The Best of British Animation programme

The Best of British Animation programme was part of the London Film Festival held at the National Film Theatre during November 1987. David Jefferson reports.

The LFF is a non-competitive event but there is a tradition of holding other award ceremonies during the course of the festival. Prior to the Best of British Animation, the winner of the ‘Man Kuttna Award for Animation’ was announced. The £1,000 prize was in fact shared by two women animators; Sharon Cawdery for Heart and Stars and Joan Ashworth for The Web.

Heart and Stars directed by Sharon Cawdrey.

Heart and Stars is drawn with rough lines giving it a naive vitality. Off-screen voices talk about someone who has died, with such lines as, “a happy release from a long illness.” The pencil animation follows the flow of the words in an abstract way and there is a short birth to death sequence.

The Webb is a puppet animation film made at the National Film & Television School. Shot in superbly sharp 35mm it grabs the attention from the opening moments when an evil looking spider hatches from an egg. This establishes the ramshackle nature of the mansion, setting for the epic fight between Flay and Swelter, from Mervyn Peake’s novel Titus Groan. The spider enters the kitchen, only to be chopped up by the fat chef and dropped into a bubbling brew along with other nasty ingredients. The brew is offered to his frail, old master but is spilled before it can do any harm. The chef then sharpens his meat cleaver for a second attempt, which the manservant does his best to stop. The puppets are beautifully made with a lived-in look that fits well with the plot. Since graduating from the NFTS the director, Joan Ashworth, has joined the commercial world and influenced the design of the Giacometti figures in the Royal Bank of Scotland commercial.

Strangers in Paradise is a puppet film that uses raw materials such as wool, felt and plastic to create a strange world. The film, which makes a shrewd observation about our materialistic society, was directed and animated by Andy Staveley at the Royal College of Art. A long legged couple en-•counter a structure of rods and clear PVC walls, which resembles a multi- story supermarket. The female sees shoppers with children and has a vision of motherhood. This prompts her and the male to try to break through the Cling Film wall, only to become wrapped-up in it. The pair are bundled into a supermarket trolley and wheeled off by security guards.

Blind Justice: Some Protection by Marjut Rimminen is the potted history of a girl who goes wrong. Based on the true story of Josie O’Dwyer, the narration has a documentary style delivery. The girl’s father has double standards about women and she rebels against him. She commits a minor offence and is sent to a detention centre. At first she finds the institution humiliating and fights against those in charge. Eventually she prefers prison to life outside because she understands the system. It ends on a hopeful note from the girl who has learned to channel her anger into a positive outlook. The film demonstrates that animation can deliver a powerful message in a palatable form.

The Jump by Neville Astley and Jeffrey Newitt is pencil animation magic. A plane is in trouble and the two crew jump out. The first one has forgotten his parachute so the second one takes an extra pack. He imagines he is Superman and flies down to the first. He manages to hand over the package but, when it is put on and the cord pulled, it turns out to be an inflatable dingy.

Binky and Boo directed by Phil Austin and Derek Hayes.

Barefootin’, directed and animated by Richard Goleszowske, is a pop video set to the music of Robert Parker. The plasticine animation, produced by Aardman Animations, uses characters with large feet to illustrate the words of the song ‘Barefooting’. The background set is a pleasant tribute to the Clangers and there is a great joke about smelly feet.

Binky and Boo was directed by Phil Austin and Derek Hayes. An old man reminisces about being part of a double-act in vaudeville. Comedian Jimmy Jewell narrates the story of these larger-than-life comics in their quest for work. Their catch-phrase ‘We are Binky and Boo, how do you do?’ is voiced in wartime Britain, a French palace and Hitler’s bunker. The cut-out artwork has a distressed appearance in keeping with the subject.

Dolphins by Ian Andrew.

The Black Dog directed by Alison de Vere is packed with imagery. A woman is sleeping in her bedroom. Her dog wakes her and she follows it. They come to a complex consisting of a boutique, restaurant and nightclub. She has her hair styled, buys a new dress and a hat made from a real dove. While eating in the restaurant she throws a bone to the dog who pees on it. On entering the night club she meets two men and later makes love to one of them. The next morning she awakes to find she is expected to pay with her heart and soul. An escape is effected by jumping into a lake. The black dog floats past in a boat and rescues her.

My Baby Just Cares for Me from Aardman animation.

Rockie, Sten et Pierre directed by Metin Huseyin is a one line joke spread over a couple of minutes of graphic animation. The apparent simplicity of the style adds to the amusement of the eventual outcome.

Dolphins by Ian Andrew is rendered in a sketchy style with coloured pencils. The realistic dolphins dive and jump in a stylish way.

My Baby Just Cares For Me, directed by Peter Lord, is a pop promo featuring feline characters. The record went high in the music charts, demonstrating once more that plasticine animation is a popular form of entertainment for a generation brought-up on Morph.

Printed in Animator Issue 22 (Spring 1988)