Richard and Elizabeth Horn have been in the animation business since the fifties and have seen a lot of changes in that time. Ken Clark chats to them about animation then and now.
I first met Richard at the preliminary meetings called to discuss the formation of the Grasshopper Group in the early Fifties. For two years we worked together animating “The battle of Wangapore”. When I left the Group I had no way of knowing when or where our paths would cross again. Years later I was asked to assist in the production of the newly revitalised Cambridge Animation Festival and I bumped into him scurrying through the streets of the city of Cambridge, by which time my old friend had come a long way in the profession and was also a happy family man. Dick’s wife, Elizabeth (Liz to everyone) was ‘in the business’ and had been for some years before Dick entered the profession.
These days, the two of them are known as LIZDIK Animation, well-known freelancers; although since the commencement of the feature cartoon “Dick Deadeye”, Dick has worked primarily for Melendez Productions Ltd. He was Director of Animation on the Fred Bassett series, the Perishers series, and enjoyed himself on the pleasant Charley Brown shorts. Elizabeth Horn told me:
E.HORN: I joined Halas and Batchelor in the pioneering days of the Forties, a very small unit in Bush House at the height of the bombing of London. Joy Batchelor had been injured but they were determined to carry on with a staff of two animators, Harold Mack and a lovely girl called Jenny – I became her assistant – and just two tracers one of whom was Vera Linnecar, now director of Biographic Cartoon Films, where I still work as an animator and general assistant. As the bombing increased, we moved out of town to Bushey in Hertfordshire, taking over a private house. There we worked on Government sponsored films, such as “Dustbin Parade” shown recently at the N.F.T.
We were joined by Wally Crook and ‘Spud’ Houston and several younger painters and tracers. We were a happy group and, inspired by John’s enthusiasm, ready to work long hours. We attended life classes; there were visits to the zoo to sketch the animals, cultural visits to Exhibitions and theatres, eating out and finally retiring to someone’s flat where we chatted long into the night. We firmly believe a new art form was about to emerge, and this led later to the production of the highly experimental “Magic Canvas”.
Then came the move back to London and in 1947 we started the “Charlie” series designed to explain the new Welfare State. The studio was growing, men were coming back from the Services, so a new unit was formed to produce diagrammatic films with Bob Privett as its director. New students came along to be trained, among them Reg Lodge, Freddie Ford and Dick Horn.
CLARK: Wasn’t it about this time the Union came into being?
E.HORN: Yes. We began to feel we were sadly underpaid and we formed a section for animation personnel within the unit to give us the strength to deal with the problem. In my view, this did not find favour with H & B and it became increasingly obvious that they were anxious to be rid of the original artists, most of whom were made redundant at the end of 1949 and American animators were taken on to work on “Animal Farm”.