The Shadows Move – the 1940s

When the Blitz began, HOPPY and his wife would sit up nights filling in cels. They were often accompanied by their close friend Police Superintendent MOORE who lent a hand. When the Superintendent’s son left school he was apprenticed to animation under the friendly eye of LAURIE PRICE. His apprenticeship was abruptly terminated one day when he forgot to deliver the days ‘rushes’ to the processing laboratories. It is interesting to speculate whether or not the sacking was an act of fate, for Superintendent Moore’s little boy ROGER went on to achieve fame on television as the Saint, and on the cinema screen as 007.

LAURIE PRICE turned his hand to making model tanks, aircraft and ships and then animated ‘manoeuvres’ under the camera. As a side line he designed a model kit for amateur construction of ‘The Santa Maria’, the first in a long series of such hobby-kits.

J. WALTER THOMPSONS took under its wing a new animation unit when in May 1940, JOHN H.ALAS and JOY BATCHELOR opened their now famous HALAS AND BATCHELOR Animation Studios. ALEXANDER McKENDRICK who had not yet broken into live feature film production, scripted their first film, an advertising short for Kellogg’s Cornflakes: TRAIN TROUBLE. This was followed by CARNIVAL IN THE CLOTHES CUPBOARD, advertising LUX toilet soap for UNILEVER. Thereafter the small studio made over seventy shorts for the War Office, the Ministries of Information and of Defence, Central Office of Information, and the Admiralty.

Production schedules were cut to the barest minimum out of sheer necessity. The competitive pace of military development often made current productions out-of-date before the last shot was in the can (no pun intended). Films were produced under the most difficult circumstances. Quite apart from the shortage of raw materials, (pencils, paper, etc.) the London studios were in the centre of the target area for German bombers. Eventually, Halas & Batchelor were forced to move to Bushey, Herts and DYER evacuated to Stroud, Glos. because the thud of bombs disturbed the stop-motion cameras – and besides they were exploding a little too close for staff comfort.

In spite of attendant difficulties there is no doubt that the films made were significantly effective in aims and purpose. One of the more satisfy¬ing stories to emerge from this exercise was the declaration that early on in the war, examples of our work were sent to America to teach THEIR animators the art of technical instruct¬ional animation. How about that?

A year after his arrival at Dyer’s and the formation of Analysis Films, BILL LARKINS left to start up on his own. His venture did not last long. Bill was a sick man and eventually left the country for warmer climes to work for Time-Life.

In addition to the output of recognised studios, however, animated films were made by amateurs for professional release. LAWRENCE (LANCE) WRIGHT an architect, whose career and business came to a halt in September 1939, kept his staff on to make ADOLF’S BUSY DAY. It was a one-off production, shot on a shoe-string budget, but a timely and efficient piece of propaganda. He only turned his hand to animation again much later, in 1947, when he made THE MAIL GOES THROUGH, a Victorian melodrama in ‘Glorious Monochrome’. Released through Butchers Films, the film is notable for some fine perspective animation.

THE MAIL GOES THROUGH - 1947 Lance Wright/Butchers.

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