The Shadows Move – the 1970s

In part 7 Ken Clark concludes his history of British animation.

Scene from one of the animated sequences produced by Richard Williams and his studio for Tony Richardson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”

The first Cambridge Animation Festival was staged on a shoe-string budget one long weekend in November 1967. The event was so successful the City fathers decided to sponsor a more ambitious five-day animation celebration the following year. This time the emphasis was on a retrospective programme covering 40 years of French animation – and that proved to be an ironic choice! Dick Arnall explains:

“Events in France in 1968 made 1969 the year of upheaval in the animation fraternity. In France the scheduled international festival at Annecy was abandoned and several European cities joined the clamour to host a stand-in event. It was indeed to be Cambridge that was chosen as the replacement. The City of Cambridge gladly took on board the title of “1969 World Festival of Animation”. It could not however come to terms with the vastly increased budget; the City’s total annual budget for arts and entertainment was only of the order of £10,000, but it refused to accept the very substantial sponsorship that I had been able to raise within the film industry. There was an apparent lack of awareness and expertise to handle the implications of such an ambitious event – no Eastern Arts to offer advice and assistance to the Council or the Festival – and I felt obliged to resign. No world animation festival took place that year, not in Cambridge nor anywhere else. By 1970 the chance for Cambridge had gone forever.

The two Festivals had aroused public interest end won respect for the originality of the work of the newer breed of animator in the fields of industry and entertainment. In addition to the revised version of Yellow Submarine, we had witnessed the premier of Hubley’s Of Stars and Men. Even though deprived of its Showplace, the state of the art continued to grow in many directions.

TV and Animation

Television may have precipitated the decline of the cinema, but it could not do without filmed material. Indeed, TV had become a marvellous new platform for animated productions ranging in length from a few brief seconds to full feature-length proportions, especially the children’s programmes.

Some of the ideas are quite obviously outside the field of stop-motion magic: string puppets (Flower-Pot Men, Muffin the Mule, and the many Gerry Anderson series); rod puppets (Larry the Lamb); hand puppets (Sooty & Sweep, Basil Brush); and of course the incomparable Muppets. But virtually every known form of single frame animation has been tried: models (Camberwick Green, Wombles, Clangers, Pogle’s Wood; clay (Morph); jointed cardboard figures (Ivor the Engine); paper sculpture (Snip & Snap); animated sand, plasticine, end Lotte Reiniger’s elegant silhouette fairy tales.

The cinema had had its chances and consistently failed. Full circuit distribution had always been denied the British animated short. Now, the films were seen by millions on a much smaller screen.

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