IN PART FIVE KEN CLARK TAKES THE STORY OF BRITISH ANIMATION INTO THE 50s AND THE PRODUCTION OF BRITAIN’S FIRST FEATURE LENGTH CARTOON FILM
No survey of British animation would be complete without a mention of the many small studios who survived the war and continued to produce films well into the peace that followed: Diagram Films, Science Films, Worldwide Films, Basic Films, G.B. Instructional, Publicity Pictures/National Interest, not forgetting Francis Rodker’s work for Shell Film Unit and Bill Palmer’s diagrammatic work for British Transport. These and others like them produced miles of top quality technical, educational and advertising material.
W.N. Larkins & Co. Ltd. flourished in the 50s even though Bill Larkin left England after the war for warmer climes. Among the remaining staff was Peter Sachs who had been with the studio since its formation in 1940. Peter first met Bill in Eindhoven before the war. Peter was working for George Pal and Bill was with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. Later they both worked for Analysis Films in Stroud. When Bill left to form the Larkins Studio Peter Sachs went with him. They were soon joined by Denis Gilpin and they dubbed themselves ‘animation stylists’. The unit often broke with traditional graphic styles and introduced startling new concepts. In the early fifties Beryl Stevens and Richard Taylor joined the company and further enhanced the studio’s reputation.
Sponsored production continued to be the life-blood for British animation producers, and entertainment cartoons were very much a luxury item. Those brave enough to attempt pure comedy subjects for the cinemas paid for them out of their commercial profits; but they rarely reaped box-office dividends.
Halas & Batchelor’s reputation was made in the sponsored film market. Their sponsors included the Gas Council, Central Office of Information, the War Office, the Home Office and they had started work on a series of films for British Petroleum. Twice in their career they had made feature-length films: HANDLING SHIPS (1944/45) a 70 minute mixture of live action/model animation, and WATER FOR FIRE FIGHTING (1948) with animation by Bob Privett, Vic Bevis and Brian Borthwick.