Names other than the familiar Halas & Batchelor rose to the fore, though to be fair, H & B were the first to make an animated series for TV. In fact, work commenced on no less than three separate series in 1960, they we Habatales, Foo-Foo, and Snip & Snap.
Australian Bob Godfrey co-directed the short Watch the Birdie in 1954 while working at Larkins. With c0-director Keith Learner, the film was made in Bob’s home basement, and received a rapturous ovation when shown at the Mary Ward Institute, the London venue for Britain’s first and largest amateur film organisation devoted to cartoon and experimental films. Bob was a member of the Grasshopper Group, and later starred in their award-winning live action film Bride & Groom, with Audrey Vayro and Gerry Potterton. Gerry has since achieved great success in Canada.
After Birdie, Bob and Keith joined forces with Nancy Hanna and Vera Linnecar to form Biographic Films, al¬though subsequently Bob broke away to open Bob Godfrey Films Ltd. Both studios continue to sandwich entertainment cartoons between their commercial commissions. Godfrey will probably be remembered for his trio of sex-satires which began at Biographic with Polygamous Polonium (1959) and Continued many years later with Dream Doll and Knma Sutra Rides Again, but no doubt tie would prefer to be remembered for his magnificent tribute to Brunel in the 28 minute long Great.
George Dunning’s unsponsored productions included The Apple, The Ever-changing Motor Car, The Flying Man and Damon The Mower. His innovative styles of production were an inspiration to his contemporaries. Not only will his presence be missed but so too, will his unfinished Magnus opus, the feature length version of’ The Tempest.
The release of The Little Island brought another Canadian to the attention of the British public, his name – Richard Williams. The film won him the commission for Guinness At The Albert Hall which provided the capital to make Love Me, Love Me, Love Me from a Stan Hayward script.
Hayward was essentially a freelance ideas man, whose career began in 1958 with a script for the Goon Show. His first storyboard was for George Dunning’s The Wardrobe The Apple and The Flying Man followed. He has provided material for H & B, Godfrey, Williams, Cattaneo and the Biographic team, to name but a few.
British artist Ronald Searle worked with Hollywood animator Bill Melendez on a 17 minute animated film for the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey in 1957. Five years later, Canadian producer Leo Rost was fired with the idea of taking characters from numerous Gilbert and Sullivan operas and bringing them together in an 80 minute cartoon film musical. Searle came in to design the character model sheets, and Melendez to bring them to life with the help of 18 animators and their assistants, five layout and background artists, tracers, painters and some 20 freelance artists. Three years later, in 1975, their task was finished and Dick Deadeye sailed the seas hunting for the Ultimate Secret in HMS Pinafore. Dick Deadeye Or Duty Done suffered a similar fate to Ruddigore, its predecessor.
One year after, Thames TV gave Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall financial backing to make cartoon and model shorts, including three feature productions The Pied Piper, Cinderella and Wind In The Willows.
A veritable army of animators, often referred to as ‘the Soho crowd’, had no such backing, nevertheless, within the confines of their budgets they acquitted themselves admirably.
British animation continues to win accolades and awards at the international festivals, and it is a recognised fact that our animators are among the best in the world, but we should not forget it was American sponsors who came to England to persuade H & B to make Animal Farm; Americans once again who backed Yellow Submarine; and it was American money that made Watership Down a practical proposition in 1978.
“I believe Martin Rosen felt that Watership Down was a big stepping stone in his career,” explained Arthur Humberstone, the first British animator to be invited onto the initial team. “As a producer he was a very good director. I know that sounds strange, but what he told you wanted changing, you knew was right. You never once went back to your colleagues and said, “What does he know? -he’s never done any animation in his life!” No! It never occurred to anyone to say that. It was his first cartoon but he knew what was theatrically right for the audience.”
“I was fortunate to be in at the beginning,” he added, “I’d sent in some drawings of a fox, a hare in Winter, and two rabbits in pen and ink. Martin Rosen invited me along to a meeting on a Wednesday, when the late John Hubley was to be present with a chap named Phillip Duncan. Well, I didn’t know Phil Duncan from Adam then; I didn’t know he was the Disney animator who created Thumper for the film Bambi. After lunch we looked at the storyboard and I met Dennis Gardiner (on most films Dennis is studio personnel manager). He said, “Can you start now?”. I replied, “Yes”, and sat down and began working there and then.