The Shadows Move – the 1940s

Interested in trying an animated puppet film series promoting Horlicks, J. Walter Thompson’s advertising agency sent Gerard Holdsworth to Holland to talk over possibilities with George Pal. Although Pal’s first loyalty was to his parent organisation Philips Electrical of Eindhoven he readily agreed. Some sources assert that these films were made in England. This is not true. They were made in Holland for the English cinemas. Shortened versions of these films were later released on 9.5 mm. Titles included: WHAT HO SHE BUMPS and SKY PIRATES.

John Halas came to Britain in 1936 to work with Joy Batchelor on a film entitled MUSIC MAN. As a very young man he had worked for awhile with an equally young George Pal, but they went their separate ways. After “starving a little”, Halas studied under teachers who had taught at the famous Barbuis before Hitler closed it.

The most heartening aspect of the 1935-1939 resurgence was the way in which everyone sought to establish their own style, their own characters. No one attempted to copy Disney, even though it could well have been the pre-publicity and impending release of SNOW WHITE which prodded our people into action again.

The spirited burst of activity by would-be producers of entertainment cartoons in the latter half of the Thirties waned, and then died, when investment reaped scant rewards. Once again it had been proved that the only economically viable forms of animation in this country were advertising and technical (diagrammatic/model instructional) sponsored productions.
Studios had more control then, than the advertising agencies, over the films content and style. The studios wrote the scripts, and this encouraged both Dyer and Hopkins to keep humour alive in their respective soft-sell commercial shorts.

During the same period Bruce Woolfe formed Diagram Films, a small unit consisting of Nina Woolfe, Reg Jeffryes and his wife. When they advertised for an apprentice, a young lad named Ken Hardy took the job. They worked in close harmony with G.E. Instructional, providing diagram¬matic and cartoon inserts.

In 1939 DYER publicly announced a new series of entertainment cartoons featuring a panda, but before the model sheets and storyboards could be started, we were at war with Germany. Instead, the studio made a series of B/W propaganda shorts lampooning Hitler and Ribbontrop. These were released attached to Gaumont-British newsreels.

For some years Dyer had made sponsored shorts for the advertising agency J. WALTER THOMPSON (e.g. the RINSO films) and during that time liaised with ALEXANDER (SANDY) McKENDRICK and WILLIAM (BILL) LARKINS. Bill now went into partnership with ANSON DYER to form ANALYSIS FILMS LTD., where SID GRIFFITHS led the work on aircraft identification and gunnery films for the R.A.F. and Royal Army. LAURIE PRICE and a group of girl tracer/inkers were seconded to Technicolor Laboratories Ltd. and they also worked on similar productions for the Royal and Merchant Navies. LAURIE left after a while and re-joined his old boss HOPPY HOPKINS.

IAN MATHESON was called up, became Films Liason Officer responsible to the Light Ack-Ack Division and promptly commissioned gunnery instructionals from his former boss, the same HOPPY HOPKINS.

At first Publicity Pictures! National Interest only did work for the Army, concentrating on flack effects and tracer bullets superimposed on live-action footage, but within a few months they were making films for all of the armed forces.

ADOLF’S BUSY DAY - 1940 Lance Wright/Butchers.

page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5