Australian animation in the 1970s

Animation Down Under

By Bob Hanlon

Characters from ABRA CADABRA

A lot has been written about the recent Australian cinema “breakthrough” (as we like to call it). In the early ‘70’s the Australian Government offered attractive incentives to film investors who suddenly found it a worthwhile proposition to make feature-length films in Australia, and about Australians.

But, as I found when I began researching this article, not very much has been published about Australian Animation. I think you’ll be surprised, as I was, to discover just how healthy it really is, down-under.

A quick look through the phone books reveals that there are quite a few identifiable animation studios in the main film capitals. In Sydney I found 13, Melbourne 4, and Adelaide 3. There are undoubtedly more but, as they don’t allude to animation in their company name, (e.g. Camford Animation, Jollification Cartoon Films etc.) it’s hard to positively identify them being grouped under the general heading of “Film Studios’.

Hanna-Barbera, of “Tom & Jerry “Flintstones”, “Jetsons” fame, have set up a large animation studio in Sydney, producing such shorts as Popeye, using limited – or TV style animation techniques.

It seems the cartoons can be produced quicker and cheaper in Australia than in Hollywood. This triggered an animator’s strike in the U.S. several years ago.

Hanna-Barbera (Australia) have also produced a number of 1 hour TV specials. (They have recently been released locally on videotape – perhaps they are also available in Britain). Among the titles are 5 WEEKS IN A BALLOON, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS and BLACK BEAUTY.

I have seen some of these and especially enjoyed BLACK BEAUTY, which although done in limited animation, seemed to catch the essence of the story quite well.

One of the world’s first cartoon stars, Felix the Cat, was created in 1917 by Australian cartoonist, Pat Sullivan, who used the paper animation method. He didn’t achieve his well deserved fame until 1922, when a ‘Felix’ cartoon was tagged on to the end of a PATHE SCREEN MAGAZINE.

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