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Dan Torre & Lienors Torre

Australian Animation “The fact that Lienors and Dan Torre spent over a decade researching and documenting this history is testament to their expertise as animators and scholars; and it is an important aspect that adds to the quality and authenticity of their writing. Their seminal work positions and clarifies Australia’s cultural evolution, innovation and unique practice.” —Kathy Smith, Associate Professor and former Chair John C. Hench Animation & Digital Arts, University of Southern California, USA

Dan Torre · Lienors Torre

Australian Animation An International History

Dan Torre RMIT University Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Lienors Torre Deakin University Melbourne, VIC, Australia

ISBN 978-3-319-95491-2 ISBN 978-3-319-95492-9  (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018951033 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Illustration by Harry Julius Cover design by Tom Howey This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Lucy, Thomas and Vivienne, and for Phung and Richard Allen, who have accompanied us in our discovery of Australian animation.


The Authors would like to thank the following: Richard Allen, David Atkinson, Stephen Ball, Neil Balnaves, John Bird, Keith Bradbury, Arthur Cantrill and Corinne Cantrill, John Clark, Lucinda Clutterbuck, Dianne Colman, Gairden Cooke, Dirk de Bruyn, Murray Debus, David Field, Cam Ford and Diana Ford, Jenny Gall, Peter Greenaway, Yoram Gross and Sandra Gross, Frank Hellard, Athol Henry, Ruth Hill, John Even Hughes, Zoran Janjic, Anne Jolliffe, Meg Labrum, Cecily Lea, Michael Lee, Rod Lee, Gus McLaren, Lynsey Martin, Judy Nelson, Margaret Parkes, David Perry, Bruce Petty, Vincent Plush, Gabby Porter, John Porter, Joy Porter, Elizabeth Presa, Robert Qiu, Vivienne Scheffer (and family), Michael Sesin, Graham Sharp, Anne Shenfield, Graham Shirley, Robbert Smit, Kathy Smith, Andi Spark, Antoinette Starkiewicz, Alex Stitt and Paddy Stitt, Deborah Szapiro, Neil Taylor, Itzell Tazzyman, Phil Thomas, Albie Thoms, Helen Tully, Dennis Tupicoff, Malcolm Turner, Lee Whitmore, Norman Yeend, The National Film and Sound Archive, The National Library of Australia, and The State Library of NSW. A further thank you to the many who have generously offered information, anecdotes and encouragement for this research.



1 Introduction 1 2

From Sketch to Empire 7


Pat Sullivan and Felix the Cat 31


Early Australian Animators: Isolation and International Influences 53


Television and the Rise of International Collaborations 79


Marco Polo Junior: A Crisis of Animated Identity 107


Yoram Gross: Bringing Australian Animation to the World, One Dot at a Time 135


Alex Stitt: Animation by Design 147


Hanna-Barbera Australia 161




10 An Industry Matures 179 11 Independently Animated 211 Index 241

List of Figures

Fig. 2.1 Fig. 2.2 Fig. 2.3 Fig. 2.4 Fig. 2.5 Fig. 2.6 Fig. 2.7 Fig. 2.8 Fig. 3.1 Fig. 3.2

Fig. 3.3

Portrait of Alec Laing by Harry Julius (1917) (Courtesy the State Library of New South Wales) Portrait of Harry Julius (1918) Still frames from Cartoons of the Moment (Harry Julius) These films featured a very sophisticated application of the cut-out animation technique Detail of Australian patent for cut-out animation technique, Harry Julius 1918 Promotional image for Cartoon Filmads, c.1920 Storyboards produced by Cartoon Filmads in preparation for the Lux Soap animated cinema advertisem*nt (c.1920) Promotional literature for Cartoon Filmads, showing the various stages of the studio’s production Print ad by Cartoon Filmads that accompanied the animated film advertisem*nt for the same product, 1919 An early drawing by Pat Sullivan (as Pat O’Sullivan) c.1908 (Image courtesy State Library of NSW) Title card for Charlie Chaplin series (1918–1919) depicting two Felix-like black cats. This series was produced prior to Feline Follies (1919), which is often regarded as the first ‘Felix’ film (Left) a black cat, drawn by Pat Sullivan, featured in a magazine advertisem*nt published August 24, 1918 for How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (1918), part of the Charlie Chaplin cartoon series. (Right) a frame

