Richard Taylor’s Swimsong

By Ken Clark and Richard Taylor

In the last edition of Animator (No. 9) I gave the impression that the credit for the Barclays Bank cartoons made at the Larkins Studios in the Fifties was due to the work of Beryl Stevens; in doing so, I belittled the contribution made by others. Richard Taylor has now provided me with extra information which is as follows:

In 1955 – 56, when Denis Gilpin, Richard Taylor and Beryl Stevens took over the running of the Larkins unit under managing director Geoffrey Sumner, the Guild introduced them to a new client, Barclays Bank D.O.D. Richard Taylor prepared the storyboard, then roughed out the characters which he entrusted to Beryl for finalising. As the Unit draughtsman her function was to prepare the final character sheets, and that was her only connection with Put Line Money For There – the first Barclay’s film. The trio contacted an African musician – a crucial step in the production – and Richard briefed him on the music required. The actual production was directed by Denis Gilpin, and the key animation was the work of Karlis Smiltens and Pat Wicks. The background design was by Trevor Bond to layouts by Denis.

The film was both a success in distribution (in West Africa) and at the commercial festival where it won the Grand Prix. As a result of this success the Guild management began to trust them, Richard Taylor was elevated to company director and eventually managing director – a position he accepted on condition that Beryl and Denis were made directors as well.

Richard directed/story-boarded/designed three four-minute films for the overseas side of Barclays, and several one-minute ones. Beryl did no other work on that part of the production requirement (not until after Richard’s departure from Larkins when she made Titi and The Woodmen).

As a result of the confidence engendered, the domestic head office of Barclays were encouraged to try cinema advertising and Richard Taylor – jointly with Denis and Beryl, although they were mainly Richard’s ideas – prepared four storyboards which were made into the first four one-minute advertising films ever made by a British Bank. The production of those four was truly a joint effort by all of them. Later on, as a result of lobbying by Richard, Beryl was able to take on directing some of the subsequent series about twenty or more one-minuters alongside the ones Richard made.

After Richard left Larkins, Beryl made a ten-minute film The Bargain. Then Richard made The Rise of Parnassua Needy; Beryl made The Curious History Of Money; and Richard made The Pilgrim. Beryl also made some more one-minuters after Richard had gone independent (Richard Taylor Cartoon Films Ltd.). Richard made two others.

About 1970, Barclays gave up cartoon films and Richard began to do more television work. Beryl’s principle client became B.P. who eventually helped her set up P.C.L.


1982 – 30 secs.

Directed by Richard Taylor for the C.O.I. A film to encourage people to learn to swim. This film was presented at last years Cambridge Animation Festival as a fine example of British animation. It uses the innovative technique of colour without outline.

Richard Taylor says: “It is a difficult film to find monochrome or line art-work for because the concept was entirely one of using colour to define form without outline. There were virtually no line model sheets done, each scene was worked out as a complete image and evolved by evolved by interchange between my conception and Roger McIntosh’s execution of the scenes (although there was execution by me and conception by him as well).

Of the drawings shown, the pair from Sc. 5 are perhaps the most illuminating since the shadow tone was separated out into another drawing and the tracer was instructed to omit the line detail in executing the cel. The shadow tone was not of course a single colour but there were two tones for each of the areas to be coloured – flesh, hair, swimming costume etc. By working out a range of colours at the beginning we were able to manage this light and shadow system throughout the film without proliferation of colours although no scene featured the same character or background more than once.

The other drawings come from scenes when the technique had settled down more and, by using coloured crayon, we defined the tonal separation on the one drawing.

In the case of the old woman in Sc. 11 the figure had to be separated into two levels of cel so that the under water parts were on the level below the surface glitter animation.”

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