The Shadows Move
Ken Clark continues the story of British Animation.
When, in 1935, Anson Dyer and Archibald Nettlefold opened Anglia Films Ltd., Dyer filled the art rooms with the best talent he could find, headed by two Danes: Mykleson and Myller. Len Kirley, Laurie Price, Sid Griffiths, Spud Murphy, Lesley Manners, and Charles Stobbart the cameraman were key personnel. Charles was a cousin of the famed screen actor Charles Laughton. It was Jorgan Myller who designed the first in a series of Operatic Burlesques entitled ‘Carmen’. The film had a certain panache, style and pace, and involved full animation much to the dismay of Dyer who was visibly taken aback by the enormous stack of animated drawings. This production could have set the pattern for a very successful English series. Perhaps it was not as slick or as advanced as the Disney films of the day, but time would have ironed out the wrinkles and sharpened the wit in future productions. It is idle to speculate the possibilities, because Dyer decided upon a change of plan half-way through its production.
Eager to establish a truly British style with indigenous cartoon characters he had long decided to avoid animals for they had been seized upon and effectively developed by Disney. Dyer was seeking a human type figure as internationally recognisable as ‘John Bull’. Dyer had a brainwave! There were two ready made characters who had endeared themselves to the nation. An old soldier named Sam Small. (echoes of Bairnsfathers ‘Old Bill’) and an unfortunate North Country lad named Albert. For same years the great music hall comedian Stanley Holloway had literally ‘brought the house down’ by relating their humorous adventures in a series of clever monologues. Radio had helped spread their popularity the length and breadth of the kingdom, now Dyer hoped to spread their field of influence still further through the medium of the cinema.
Stanley Holloway agreed to do eighteen of his monologues, with an option for more to be specially written if the venture proved successful. With Stanley’s signature on the contract work began on “SAM AND HIS MUSKET”.
They finished CAREEN, but it had to wait to be released until after the premiere of Sam Small’s film. No more titles appeared in the Operatic Burlesques vein.