11 12 16 17 19 22 24 25 33




List of Figures

Fig. 3.4 Fig. 3.5 Fig. 4.1

Fig. 4.2 Fig. 4.3

Fig. 4.4 Fig. 4.5

Fig. 4.6 Fig. 4.7 Fig. 5.1 Fig. 5.2 Fig. 5.3

grab from Feline Follies, late 1919. There is a marked similarity between the design of these two cats 39 Frame grab from Feline Follies (1919) which features the Australian vernacular, “Mum” 40 Frame grab from a later Felix cartoon which shows the more rounded styling of the Felix films produced after 1922 41 Cover of sheet music for the theme song, “I’m Willie the Wombat” that accompanied the release of Eric Porter’s short film, Waste Not Want Not (1939). An accompanying dance step, The Wombat Waddle, was also created and promoted throughout a number of Australian dance halls 61 Image, featuring Willie Wombat (left) and Bennie Bear (right) from the accompanying book to Eric Porter’s short film, Waste Not Want Not (1939) 63 Screen logo for Eric Porter Studios, proudly noting the studio’s location in Sydney, Australia. The logo also depicts a movie camera silhouette that has an uncanny visual connection to the silhouette of the Walt Disney character, Mickey Mouse 66 Frame grab from the short animated film Bimbo’s Auto (Porter 1954), exhibiting a somewhat retro style, reminiscent of the 1940s 67 Frame grabs from the educational animated short film, A Dairy-Land Romance (Owen Brothers, 1954). a depicts two very well-bred bovines, which speak in an unmistakably crisp British accent (which was the broadcast standard in Australia in the 1950s). b depicts a young bull, replete with flashy clothes, who lacks such proper breeding, and subsequently speaks in a much broader Australian accent. This film was animated by Bruce Petty, and represents a stark contrast to the much freer illustrative styling of his later independent animated films 70 Image by Serge Sesin of Australian animals (1952)—intended as a pre-cursor to a planned animated film 73 Frame grab from The Magic Trumpet (Dusan Marek 1962), a cut-out animated film that utilises a surprisingly eclectic range of materials 76 Frame grab from the animated television series, Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table (1966) 90 Frame grab from the animated television series, Captain Comet of the Space Rangers which utilised a hybrid of liveaction model sets and cel animation 95 Frame grab from the Freddo the Frog television series (1952) 99

List of Figures   

Fig. 6.1 Fig. 6.2

Fig. 6.3 Fig. 7.1 Fig. 8.1

Fig. 8.2

Fig. 8.3 Fig. 10.1 Fig. 11.1 Fig. 11.2 Fig. 11.3

Frame grab from the original Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon (Porter 1972) which showcases some of the elaborate background scenery used in the film Frame grab from the original Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon (Porter 1972) shows a particularly engaging sequence in which the crashing waves momentarily metamorphose into menacing dragon formations Advertising sheet for the Australian release of the feature film, Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon, highlighting the fact that it was an Eric Porter Studios production Frame grab from Dot and the Kangaroo (1977) Frame grab from Grendel Grendel Grendel (Alex Stitt 1980) showcasing both Stitt’s strong sense of design and the omission of any black outlines around the character and background elements Frame grab from Grendel Grendel Grendel (Alex Stitt 1980) which further illustrates the bold character designs and the omission of linework around the characters. This approach also seemed to work well against a solid coloured background, as shown here Frame grab from Abra Cadabra (Alex Stitt 1983). Note the character on the right appears somewhat out of focus, due to the 3D optical processing Frame grab from The Magic Pudding (2000) Frame grab from A Photo of Me (Dennis Tupicoff 2017) Frame grab from The Safe House (Lee Whitmore 2006) Image from Harvie Krumpet (Adam Elliot 2003)



117 124 140


154 156 186 223 226 229



Animation production in Australia has a very extensive, but little known, history. Regrettably, much of this history has remained undocumented— in some cases, has become virtually lost. To date, there has been published no comprehensive text which documents this history. The few journal articles, and even fewer book chapters, that have been published on the topic of Australian animation have been incomplete and some containing factual errors and important omissions. This text aims to correct some of these inaccuracies and to reduce the substantial void that currently exists in this area of animation studies. And while it presents a colourful and vibrant historical survey, it is also much more than merely a detailed timeline of animated productions: it looks critically at these productions and seeks to contextualise them in a wider historical context. The history of Australian animation, although remarkable in its own domestic context (it has produced a great quantity of innovative and compelling animations), is equally fascinating when considered within the larger global history of animation. Despite Australia’s geographic isolation, its animation production has been surprisingly interconnected within the wider global animation context. Even from the earliest days, Australian animation benefitted from an international outlook. As ­pioneering animator Harry Julius declared soon after he returned from a brief time working in the animation industry in New York:

© The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




Before Australia can make pictures to seriously compete in the world’s market, she must learn what other countries can teach. […] One grows rather weary of hearing panegyrics on Australia’s fine scenery, sunlight and girls, and indignant denunciations of people who suggest that something more than these may still be needed. Every good Australian is proud of his land, but everyone who stops for a moment’s thought must realize that the technical side of a film has to be attended to in order to bring out the natural advantages.1

