Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Looking Back at 2017

Okay, I'll be the first to admit: my end-of-year retrospectives are getting later and later. Mea culpa. Now, almost a third of the way into 2018, let us take a look back at British animation in 2017...


2017 saw an international co-production join the ranks of British feature animation: Loving Vincent, a biographical film about the death of Vincent Can Gogh. Production was split between the UK, USA and Poland, with an international team of painters transforming the British cast into rotoscoped recreations of Van Gogh's distinctive style.

The one British animation nominee at the Oscars was Robert Valley's Pear Cider and Cigarettes (a Canada/UK co-production), which lost to Pixar's Piper. At the BAFTAs, Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara's A Love Story beat out Jac Clinch's The Alan Dimension and Jennifer Zheng's Tough for Best British Short Animation

There were no British winners at the Ottawa festival this year, but the Annecy and London festivals were different matters.

At Annecy, Loving Vincent won the Audience Award in the Feature Film category; in the section for TV and Commissioned Films, Revolting Rhymes took the Cristal for a TV Production, the Selfridges advert Material World won the Cristal for a Commissioned Film, and Steve Cutts' music video for Moby's "Are You Lost in the World Like Me?" won the Jury Award.

At London, the Best British Film category saw Peter Millard's Six God Alphabet become the judges' choice, while Rory Waudby-Tolley's Art For Lawyers took the Audience Vote; Emily Scaife's Attraction won the Judges' Special Mention and Audience Vote in Best Abstract Film; and Will Anderson's Have Heart took one of three Jury Special Awards. The first International Competition Programme (with the theme From Absurd to Zany) had another British winner: Nicolas Menard's Wednesday with Goddard, which won the Judges' Vote.

Sadly, as always, we must say goodbye to a number of people who helped to make British animation of the past.


As well as his illustrious career in live action, John Hurt had a number of animated roles both large an small: Hazel in the film Watership Down (and General Woundwort in the later TV version), Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings, Snitter in The Plague Dogs, the Horned King in Disney's The Black Cauldron, Mr. Mole in Don Bluth's Thumbelina, Pretarius in the English dub of Felidae, Sebastian in the English dub of A Monkey's Tale, the narrator in The Tigger Movie, Harry in the part-CGI Pride, Felix in Valiant, Professor Broom in Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron, Owl in The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, Grandpa Sammy in A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures, Brother Carnak in Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie, Sailor John in Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, and the title character in the short The Alchemist's Letter. He died on 25 January, aged 77.


Tony Haygarth was a veteran actor whose various roles took him everywhere from I, Claudius to Emmerdale. He achieved animated immortality by playing Mr. Tweedy in Chicken Run. He died on 10 March, aged 72.


Geoffrey Bayldon is best remembered as the star of the live-action children's series Catweazle. His contribution to animation was to provide voices for English dubs of French-language prouctions: Baylon played Calculus in Tintin and the Temple of the Sun, and Getafix in Asterix in America. He died on 10 May, aged 93.


Renowned as one of the James Bond actors, Roger Moore appeared in a number of animated projects, often spoofing his most famous live-action role. He voiced Father Christmas in the UNICEF short The Fly Who Loved Me, the villainous January Q. Irontail in Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie, Burt Gasket in Agent Crush, Tab Lazenby in the part-animated Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and Leif in the upcoming Troll Hunters. He died on 23 May, aged 89.


As one of the most recognisable voices in British animation, Peter Sallis requires little introduction. Nick Park (then a student) hired Sallis (then co-starring in Last of the Summer Wine) to star in A Grand Day Out with Wallace & Gromit, and the actor reprised his role in every major Wallace & Gromit project since. He also voiced Rat in Cosgrove-Hall's TV series of The Wind in the Willows. He died on 2 June, aged 96.


Michael Bond made his debut as a children's author in 1958 with A Bear Called Paddington. Thus begun one of the most enduring children's characters to come out of the UK: Paddington appeared not only in a string of sequels over the following decades, but also multiple animated projects, being depicted in stop-motion, cel and CGI animation. Michael Bond died on 27 June, aged 91.


One of the most beloved faces on British television, Bruce Forsyth was best known as a game show host. His animation-related performances include narrating the early nineties cartoon series Fiddley Foodle Bird, and (in his younger years) playing Swinburne in Disney's part-animated film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He died on 18 August, aged 89.


Benjamin Whitrow was a veteran actor on film and television; his animated roles include Norman in Muzzy and Fowler in Chicken Run. He died on 28 September, aged 80.


Roy Dotrice was a character actor who, alongside his many live action roles, lent his voice to a few American cartoons: Disney's The Prince and the Pauper, Batman: The Animated Series, and the 1990s incarnation of Spider-Man. He died on 16 October, aged 94.


Sean Hughes was a popular stand-up comedian and actor, who voiced Tapir in the Robbie the Reinder specials and Finbar in Rubberdubbers. He died on 16 October, aged 51.


A respected actress on stage and screen, Rosemary Leach had a number of animated roles. She voiced Vera in The Plague Dogs, the narrator in one episode of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, Tabitha Twitchit in The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, Lady Daisy Woodmouse and Old Mrs Eyebright in Brambly Hedge and Myfanwy in Bosom Pals. She died on 21 October, aged 81.

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