (1983)

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