This was at the time that Julius had begun to build what would become one of the most extensive international animation empires of its time. The first major studio in Australia, Cartoon Filmads (founded in 1918), also became one of the world’s first international animation empires. Throughout the 1920s, it had studio branches in over a dozen countries and was producing animated cinema advertisem*nts for specific markets all over Asia and into Europe. Cartoon Filmads became one of the first studios in the world to utilise highly detailed storyboards as part of its pre-production process (many years before these became used by Disney). Throughout the decades, countless Australian animators have travelled back and forth to America, England, Europe and Asia to work in these animation industries and the very nature of animation’s often segmented production process began to facilitate a great deal of transnational partnerships. With the advent of television, much of the work produced by the Australian studios involved some form of international collaboration. Perhaps because of animation’s rather exceptional production practices (its wholly constructed imagery and its highly segmented production tasks), it is a medium that ostensibly encourages these long-distance collaborations. Marco Polo Junior (Porter 1972), for example, is regarded as Australia’s first animated feature film. While it was entirely directed and animated in Australia, it was primarily written and principally designed in America. Contrastingly, the feature animated film, The Magic Pudding (2000), was written, designed, storyboarded and financed in Australia, but almost entirely animated overseas. Such associations have undoubtedly further widened the definition of Australian animation. Historically, Australia’s population has been small; thus, there has never been a large enough domestic audience to support large-scale productions. Most domestic productions have therefore sought to create a product designed to appeal both to the Australian and to an international audience—often with America being the prized objective. In making their animated films palatable to the American market, there has been



a shifting range of approaches that either promote an ‘Australian’ theme or remove it altogether. Many Australian animated films have resorted to the featuring of native animals (koalas, kangaroos and wombats) as a means of projecting their Australian-ness. In fact, many have found it very difficult to represent Australia or Australian culture in cartoon form without resorting to bush animals. Harry Julius in addressing this issue in 1938 noted that ‘This problem has always rankled with Australian cartoonists. It has never been solved. […] When you are dealing in animals it is easy. The dressed-up kangaroo is recognisable at once – and he is exclusive.’2 An Australian accent and vernacular can also provide an easily identifiable sense of national origin; some have used this—although until more recently, it has been a dialect that has tended not to ‘play well’ in America. Some Australian studios such as Air Programs International (API) opted to use a ‘mid-Atlantic’ voice (one that sits somewhere between an American and a British accent), or else utilise a very exaggerated character voice—one devoid of any recognisable dialect. An important component of Australian animation history (and an equally important aspect of that of America) comprises the several decades during which both Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera had large animation production studios in Sydney. These studios, using local Australian talent, produced a colossal amount of animation for the global markets, covering television, direct to video markets, and for theatrical release. The advent and growth of these American studios also had a direct effect on the continued growth and success of Australian studios and animation production. In recent decades, there has been substantial growth in the quantity of Australian productions as well as the creation of a number of animated feature films; these have frequently been either co-productions with overseas studios or the output by Australian studios of sequences/components for American productions. The detailing of the numerous transnational flows of animation will demonstrate how Australia has not only simultaneously produced many remarkable animation films, but also played a significant and integral part in the much larger global history of animation—an important role that has been omitted from many historical studies. Chapter 2, ‘From Sketch to Empire,’ details the significant beginnings of Australian animation, including the formation of a large international animation empire. Chapter 3, ‘Pat Sullivan and Felix the Cat,’ seeks to provide a balanced assessment of the Australian animator, Pat Sullivan, and his work in the



animation industry in New York. Significantly, this chapter highlights some later associations that ensued between Australia and Felix the Cat. Chapter 4, ‘Early Australian Animators: Isolation and International Influences,’ looks at the few, but none the less significant, Australian animators and studios that were working from about 1930 to 1956 (when television was first introduced). Chapter 5, ‘Television and the Rise of International Collaborations,’ considers the impact of the introduction of television and how this radically changed the animation landscape of Australia. Chapter 6, ‘Marco Polo Junior: A Crisis of Animated Identity,’ provides an in-depth discussion of the production of the feature animated film, Marco Polo Jr vs. The Red Dragon (Porter, 1972), which is regarded as the first animated feature to be produced in Australia. Chapter 7, ‘Yoram Gross: Bringing Australian Animation to the World, One Dot at a Time,’ focuses on the work of Yoram Gross, a very prolific producer of animation, and creator of some exceptionally Australian-themed animated films. Chapter 8, ‘Alex Stitt: Animation by Design,’ concentrates on the uniquely designed animations by Alexander Stitt, who contributed to the field of Australian animation for over half a century. Chapter 9, ‘Hanna-Barbera Australia,’ focuses on the arrival of Hanna-Barbera to Australia and details the colourful narrative of this previously unpublished segment of both Australian animation history and that of the Hanna-Barbera Studio. Chapter 10, ‘An Industry Mature,’ continues to look at a wide number of animation studios in Australia (including Walt Disney Studio, Australia) and other significant productions. It also looks at some of the more contemporary animations that have been produced, including the Academy Award-winning feature, Happy Feet (2006). Chapter 11, ‘Independently Animated,’ focuses on the rich history and culture of independent animation in Australia; interestingly, it is within these independent animations that we can also witness some of the strongest expressions of Australian culture and thematic content. This final chapter also serves as a concluding section in which many of the themes and analyses that have been explored throughout the text are further consolidated and contextualised.



