John Halas Profile

A man with wisdom and experience to guide him

John Halas.

By Ken Clark

Abroad he is wined, dined and feted. Japan is one of his greatest admirers, with Albania and Bulgaria close followers. In America he excites great respect and where in recent times they have acted as host to his exhibition ‘Art & Animation’. A Hollywood studio has just invited him to work on a proposed animated feature concerning the exploits of “The Young Sinbad”. The man at the centre of it all is John Halas.

Strangely – and this despite his undoubted PR powers – it is in this country where his lack of public recognition gives rise to feelings of regret. It must seem odd, considering his prolific output over the years. If the general public remains oblivious to his many talents, perhaps it is because he has never really addressed them. An educated writer, his articles bear such tides as:

‘Integration of Stage & Film’; ‘Production of Computer Animated Film’; ‘Why 200 Only? The History & Techniques of Feature Length Animated Films’, his books include:
‘The Technique of Film Animation’; ‘Design in Motion’; ‘Art in Movement’; ‘Film & TV Graphics’; and ‘Film & TV Graphics 2’. None of the articles appeared in the popular press, while his books are expensive reference manuals written for his peers and the converted. Excellent informative reading, it rarely – if ever – finds its way onto Joe Public’s breakfast table. The glare of publicity seldom spotlights an animated short, much less the filmmaker. John Halas’ regrets must be shared by many others in the profession.

Joy Batchelor. Photo 1961.

The worst response has come from Germany. At the mere mention of that country’s name a look of injured betrayal creases John’s usually placid countenance. For German business ethics have dealt him a grievous blow, to the extent Interpol has been called in to investigate a continuing problem. Much is in the realms of ‘sub-judice’ but the insult revolves around the use of ‘Animal Farm’ artwork in published form without permission; of the distribution and exhibition of his films without record or remuneration; and of his Max & Moritz series gathering dust for a decade and a half on the shelves of a German distributor without a visible sign of their potential being actively exploited. While expressing the hope that none of his friends and colleagues have suffered similarly, I had the impression he would be interested to learn of other misdeeds insofar as they might aid the investigation.

On a happier note, his films are being screened all round the world. There are few left on the shelf at this moment in time. An agreement signed a few months ago permits the screening of a large number of his films on the children’s satellite video programme, and it is the income from such sources that keep John Halas, Freelance Animated Filmmaker in business.

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