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A Century of Animation

Steve Cavalier | Thursday April 09, 2009

Categories: Other Topics, Animation

British Animation 100 Years at The Cutting Edge

The United Kingdom has had a rather underrated part to play in the history of animation. As is often the case though, a lot of the important ideas and inventions in the development of animation came from British minds but were often better exploited elsewhere.

This exporting of innovation however has always attracted, and been balanced by, an influx of talent from abroad. Some of the great names of the British animation scene have been individuals who have travelled here from around the world, attracted by the UK’s status as one of the worlds centres of creative excellence and home to one of the biggest animation industries. People like Len Lye (New Zealand), Lotte Reiniger (Germany), Peter Sachs (Germany), John Halas (Hungary), George Dunning (Canada), Richard Williams (Canada), Bob Godfrey (Australia), Terry Gilliam (USA) and Tim Burton (USA) have all moved here at various stages of their lives and careers and contributed to the vibrant and exciting world of British animation.

A lot of early innovative British animation was funded by government organisations producing public information films, like the GPO unit in the 1930s and later other government bodies producing wartime propaganda and post-war information films. Generally in these films, getting over the message was all-important as far as the funding body was concerned while the design was left pretty much up to the animator. This led to an industry of animators who worked in a variety of interesting and explorative styles and were good at getting a message across quickly and effectively. This lent itself perfectly to advertising and with the rise of British independent TV in the 1950’s onwards, the British animation industry became one of the world’s leaders in commercials.

The later impact of the music and film industries as Britain became the heart of the ‘swinging sixties’ meant that pop culture, TV comedy, film...

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