Notes 1. Harry Julius, ‘A Battle-Cry that Shouldn’t Be,’ The Picture Show, 1 April 1920, 17. 2. Harry Julius, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 February 1938.

Bibliography Julius, Harry. ‘A Battle-Cry That Shouldn’t Be.’ The Picture Show, April 1920. Julius, Harry. The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 February 1938.


From Sketch to Empire

Animated Beginnings Many of the earliest film animators (both in Australia and elsewhere) came from illustration or cartoonist backgrounds; many had also worked as ‘lightning sketch artists.’ A lightning sketcher was essentially an artist who would create a large drawing, drawn skilfully and very quickly in front of a live audience (thus the term ‘lightning’). With the development of cinema many of these lightning sketch artists made the transition from live stage to filmed performances. Basically, the films comprised lightning sketches that took advantage of the animation process, turning the lightning sketch artist into a super-lightning sketch artist. To some, these earlier films may not look like the type of ‘animation’ that most of us are used to viewing. For example, the characters might not have moved as freely as in modern-day animation; or the animation might have been simply the act of drawing a character onscreen whereby the lines would have appeared to draw themselves— that is the animator would have drawn a small section of a line, then stepped away as an exposure was taken on film; the animator would then draw another bit extending the line, step away, etc. The result would be that the image or character would seem miraculously to draw itself— and this might be the extent of the animation. In some cases, as will be described later, even the artist’s hand would remain continuously visible in the frame: that is, the artist would draw a segment of line and then hold his hand motionless with his pencil resting on the line he had just © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




drawn, while an exposure was taken. He would then draw another segment (and then hold still in frame again) to expose another frame, the result being that the animator would appear to be drawing a character or image at a super-speed rate—and at other times simply dotting the pen upon the paper and making a whole section of the character miraculously appear. This type of animation highlighted the act of animating, rather than making a character move.1 Many of the pioneering Australian animators began by producing animated lightning sketches. Below, a reporter describes the technique that Harry Julius used to create his animated lightning sketch drawings, which was the same method that his predecessors (Virgil Reilly and Alec Laing) would have used. As [Julius] begins the first lines of the drawing, the operator turns the handle of the camera … then he calls ‘Stop’ and the handle-turning ceases. Continuing, the second phase of his drawing until a convincing outline has been completed, he orders the operator to turn again, and, after adding a few strokes to show his hand at work, he again calls ‘Stop’, and so on till the cartoon is finished. […] If the camera accompanied every movement of his pencil … the entire effect of instantaneous production would be lost through slowness of execution, and an interminable length of execution, and an interminable length of film.2

Clearly, these early films were created by means of the stop-motion animation process, essentially a frame-by-frame capturing of each minute mark that the animator would make. And in some cases, it was not a requirement that the drawing then comes to life, for in these earlier films sometimes merely seeing an animated creation of an image was enough.

Alec Laing Australian cartoonist, Alec Laing was published widely in various Sydneyand Melbourne-based newspapers and journals between 1890 and 1905. He was also, according to Harry Julius, the first Australian to create animated lightning sketches when he was living temporarily in London in around 1902. It was during this time that it is claimed that he created topical animated lightning sketches for Pathé Films during the final stages of the Boer War (1899–1902).3 After the war, he returned to Australia and by 1905 was performing with theatrical stage celebrity, ‘La Milo,’ in Sydney. La Milo (whose real



name was Pansy Montague and would later become his wife) performed an act of ‘living statues.’ These performances involved the dramatic recreation of well-known European and antiquity works of art. La Milo would pose in the stance of a statue and hold herself motionless while being dramatically lit.4 While this was occurring Laing would perform live lightning sketches that were projected from a magic lantern. He would draw directly onto frosted plates of glass (upside down) while the magic lantern projected them onto the stage. Below an Australian newspaper reviewer describes the show: While the caricaturist rapidly sketches familiar faces on a huge sheet (it is a magic-lantern effect with their sketches done on a smoked glass) a series of statues, remarkably well managed, are shown in a garden scene on the stage.5

Some of his projected drawing performances would be merely projected onto a screen, while others would be meticulously integrated onto the posed La Milo and her surroundings. In this way, his sketches would appear to be over-laid or ‘mapped’ onto the stage performance, becoming an essential part of the visual display. Although the performances featured an often semi-nude Montague, they were presented in unmistakable good taste. As one reviewer noted: There can be no difference of opinion as to the ideal loveliness of the pictures of which La Milo formed the centre figure. As to the suggestion of indecency, that is a fraud, and I fear that those who sell tickets on the strength of it are successfully open to an accusation of obtaining money on false pretences.6

Later, Laing animated some of these sketches, but instead of live sketching the performance, he projected the movie films onto the stage. These animated films, interspersed with lengthy live-action sequences and later known as La Milo Films, were most probably first screened in London at the Alhambra theatre in around 1906, and it is believed that they continued to be shown as their act travelled around performing in Australia and later in America. A few years later while on tour in America, he parted ways with the La Milo stage show (and his wife) and then began working in the fledgling animation industry in New York—where he would later meet up with fellow Australians, Harry Julius and Pat Sullivan.



