The Shadows Move – the 1940s

ANSON DYER made ROBBIE FINDS A GUN (B/W – 1946), WHO ROBBED THE ROBINS (1947) , and a three part serial SQUIRREL WAR (1947).


A number of studios, DYER’S among them, contributed to a series of song cartoons, similar in intent to the old silent ‘bouncing ball’ cartoons, with the audience being urged to sing- along an accompaniment to the visuals.

Diagram Films contributed ONE MORE RIVER (1947), a lively and colourful version of the Bible story about Noah’s Ark. The children sang with gusto: “One more river, And that old river is Jordan”.

H & B contributed HEAVE AWAY MY JOHNNY.

It had became apparent to the British public that a flour baron by the name of J. ARTHUR RANK intended to put the British film industry back on its feet by heavily investing in it’s future. Rank was a deeply religious man whose motives were both financial and philanthropic – a rare combination.

Keen to provide the country with an animation studio the equal of Disney’s, he announced his intention of forming G.B. Animation and invited applications from returning service­men and women. Indeed, since he was anxious to attract the very best talent available, be threw open the invitation to all and sundry.

Meanwhile, over in Hammersmith, GEORGE MORENO also appealed to artistically orientated ex-service personnel to apply for a job in his new studio, British Animated Productions. Plans he had laid while in the Army, for a series of entertainment cartoons featuring a London taxi cab and its driver called ‘Bubble and Squeak’, were about to be realized.

And that was not all!

On the river Thames at Egham another new studio was being formed. GERARD HOLDSWORTH, now Commander Gerard Holdsworth, came out of the Services with a friend the Hon. TONY SAMUELS. Because of his former involvement with George Pal prior to the war, Holdsworth believed the time was ripe to start the first big puppet film studio in this country to rival the Dutch example. Rank had seen fit to invite three of Disney’s top men to England to start G.B.A.; Holdsworth, in turn, imported four top Dutch artists from JOOP GEESINK’S ‘DOLLYWOOD’ to take charge and train our local talent. Before the war two of the Dutchmen had been former Pal employees.

The scene was set for the bravest attempt yet to establish a commercially viable animated film community in Great Britain. The money, the enthusiasm and the will to succeed were all there. The big question was – could we do it?

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 6 (Autumn 1983)