Halas & Batchelor Reformed

Report by Ken Clark.

John Halas at the recently opened H&B archive.

After 53 years continual production Halas & Batchelor Ltd. has been reformed and removed to 6 Holford Road, London NW3 1AD, not so very far from Jack Straw’s Castle public house off Hampstead Heath.

This is John Halas new residence, and building is still in progress converting the sizable garage into both an archive and an animation production studio. The archive has been designed to match the original Bauhaus design of the main house. A fitting choice when one remembers that in his youth John received his earliest training in art from those who had originally taught at the Bauhaus in Germany.

The grand opening took place 17th September 1993, although the huge collection of films and memorabilia were not delivered to the site until September 21st. With the details of each item recorded on their computer data banks copies of the films will be readily accessible for commercial distribution and for on the spot study by students and researchers.

“It is an attempt to create something that will live on – a legacy, if you like,” explained John’s assistant Miss Audi Mindel.

“This is a collection of fifty-odd years work,” John added, “For twenty of those years I used computer animation but I don’t expect to use it to any great degree in the future, although I do intend to continue producing films which will include personal productions.”

Current films include an animated documentary entitled Emlle Cohl, The Birth of Animation, the European co-production Know Your Europeans and a full length children’s production Motu the Indian Elephant.

Drawings and cels are to be archived, and the doors will be open to freelance animators who will be invited in to work on new projects. 2,500 films have been completed since H&Bs commencement in 1940, much of the work carried out for the Government during the war has been destroyed and the studio did not retain copies of all their many commercials. John is anxious to trace existing copies of titles missing from this collection and would like to hear from anyone who can help.

While mingling with the distinguished guests, I chatted with Bob Godfrey. Remembering a visit to Bob’s studio some years ago when he was trying to enthuse a prospective backer in his proposed feature cartoon Jumbo. I asked what happened to it?

“I could never get the money for it!” he said ruefully, then added with a grin, “- but I had a great time not doing it. It was about circuses and animal acts which meets with some opposition these days, so I suppose it is not now such a good idea. However, I never waste good material. I’ve used several of the songs from Jumbo in episodes of Henry’s Cat, and I took ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ from Great and used that too in the same series. My ambition is still to make a feature and I’m actively working on it!

‘We’ve just finished a nice little short Small Talk, story boarded by Stan Haywood. We put a lot into it, six months of damned hard work on a small budget and with an even smaller crew. Ken Baldwin and I put more animation in than usual and it made me very bad tempered.” Now, with his temper restored, Bob has confidence and high hopes for Small Talk, which was nominated for an animation Oscar this year.

It was a great pleasure to come face to face with Harold Whitaker again. The last occasion was when he was in charge of the H & B unit in Stroud, Gloustershire. Many a young animator learned the craft there under the tutelage of this seasoned veteran. Looking fit and well, although officially retired, he confided he is still as busy as ever.

Printed in Animator Issue 31 (Spring 1994)