Harry Julius, who became a close friend of Alec Laing, drew an illustration of him in 1917 after returning from working in New York. The drawing depicts Laing holding a reel of film that is labelled as ‘La Milo Films,’ a reference to the animated films that he produced that were screened as part of the La Milo stage performances. Julius had worked briefly with Laing as an animator on the Mutt and Jeff series at Raoul Barre’s Animated Cartoons Studio in New York. As a nod to this, he populated the background of the illustration with characters that were reminiscent of those Mutt and Jeff cartoons (Fig. 2.1).

Virgil Reilly Beginning in 1910, an artist named Virgil Reilly (1892–1974) was creating animated cinema advertisem*nts in Melbourne in the form of filmed graphics and animated lightning sketches. As with many of these early advertisem*nts, most are now lost; but a few have survived, including a cinema advertisem*nt screened in 1910 for the Melbourne-based fur coat maker, George’s Fine Furs. The advertisem*nt features a combination of live action and drawn animation. The live-action sequences feature models showing off the latest fashions, which are followed by sequences in which the animator can be seen drawing images of women wearing the fur hats and coats. The animator’s hand can be seen creating, at incredible speed, an intricate drawing of a woman dressed in fine clothing. Sometimes the hand could be seen drawing just a single line; at other times, it would merely pass over, miraculously rendering a whole section of the image at once. Using the animation technique described earlier, Reilly’s animations were animated lightning sketches that focused on the creation of the images; but these did not usually come to life in the typical cartoon sense since they were first and foremost the animation of the image’s creation.

Harry Julius Harry Julius (1885–1938) was certainly the most notable and the most prolific creator of animation in the early decades of animation production in Australia. Like many animators of the time, Julius began as a newspaper cartoonist and as a lightning sketch artist—he performed his first public lightning sketch performance at the age of nine in 1894. He was later trained in fine art under Julian Ashton and became a renowned illustrator,



Fig. 2.1  Portrait of Alec Laing by Harry Julius (1917) (Courtesy the State Library of New South Wales)



cartoonist, and popular lightning sketch artist. In 1906, he and fellow artist, Sydney Ure-Smith, founded the Smith and Julius advertising firm. Most of the work produced by the studio was in print graphics advertising; but before long Julius began experimenting with animated film advertising and soon embraced the new medium of film, proclaiming that: ‘The motion picture is the most advanced form of modern art’ (Fig. 2.2).7

Fig. 2.2  Portrait of Harry Julius (1918)



The exact date that Julius first began experimenting with animation is somewhat unclear. As a number of newspaper articles claim, he was a self-taught animator—‘There was no one to show him how he should set to work, and success was not attained without close and earnest application.’8 It is therefore most probable that he began experimenting with animation well before his studio went into full production mode. Because of his long-standing reputation as a cartoonist, and upon the strength of his early animated efforts, in January of 1915 Julius was able to secure a contract with Australasian Films to produce a weekly series of animated cartoons. The commencement of this groundbreaking series, Cartoons of the Moment, was noted in an Adelaide Mail newspaper article: Artist Harry Julius has just fixed up with the Australasian Film Company to supply ‘movie’ cartoons for the weekly gazette. This class of picture has been extensively used in the United States and England, but Julius will supply the first Australian series to be shown. The audience sees the artist arrive at his studio and search the morning papers for a topic then it observes him dash the paper down. After that an enormous hand and pencil fill the screen, and the cartoon is drawn on an immense scale line by line and with uncanny rapidity.9

The date, 1915, is a significant one that marks the beginning of the first animated series to be produced in Australia. From the very start, these shorts were rather sophisticated in their technique and proved to be immensely popular. They were screened weekly in all the major cities of Australia and New Zealand. One New Zealand reviewer noted: Cartoons of the moment by the Australian cartoonist, Harry Julius, were shown in the Australian Gazette and proved very popular. This series is a particularly good one and pleased a large audience last evening.10

The series featured commentary on the current topics and news of the day, such as: WWI, domestic and foreign politics, international trade agreements and popular fashions. The following is a description of the production process of Harry Julius as he worked on his animated lightning sketch styled films:



After thinking out the subjects for his weekly series of cartoons he draws the pictures for direct reproductions by the camera. In summer he works on a horizontally placed blackboard with the camera a few feet away: but in the winter months, when artificial light has to be employed, he draws on a flat board, the camera being placed on a platform a few feet above the board, and operating downwards.11

