Arthur Humberstone senior animator – Page 2

Arthur went on to become a valued member of the G.B. Animation Unit and when the studio closed, ex-Disney animator, David Hand presented Arthur with a personally signed photograph of Walt Disney, which is a very rare and treasured item.

‘When Arthur replied that he was fond of horses John Halas said, “Then Boxer and Bengimin are yours.”

He went back to Derby and took a job as a newspaper cartoonist and his regular task was to produce a cartoon strip for the sports page. When the Halas and Batchelor studio started the production of the first British feature length Cartoon Animal Farm one of Arthur’s ex-Cookham colleagues recommended him to John Halas. He went along for an interview and was asked what animals he was interested in. When Arthur replied that he was fond of horses John Halas said, ‘Then Boxer and Bengimin are yours.’ Arthur moved to London to be near the studio and when John Halas found out that he had a flat just over the road he said, ‘In that case you can have a key so that you can come back in the evening to animate.’ And that is what Arthur would do. After his evening meal he would pop back and do some more animation.

He maintains that once you pick up an animation job it is always on your mind wherever you are. You can’t switch it off when you leave the desk and you will have fresh ideas for when you come back. He recalls the advice he got from David Hand at G.B. Animation: ‘If you’ve got a problem then I don’t want you to sit there pondering over it wasting my money, paper and pencils, go have a coffee break, walk around the studio, go out in the gardens. Then come back again and you will most probably find that your problem is solved.’ Often the problem would be a piece of animation that did not flow properly, the movement would look awkward. After a break the fault would become obvious and a solution was found.

Boxer the carthorse and Benjamin the donkey Animal Farm.

Most of the animation on Animal Farm was done in Halas and Batchelor’s London studio while their Stroud studio concentrated on other work. The two groups were refered to as the Moor Hall ites and the Stroudites. There was, however, one Stroudite who worked on Animal Farm and that was Harold Whitaker. Harold did the animation of the farmer and Arthur was particularly impressed by a scene where the farmers were holding a meeting in the village pub: ‘The farmer strides in and when he goes to sit he puts his hand between his legs and pulls the chair underneath him in the way that farmers did. It was not called for in the script but it was one of those touches that Harold would add.’

Noddy Goes to Toyland.

Arthur formed his own animation company in Cookham in 1962 to make a pilot production of Noddy goes to Toyland but it was not an entirely happy experience: ‘The ten minute film was made for £5000 which was a shoestring budget even in those days, considering the amount of animation that went into it, the trace and paint, and we used big name voices such as Dereck Gyler. The person who was putting up the money went to other studios to get quotes for the series and one in France wanted £20,000 per episode. After I finished the pilot I got a letter from the backer telling me that the money he had earmarked for the Noddy series had been put into a pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, because he saw a chance of a bigger and quicker return on the investment there.’

Arthur came out of that losing £800 of his own money. The film did get a limited release in 1981 when P.M. Films of Beaconsfield put it out on Super 8 for the home movie buffs. Collectors may be interested to know that the print quality is first class because it was taken from a master print which had been held in storage by Humphries Laboratories since they had done the original processing in the sixties. Through the sixties and seventies Arthur worked on numerous commercials and TV series such as The Jackson Five, Osmand Brothers and The Count of Monti Christo. Arthur sights The Count of Monti Christo as a prime example of how not to do a sound track: ‘It was over narrated to the point where it could have been a radio play. They would say what they were doing. For example the Count would say, ‘Follow me Jacoby’. There was nothing filmic about it.

In 1976 Arthur landed a job on Watership Down on the strength of some of his animal drawings. While the film was in progress he kept twenty-six rabbits in his garden and he would sketch them running up and down the grass banks outside his window in order to get the action right. He filmed them on Super 8 stock, sketched the action frame by frame from an editing viewer and photocopied the drawings so that the animators could have copies to use as a guide when animating the various characters in the film.

The sequence where the farmer’s dog moves along the bank of the river Enborne, was an instance where studying Super 8 film of his own dog helped with both leg and tail movements.

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