Nation: A History of British Animation
animation has enjoyed a long and successful history, existing since the
inception of cinema itself. From early stop-motion to animated cut-outs,
traditional hand drawn cel animation, and more recently CGI, innovation has
always been at the heart of animation in Britain. Television has seen a wealth
of cartoons and stop motion work, especially during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Oliver Postgate became a household name with children's shows such as Noggin
the Nog, Pogles Wood, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and The Clangers, alongside
other classics such as Captain Pugwash, Mr Benn, Willo the Wisp, Danger Mouse
and Postman Pat to name but a few. Bob Godfrey's surreal creation, Roobarb and
Custard, was also a highlight during this period of seemingly endless
imagination from British animators.
sheer quantity and quality of animated material for television, though, there
has been rather a dearth of feature length examples. Obviously, they are expensive
to make and time-consuming, plus the huge competition from, for example, Disney
Studios and American animation more generally. However, there have been notable
examples which have found audience success and critical acclaim. Significantly,
Halas and Batchelor's Animal Farm (1954) - based on George Orwell's satirical
novella - is regarded as the first British animated feature. Although the
visual style is similar to Disney features of the period, it is far darker and
more adult in tone in line with the source material. This film initiated the
idea that animation could be used for serious purposes, such as commenting upon
the social, political, and cultural concerns of the time.
As the 1960s
is renowned as a decade of artistic creativity, especially in music, it is no
surprise that the next important and innovative animated feature was inspired
by The Beatles and their hit song Yellow Submarine. This surreal, psychedelic
fantasy was created using hand drawn images, painting on glass, and rotoscoping
and the film is rightly regarded as one of animation's great achievements, also
helping to cement animation as a significant art form. The latter part of the
20th Century saw more innovation in the form of Martin Rosen's
Watership Down (1978) and The Plague Dogs(1982) which were both based on novels
by Richard Adams, and Jimmy Murakami's When The Wind Blows (1986) based on the
comic book by Raymond Briggs. None of these features were intended for a young
audience and therefore cemented the idea that animation was not just for
children, although there was plenty to keep both kids and adults happy with the
work of Nick Park and Aardman Studios. The incredible success of Wallace and
Gromit and the major advancement in stop motion animation techniques speak for
will focus on the history of British animation; the key innovators in the
field; the cultural context in which the films were made; and the artistic
qualities and often subversive potential of a selection of animated films.
The Showroom’s Film Studies programme is open to everybody interested in film, with alternate screenings and discussions led by film lecturers from Sheffield Hallam University every Wednesday. The terms are 8 weeks long, with 4 films and 4 sessions.
£65 / £50 concessions for the full term. Tickets for the whole term can be booked at the Box Office. Tickets are also available for the films individually.