As his series developed, the films became increasingly proficient, combining the ‘animated lightning sketch’ technique with an increasing use of the cut-out animation technique, which he referred to as ‘continuous action’ animation (a technique that he would later patent in Australia and in a number of other Commonwealth countries).12 He continued to produce this groundbreaking series until 1916, at which point he and his wife travelled to America so that Julius could work in the animation industry in New York. While there he met up with Alec Laing who was already working in the industry. The bulk of Julius’ time was spent at the Roul Barre Studios where he worked on the Mutt and Jeff series. Although his time there was relatively short (less than a year), he had the opportunity to see how an established and successful American studio functioned and to witness the scope of this rapidly growing industry. He learned a lot about the craft of animation and, more importantly, about the effective management of an animation studio. Julius returned to Sydney in 1917 and began to expand significantly his animation efforts, officially forming the Cartoon Filmads Studio. Requiring much greater space, he and his crew soon relocated across the street from the traditional print graphics division of Smith and Julius Advertising. He hired a great number of the best Australian artists/ animators of the day, including Sydney Miller, Lance Driffield, Geoff Litchfield, Harrison Ford and Arthur Sparrow. These artists became his chief animators and played a large role in the success of the studio. Cartoon Filmads was still affiliated with the greater Smith and Julius Company—although the two divisions were by now managed as separate entities. Australian artist, Lloyd Rees, who worked in the traditional print graphics wing of the company, noted that the animators at Cartoon Filmads were ‘dashing moderns of the day, who looked as though they could well have carried six-shooters, and of whom the rest of us were vaguely scared.’13



The following year, in 1918, Cartoon Filmads was formally incorporated as a distinct enterprise (although still residing under the Smith and Julius umbrella) and became Cartoon Filmads, Ltd. As an animator, Julius is best known for his animated series, ‘Cartoons of the Moment.’ These, however, ran only for a brief time. Perhaps more significantly, his studio, over a span of some fifteen years, produced a vast quantity of animated advertisem*nts and animated ‘industrial films’ for both national and international markets.

Patently Animated One of the primary methods of animation that Cartoon Filmads was using was the cut-out animation technique, and in 1918, Julius was able to patent this technique in Australia. Cut-out animation is basically a two-dimensional form of stop-motion animation. His initial patent described the method as follows: To obviate the necessity for a plurality of drawings in the photographic preparation of the film the parts are cut out of cardboard, or other material, and fitted together to form the figure or subject to be photographed, the parts being rearranged before each subsequent exposure.14

In the field of international animation production, Julius was by no means the first, let alone the only one, to be utilising the cut-out technique. Early animators, such as J. Stuart Blackton used this technique in such films as Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906). It was also the primary production technique used in making El Apóstol (The Apostle, which is now regarded to be the first feature-length animated film) created by Italian/Argentinean animator, Quirino Christiani, in 1917.15 However, since animation productions were rather limited in Australia at that time, Julius seems to have had no trouble in securing a patent for it. To his credit, Julius did make full use of the technique and seemed to further its development. In his animated films, for example, he utilised a number of other materials, such as cotton and newspaper clippings, to supplement his animated effect (using, for e.g., tufts of cotton as a means of simulating smoke). These gave a distinctly tactile and dimensional quality to his otherwise 2D animations (see Fig. 2.3). In subsequent years, he patented this technique in a number of other Commonwealth countries (including the UK and Canada). As cut-out



Fig. 2.3  Still frames from Cartoons of the Moment (Harry Julius) These films featured a very sophisticated application of the cut-out animation technique

animation was quite commonly used in these other countries, he was forced to amend the initial claims of the ‘invention’ to show how it differed from other forms of cut-out animation. So, for example, the Great Britain version that he prepared in 1921 reads: It has also been suggested previously in the production of animated films to use jointed figures, the joints being suitably stiffened so that, the various parts will remain in the different positions into which they have been moved. According to the present invention however, the separate elements or sections are not jointed together but are simply placed into their different positions.16

Simply keeping the parts detached from each other was, in fact, quite a minor alteration and was likely to have been used by other animators— but it was enough of a variance to warrant the issuing of the patent in the UK and Canada. In actuality, this modified approach does have its benefits as it allows freer movement of the character. It also minimises unwanted ancillary movement that can occur to other sections of a character, such as a head movement when moving the attached arm. But it can also be much more difficult if the goal is, for example, to animate the entire character in a convincing walking action. In such cases, the animator will probably find it quite challenging to keep all of the parts together and cohesive in their movements (see Fig. 2.4).



Fig. 2.4  Detail of Australian patent for cut-out animation technique, Harry Julius 1918

David Barker David C. Barker (1888–1946) served as an official war artist during WWI, and on his return to Australia continued a productive art practice. He soon began experimenting with animation, and in 1921, he patented his own animation technique. This technique essentially involved the rotoscoping of live-action footage (though he never actually used the term rotoscoping): ‘The object of this invention is the production of animated cartoons which when exhibited will be practically free from jerkiness and consequently more lifelike in movement.’17 The rotoscoping method involves the frame-by-frame tracing of live-action footage and ensures that the drawings have the same fluid type of motion that was perceptible in the original. In a sense, it allows for the ‘motion capture’ of movement from live-action footage and the application of that movement to graphical forms. As with Harry Julius’s cut-out technique, rotoscoping



had already been used quite frequently elsewhere and had actually been patented in America in 1917 by the Fleischer Brothers. Barker’s technique also seems to have involved (in some cases) the re-positioning of the animation back onto the same live-action photographic backgrounds, which had further similarities to the Fleischer Brothers system known as the rotograph. Keen to build his studio further, Harry Julius struck a deal with Barker, making him a producer in the company; in return, he was able to bring the Barker animation patent under the control of Cartoon Filmads. Promotional material for the studio highlighted this technique: The new process by which Cartoon Filmads is animated, forms a most important stage in their development. The smoother action that results from using the new method gives movements that are lifelike. The elimination of all jerkiness, moreover, permits of the advertising message receiving fullest attention.18

The studio now held patents to two of the most cost-effective animation techniques and had essentially cornered the market on all animation production in Australia. The Australian versions of these patents were valid for 14 years; the Julius patent issued in 1918 expired in 1932, Barker’s in 1935. Collectively, with these patents they produced most of the animation in Australia, as well as virtually all of the advertising animation that was being created for the Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

Cartoon Filmads—An Animated Empire The Cartoon Filmads Studio expanded quickly and soon became a major enterprise offering a wide range of animated advertisem*nt productions. It was also an animation studio that, although engaged almost exclusively in the field of advertising, prided itself on its artistic and creative approach. This was clearly reflected in the studio’s logo design, which featured a large ‘artist’ palette symbol and a well-dressed artist character in the midst of painting a work of art (see Fig. 2.5). The company management consisted of: Albert E. Lake (Managing Director) Harry Julius (Director), J.L. Anderson (Director), David Barker (Producer) and J.A. Lake (Secretary). As the studio expanded, it employed a large number of animators, artists, colourists, rotoscopers, and camera operators at their



Fig. 2.5  Promotional image for Cartoon Filmads, c.1920

Sydney studios and, in addition, in several of their national and international offices. The studio’s promotional materials stated In a word, Cartoon Filmads is animated motion pictures fitted to industrial needs. They represent all the power of the screen, coupled with years of experience in its application to business problems. As their name implies, they often, though not necessarily, take the form of a cartoon. Such treatment has an interest-value all its own, and is particularly well adapted to the presentation of sales arguments. However the technique that would sell confections would scarcely help a charity in its appeal for funds; and the attractive presentation of fine furniture would differ essentially from either. A feature of Cartoon Filmads is the adaptability that ensures the most appropriate treatment for the article they advertise.19

The studio produced advertisem*nts for a wide range of clients showcasing products from soap to automobiles, from furniture to charitable campaigns. The bulk of their productions were animated advertisem*nts that would screen prior to the main features in cinemas. They also produced a range of ‘industrial films’ that were not screened in cinemas, but that could be used by salesmen to promote a particular company featuring its production methods and products. These could then be shown virtually anywhere that a film projector was accessible, including



the Cartoon Filmad’s in-house screening room which could be hired to show such films. The projection room is a recent addition that is much appreciated by clients. There, they can sit in the comfort of deep chairs and pleasant surroundings and view the finished films which are thrown upon a golden screen.20

As part of their services, the studio produced colour-animated films. Julius had always been a great enthusiast of colour in his work. His print advertising firm, Smith and Julius, had continually boasted their use of colour; later he would be one of the first in Australia to create locally produced colour comic strips for the Sunday newspapers. So, it is no surprise that the studio actively pushed the use of colour in their animations. ‘In short’ claimed a promotional text, ‘the Coloured Cartoon Filmad gives to advertisers all the attractiveness, and advertising value of colour, plus the force and selling power of the animated film.’21 However, since colour film was not yet available, they did what other international studios would do, producing the animated film in black and white, then hand colouring each frame of each print of the film. Cartoon Filmads was very much a client-driven studio, and thus, good communication with customers was a top priority. It was essential that the client should understand exactly what the final product would look like—and be happy with it—so good pre-production work, including a clear visual storyboard, was very important. A number of historians have suggested that Disney more or less ‘invented’ the storyboard and began using it in about 1931—though others have more recently accepted that both Disney and other American studios were using this technique for several years prior to this date.22 Remarkably, the Cartoon Filmads studio was using storyboards (or ­scenarios as they were referred to) as part of their pre-production process at least by 1920 (and probably as early as 1918). Whether or not this makes them the first studio to use this technique, it certainly demonstrates that they were a very early adopter of it. Their regular use of storyboards made sense because, unlike a more standard narrative cartoon, an animated advertisem*nt needed to communicate its message very clearly and very succinctly. Additionally, since an external client commissioned each animation, it was essential that they could approve the film before the



