The BFI have released a new archive of British animations...
Since the early 1900s a disparate array of artists in Britain, from across the UK, have drawn, sculpted, snipped, stamped, posed, clicked and scratched their art into celluloid life. Sitting squarely at the centre of a year-long BFI-wide focus on animation in venue, online and on release, and coinciding with the release of Early Man, Nick Park’s latest animated feature for Aardman and Studiocanal, the BFI has now given new access to unprecedented collections of archive animation, online and in cinemas. These films cast the evolution of British animation in a new light, frame by painstaking frame, ranging from the earliest experiments to the latest pioneering contemporary features made by UK animation studios today for Aardman, Wes Anderson, Tim Burton and others.
Drawn from both the BFI National Archive and Regional and National Film Archive Partners across the UK, Animated Britain is a new online collection of over 300 films, surveying a stunningly rich century-long history of British animation, made available for free via BFI Player. From the earliest pioneers and the birth of British animation with Latest News’s animated titles in 1904, to some of the best known, award-winning names in commercial and independent animation including works by Halas & Batchelor, Bob Godfrey, George Dunning, Cosgrove Hall and Larkins Studio, this landmark collection highlights the extraordinary creative variety in domestic production across the UK.
From the most distinctive and individual of films to the ongoing exploits of popular characters such as Bonzo the Dog, The Clangers, Charley the Cat and Tufty, to a focus on the key contributions and thematic concerns of female artists such as Alison De Vere, Nancy Hanna, Vera Linnecar and Sheila Graber as well as developments made by television broadcasters and animation schools which have all helped shape the face of British animation today. Providing a wider framework to trace this new history of British animation on the big screen, Archive Remasters is a complementary three-part cinema programme of 35 newly remastered classic animations drawn from the BFI National Archive’s unique animation collection. Ranging from 1909 to 1993 these curated packages present key works alongside unexpected surprises of little known or rarely seen early examples of British Animation for a genre-hopping, whistle-stop tour of the 20th century. Included is Animated Doll and Toy Town Circus (c1912), a stop-motion experiment believed to have been filmed using the two-colour Kinemacolor film process and a strong contender for title of the world’s earliest surviving colour animation. Currently previewing at BFI Southbank presented by BFI Animation Curator Jez Stewart, (screening on 20 February, 1 March and 4 March) the Archive Remasters packages will be available for UK wide cinema bookings from April.
As well as celebrating industry leaders, innovators and independent spirits, Animated Britain also takes in home hobbyists bitten by the animation bug, with a wealth of films representing amateur talent from across the UK. Best known for her adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, such as Cat That Walked By Himself (1983), the films of the internationally celebrated animator from South Shields, Sheila Graber, are presented from the North East Film Archive. Inspired by fantasy animation legend Ray Harryhausen, with whom he worked under his supervision, Jon Coley’s creative mix of stop motion and live action includes Dinosaurs and Things (1981) and The Feline Fun (1986) held in the collections of the East Anglian Film Archive. The late talented animator Paul Berry joined the Cosgrove Hall studio in Manchester after studying at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. Later Oscar nominated for his short horror The Sandman (1991), his early humorous stop-motion animated films are held by the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metro University, including Short Tribute From Blues To You (1989) his quirky claymation tribute to musical icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson. A prolific member of the Cardiff Amateur Cine Society, Ian Malcolm’s films held by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, includes hand drawn titles such as Animal Alphabet (1967) and his Gilliam-esque cut out, ABZ on Sport (1967).
Spanning government-commissioned public information films, wartime propaganda, commercials for popular brands such as Guinness, Horlicks, Cadbury’s, Shell and BP, children’s television series, political satire, adult fantasy, avant garde experiments and artists’ moving image, these dizzyingly diverse online and cinema resources fanfare British animation's unique and inventive contribution to the art form, serving up a history ripe for rediscovery.
Animated Britain is presented as part of Unlocking Film Heritage with thanks to National Lottery funding and the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. International audiences can also explore a selection of these films via a playlist on the BFI’s YouTube channel.
Find more FREE to watch animations here.
Highlights from Animated Britain (UFH) and BFI Archive Remasters:
Animated Britain (UFH)
Latest News (1904) the earliest known date-verified British film found with stop-motion animated intertitles.
John Bull’s Sketch Book (1915) featuring a remarkable recreation of the German naval bombing raid on Scarborough on 16 December 1914, and character animation light years ahead of their time.
Bonzolino – Bonzo Broadcasted (1925) One of the defining icons of 1920s Britain, George Studdy’s beloved canine capers were backed by a wealth of tie-in merchandising long before the days of the studio giants.
