AN ARTICLE FROM G.B. ANIMATION'S EARLIEST DAYS
Cab Smith brought this article to our attention. We believe it was published in
a glossy film magazine of the 1940s entitled "The Screen." We are searching for
the publishers or the successors for clearance to use. However, what makes the
article important is that it was written and published when David Hand's G.B. Animation was
in its infancy, and before the famous Animaland and Musical Paintbox films were even in production.
We have no publication date, but it's likely to have been somewhere in
1947. Any information would be appreciated.
The photographs accompanying the article
are reproduced from the magazine. The capital words in the article are the author's.
THE FUTURE OF BRITISH FILMS is being mapped out in an old manor house at Cookham
village, Berks. Moor Hall, headquarters of Gaumont British Animation Ltd., is the
home of an enthusiastic team of artists and technicians and their collection of
animated characters. Here may arise the creations that will out-Disney the
cartoon king himself.
G-B Animation, yet another branch of the ever-widening Rank organisation,
sprang to life just over a year ago when J. ARTHUR RANK decided it was time
Britain opposed America's film cartoon monopoly. To direct and manage the new
unit came DAVID HAND, a burly American with graying hair and alert blue eyes
who is well qualified for the job. After working with Disney for fifteen years
and directing "Snow White" and "Bambi," David Hand abandoned the overwhelming
vastness of the Disney organization and devoted his talents to the development
of its small but ambitious British cousin.
Even in normal times his job would not be easy. In a land of shortages
it is made doubly difficult. In common with most British film studios, Cookham
lacks new equipment, particularly cameras. And although there is no question
of having to find stars and feature players for its films, the right kind of
artists have to be discovered who can create cartoon characters.
Artists must be young and able to draw wel in the exaggerated cartoon style. They
must have a strong sense of humour and an untiring interest in personalities
and animals. Hand has found about seventy artists and is still searching.
Cookham is not yet producing cartoons for general release but is
feeling its way with instructional films. One of the most ingenious of these
traces the history of Britain from the time of the Great Charter to the present day.
Combining enlightenment with entertainment, this cartoon will be
distributed by the British Council to foreign countries. The film demonstrates
the growth and development of British democracy throughout the years. A striking
feature is its depiction of each period of history in the artistic style of the
A sequence dealing with the Peasants Revolt of 1381 was inspired by
illustrations in the Queen Mary Psalter made by a 14th Century Artist.
The satirical style of ROWLANDSON is imitated as the film moves into the
18th Century, and so through the 19th Century to the Atlantic Charter and the
present day with history outlined as it was drawn by "SPY" and LOW.
The evolution and completion of this and any other animated cartoon is a
complicated process. First the story is worked out as a series of rough
sketches. The director plans and times the action of the film, so that the
length is calculated exactly to the one-sixteenth of a foot, or twenty-fourth
of a second. Lay-out experts construct static backgrounds against which the
characters will move, and the musicians are called in to decide on the right
type of music to fit action and moods.
Penciled drawings of high spots of action are made by the animator, while
the "in-between" movements are drawn by assistants. The animator will make a
"key drawing" of a character beginning to run; his helpers supply the many
positions of arms and legs which, when photographed consecutively give the
illusion of running. As many as 20,000 drawings are needed for a ten-minute film.
When these drawings are approved, they move to another department to be
traced on to non-inflammable celluloid and painted in solid colors. Meanwhile
the lay-out man's drawing has the background painted on. Here color variations
are skilfully used to intensify action or emotion-different shades and depths
of color being used to symbolise the various moods of the film. Then the
coloured celluloid action pictures are placed one by one on the painted
backgrounds beneath a camera, and photographed in their correct sequence.
The musicians are called in for the final recording, the sound effects
man discusses with the director any necessary "noises off" and these and the
music are recorded together. At last, everything --- dialogue, music, sound
effects, and pictures - is combined into the completed cartoon ready for final
Everyone at Moor Hall is enthusiastic about the future of British animated
cartoons. Although instructional films for the forces, factories, schools and
medical students form their chief output at the moment, David Hand and his
colleagues aim to develop characters that will challenge the Disney collection.
Realising that British entertainment cartoons must be of superlative quality
and originality to compete with America, they experiment continuously and
tirelessly to discover the right formula. Scores of ideas are worked out,
only to be destroyed as not good enough. But judging by the high standard of
the studio's factual films, there seems little doubt that as a great a
success will be achieved eventually with cartoons designed for entertainment.
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