Charles ‘Joe’ Noble. 1894 to 1984. A tribute.

Obituary by Ken Clark.

Joe Noble

Charles R Noble had just cause to be proud of his two Sons: George and Charles Jnr. When the younger son began to assert himself, he was nicknamed ‘Joe’ to avoid confusion.
Joe Noble became Britain’s oldest active animator. Born on Christmas Day I 894, he was 23 when he joined Mitchell’s Pictures in Shaftesbury Avenue as an art title designer. In the same building Dudley Buxton was hard at work making silent cartoon films and Joe was inspired to try his hand, first for Kine Komedy Kartoons then the BJ Film Producing Co.

He made a couple of ‘Out of the Ink-Pot’ skits; lectured to the RPS in London on ‘How they were made’; before joining Tom Webster to work on ‘Tishy – the Horse With the Crossed Legs” (screened at the Hippodrome in 1922 before the King and Queen).

Two years later, a spotted dog named Dismal Desmond took the country by storm and Joe starred him in a couple of his cartoons. Diagrammatic animation for Sir Oswald Stoll at Visual Education was followed by a brief spell at Pathé with Buxton to work on “Pongo the Pup”; then back to Tom Webster to work on animated sequences for showing on-stage in Webster’s musical revue “Cartoons” at the Criterion Theatre. A long series of “Sammy & Sausage” cartoons and other popular subjects were animated for First National Pathé.
Early in 1928 he was granted a master patent for a sound cartoon film system, and in November he released the first British talking cartoon, “Orace the ‘Armonious’ Ound”, later completing the first animated sound-film commercial, “Mr York of York, Yorks”. But by now he was under contract to Pathé, writing and directing live-action films and providing the occasional animated insert; an association he maintained on and oft for 19 years.

Through the Second World War he worked for Canadian Army HQ on training films as Technical Animation Draughtsman. Stereo animation provided no problem: he Simply invented his own displacement machine, drawing two pictures at one and the same time for left and right eyes.

A loner to the end, Joe spent his final working years with the Nutfield Organisation CETO, and the Overseas Film and Television Centre for whom he made his last film, ‘Trachoma” in 1970.

A plan to honour Joe at the 1979 Cambridge Animation Festival was abandoned only when it was discovered that he was living alone in London, partially-sighted due to glaucoma, and confined to a wheelchair in a very poor state of health. It was feared the travelling and the effort and excitement of a public appearance would prove too much.

I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to Joe Noble’s dogged perseverance and tenacity.

Printed in Animator Issue 11 (Winter 1984)