animation began and that they shared the same ‘vision.’ The length of each storyboard might vary from just a few ‘boards’ to twenty or more. Figure 2.6 shows a five-panel storyboard that was used in the production of an animated advertisem*nt for Lux soap, clearly defining the principal actions and advertising content of the animation. Much of the production was for domestic screening, but they also produced a number of advertisem*nts exclusively for foreign markets through their overseas studio offices. The head office was in Sydney, but they opened office/studios throughout Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) as well as in England, India, Burma, Egypt, Java, Singapore, Philippines, China and Holland. For a number of years, the studio was quite successful and they would easily have produced a great quantity of animated advertisem*nts. It is claimed, for example, that in Indonesia alone (and within the first four weeks of their offices being open there) they secured over £7000 in contracts to produce locally targeted animated advertisem*nts. In 1919, this would certainly have been considered a healthy sum. They included targeted local ads for Nestle’s Anglo-Swill Milk Co., Francis Peek & Co., Jacobson Vandenberg, British-American Tobacco Co., Dunlop Rubber Co. (Far East) Ltd. and many others. Almost annually, the studio would expand into new territories, for example: In December, 1920, operations were started in Egypt and a circuit is now established, which includes Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, and Syria. The advantages of having a film advertising service in these practically new and unexploited countries is almost unconceivable. The discerning business firms in Cairo and Alexandria were quick to grasp the possibilities of such a favourable method of advertising, and large contracts have already been negotiated. The latest development has been to open up the Philippine Islands, Hong Kong, China and Cochin China, which will now make complete the chain throughout all countries from Egypt to China.23

Late in 1921, Managing Director Albert E. Lake travelled to England to set up a Cartoon Filmads division in London; soon after this, he established an office in Amsterdam. In 1922, the director for the Adelaide (South Australia) division of Cartoon Filmads, William A. Robyns, claimed that ‘Cartoon Filmads book more commercial and institutional animated advertising annually than any other single publicity service in the world.’24



Fig. 2.6  Storyboards produced by Cartoon Filmads in preparation for the Lux Soap animated cinema advertisem*nt (c.1920)



The company was very keen to pitch animation as a universal language that would appeal to all peoples and cultures, particularly in relation to advertising: There is no better nor more effective method of getting in touch with the native races throughout the territories mentioned above than Cartoon Filmads. Nothing makes such a strong and direct appeal to both Europeans and natives alike. As proof of this we have made films in twenty different languages for some of the large business houses, which do business throughout all the territory covered by Cartoon Filmads.25

Of course, when an advertisem*nt was translated into different languages, that would all be done visually, thus it would require the re-animation of the sections of the ad that contained the animated text. Although most of the ads were presented in an easy to understand pantomime, they would also use animated text as part of the narrative. But the studio prided itself on the fact that they used animated text which, they claimed, had an entirely different effect upon the audience. Where particular emphasis is required a few words of text matter are used, but these words are presented in an unusually effective way. Words are spelt out letter by letter, sentences word by word. There is no possibility of the audience skipping any part of the message. Suspense is utilised, and the entire message is delivered.26

Cartoon Filmads was very proud of the fact that it was a full-service studio that employed a large number of artists and animators. Figure 2.7 showcases several different views of the Filmads Studios in 1921, highlighting the studio’s camera department, and various artist and animation facilities, including one room that was comprised exclusively of women artists. One of the things that made Cartoon Filmads particularly successful was that they could provide their clients package deals. Thus, they did not produce only animation; they continued working in print advertising and publishing (maintaining their alliance with the Smith and Julius firm). What was interesting about this was that they would often publish both a print version and an animated cinema version of an advertising campaign. For example, Fig. 2.8 shows a print version of an



Fig. 2.7  Promotional literature for Cartoon Filmads, showing the various stages of the studio’s production



Fig. 2.8  Print ad by Cartoon Filmads that accompanied the animated film advertisem*nt for the same product, 1919

advertisem*nt for Indasia soap that they produced, and which they were running simultaneously as an animated version in the cinemas (c.1919). There are only a handful of animated cinema advertisem*nts from Cartoon Filmads that are known to exist. A few of these are described below.



Warner’s rust-proof corsets. This 60-second animated ad depicts a young girl, who, upon noticing her mother’s corset hanging on the back of the bathroom door, climbs up on the edge of the bathtub to get it. While holding the corset, she says (in an animated speech balloon) ‘I’ll try them on.’ After doing so, she commences to dance along the edge of the tub, but then falls in with a large splash. In a series of animated cries, the girl calls out ‘Mummy’ and ‘Boo-Hoo,’ to which her mother replies ‘I’m coming!!!’ When the mother does enter the bathroom, she announces in large animated text, ