The Shadows Move – Part Six – the rise of TV animation

Much had to be accomplished in little time for scant returns.

The TV figure was born; chunky little figures standing about 2—3 heads high. Entertainment series for children employed all the old short-cut methods of limited animation with simple effective draughtsmanship.

During the 60’s Commercial boom time, big money was made by the enterprising, and many more studios sprang into existence to cope with the demand. But, like many good things, it did not last. A new breed of advertising men came in with their new brooms and swept animation out of favour. With the obvious result – shaky young companies operating on an overdraft were forced out of business. About the only studios unaffected to any great extent by the whims of television were these still producing instructional and educational material, they simply turned from film-loops to video-cassette for style of presentation.

Scientific subjects and the problems of working in two and three dimensions were the forte of World Wide Animation Ltd., typical examples were WATER IN BIOLOGY for Unilever and FUEL FOR THE FUTURE for Phillips, both made in 1962.

At Larkins, Beryl Stevens even managed to develop and corner a specialised branch of sponsored filmmaking for Barclays Bank DCC and Barclays Ltd, when she developed an idea she had pioneered for West Africans and turned it into one of the best of post-war public relation exercises. PUT UNA MONEY FOR THERE (1958) established the idea, then a series of one-minute filmlets skilfully designed to take the mystique out of banking delighted British viewers wherever they were shown. Four filmlets a year, together with the longer THE BARGAIN, which ran for ten minutes, totalled one hour of animation and served to establish an enviable reputation for Beryl Stevens.

Fortunately f or filmmakers, TV could not provide an adequate service without filmed material. Unfortunately for animation filmmakers, neither the Beeb, nor the Commercial companies were willing to pay very much for their humble offerings, a situation which persists to this day.

The TV period fully deserves more detailed study but this series is concerned with cinema releases only, and so we turn to news of a new feature: RUDDIGORE. Produced by the husband-and-wife H & B Studio, it was very much director Joy Batchelor’s project. In this she was ably assisted by two of our finest animators, Harold Whitaker and Tony Guy. Since ANIMAL FARM Harold had continued working at the Stroud studio, where he had coached a succession of talented newcomers. Tony Guy will be remembered for his work on WATERSHIP DOWN. For this latest film, a stylised cartoon version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s popular operetta, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company sang the parts, while 16 artists spent three years bringing the ‘caste to life. Premiered in 1964, the film was likened to a musical pantomime. Unhappily, RUDDIGORE received poor cinema distribution in this country and was unable to make a lasting impression. However, when it was presented on American TV by its sponsors, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation, it achieved the highest rating ever for this kind of work.

Two Guardsmen, commercial for Murray mints by Halas and Batchelor.

page 1 | page 2 | page 3