Giro the Germ Episode 1 (1927) The Health and Cleanliness Council were early adopters of animation for public information needs, with their creation of animated character, Giro the germ.
Love on the Range (1939) ‘Puppetoon’ Western to advertise Horlicks, based on a script by future Ealing director Alexander Mackendrick.
Robinson Charley (1948) One of seven Charley films made by Halas & Batchelor for the Central Office of Information to explain key policies of the post-war Labour government including the Marshall Plan.
The Wardrobe (1958) (also in Archive Remasters) Canadian George Dunning came to the UK and teamed up with John Coates to start their company TV Cartoons making commercials and off-beat art shorts. A decade later they produced Yellow Submarine (1968).
Mildred (1960) Comic cartoon for BP Directed by Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night) with Nancy Hanna and Vera Linnecar from the innovative Larkins Studio.
Plain Man’s Guide to Advertising (1962) Coming of age in the midst of the counter-cultural movements of the late 1960s, Bob Godfrey playfully nibbles the hand that feeds him. Best known later for Roobarb and Henry’s Cat, Godfrey was Oscar-nominated for his sex comedy Kama Sutra Rides Again (1971), after Stanley Kubrick personally paired it with A Clockwork Orange in cinemas.
Superted (1975) Stop motion pilot for an unrealised children’s series, wholly unconnected with the muchloved 1980s Siriol series of the same name, made by Cosgrove Hall just before production started on Chorlton and the Wheelies (1976).
Super Natural Gas (1975) British Gas sponsored short is the origin for cult children’s TV classic Willo the Wisp, featuring the Kenneth Williams as the voice of offshore natural gas. The Toys Will Be Toys (1988) Sheila Graber’s work included commissions from Tate Gallery, Tyne Tees TV and the BBC, The Toys Will Be Toys is a playful subversion of gender stereotyping.
Honestly it’s the Story of My Life (1990) Graduate film from Sarah Ann Kennedy, best known today as the voice of Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig and Nanny Plum in Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, Kennedy was the creator of Channel 4’s cult 1990s animation Crapston Villas.
The United Kingdom (1994) Halas & Batchelor came up with an idea to represent the 12 member states of the European Union in 1993. Only two of the 12 animated films (one for each country) for Know your Europeans were completed. Bob Godfrey’s hilarious contribution on behalf of the UK stands as a tantalising glimpse of what might have been.
BFI National Archive – Archive Remasters
Animated Doll and Toy Town Circus (1912) uses the Kinemacolor process and stop-motion filming to bring toys to life, in what could well be the world’s oldest surviving colour animation.
Experimental Animation 1933 Avant-garde monkey business from the New Zealand-born artist Len Lye, produced two years before his polychromatic explosion, A Colour Box (1935).
Fox Hunt (1936) This Technicolor follow-up to the modernist masterpiece Joie de Vivre (1934) is little seen and ripe for rediscovery. Hector Hoppin and Anthony Gross worked with Alexander Korda’s London Films on this beautifully choreographed delight.
Adolf’s Busy Day (1940) Architect turned animator Lawrence Wright brings Herr Hitler down a peg or two in this comic propaganda cartoon.
Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit (1959) An irreverent but affectionate poke at the pretensions of the industry, enlivened by Bob Godfrey’s offbeat humour. Automania 2000 (Halas and Batchelor, 1963) A satirical swipe at the relentless pursuit of scientific progress with colourful modern visuals. This witty film was the first British animation to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Transformer (1968) All aboard the psychedelic steam engine! After building the iconic 60s visuals for Yellow Submarine (1968), Heinz Edelmann, Charlie Jenkins and Alison De Vere set up their own company, producing this stunning promo short for the Cambridge Animation Festival.
Ubu (1978) This groundbreaking animation brought Geoff Dunbar to the attention of Paul McCartney with whom he would collaborate on various projects, most famously Rupert and the Frog Song (1984). His earlier film Lautrec (1974) bringing the sketchbooks of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec to life, is also included in Animated Britain.
Mr Pascal (1979) Alison De Vere’s long career in animation had a remarkable twilight with a series of staggering short films of quiet charm and astonishing depth. Mr Pascal is a spiritual tale that goes beyond religion to show faith in the value of small gestures of human kindness.
Clothes (1988) Osbert Parker’s lively short sees clothes pick themselves up and strut their stuff. Originally edited on analogue video this new version goes back to the original film, giving an already vibrant work a new lease of life.
Britannia (1993) Pitch perfect political satire leaps out from Joanna Quinn’s remarkable pencil drawn animations in this concise history of the British Empire, which sees the British bulldog let off the leash before being brought to heel.