Highlights of British animation 1985

The Year of Animation was officially launched on 24th January 1985 at the National Film Theatre in London with a special showing of Highlights of British Animation 1899 – 1974. David Jefferson reports on the proceedings.

The “Year of Animation” was officially launched on 24th January at the National Film Theatre in London with a special showing of “Highlights of British Animation 1899 – 1974”.

This programme will be doing the rounds of animation festivals all over the world during 1985 to promote British animation. The main reason for making 1985 the Year of Animation is that it is the 25th Anniversary of the founding of ASIFA (Association International du Film d’ Animation International Animated Film Association). It will also be the 25th Anniversary of the first Animated Film Festival which was held at Annecy, France and where ASIFA was originally formed. Before the showing of the films at the NFT there were some speeches. The president of ASIFA, John Halas of Halas and Batchelor, pointed out that 1985 was already 24 days, twenty hours and thirty four minutes old so they were a bit late in getting started but he said he was relieved that 1984 was over because it was an awful year, presumably because of its Orwellian undertones.

John Halas went on to mention some notable anniversaries in animation. It is one hundred years since Emile Reynaud began experimenting with the Praxinoscope and he demonstrated his “Theatre Optique” in Paris, France in 1892. Walter Lantz of Woody Woodpecker fame, was born in New Rochelle, USA in 1900. One year later Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1908 Emile Cohl, the first cartoon animator, started work in Paris. Winsor McCay animated “Gertie the Dinosaur” in 1914. Max Fleischer patented the rotoscope in 1915 and went on to make Popeye famous. Felix the Cat films began production in New York in 1920. Mickey Mouse was born in 1928 and Donald Duck was born in 1934. The first American full length cartoon film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was released in 1937. John Halas apologised for mentioning that his own film “Animal Farm”, the first British feature length cartoon film was released in 1955.

Claire Kitson spoke on behalf of the National Film Theatre and outlined their plans for the Year of Animation. The Highlights of British Animation programme will be shown again in the summer, possibly July. Prominent animators will be doing Guardian lectures at the NFT; Bob Godfrey will be talking about his style of animation, John Hálas will be doing a talk on computer animation, Richard Williams will be talking about the work going on at Richard Williams animation and the people from TV Cartoons will be talking about their film “The Snowman” and should be showing clips from their forthcoming feature “When the Wind Blows”. The NFT will also be running some animation workshops aimed at young people. Full details will be published in the NFT programme guides available from the National Film Theatre, South Bank, London.

The programme of films that make up the “Highlights” package were chosen by Antoinette Moses, who has done sterling work in the past as director of the Cambridge Animation Festival, together with Una Hurding of the British Council. There were comments after the programme was over that it could be criticised more for the films that were left out rather than the ones that were chosen. But Antoinette Moses explained:
“To try and summarize the history of British animation or even pick out its highlights is a risky business. There are certain to be omissions and not every film one would wish to include is available for an international package.”

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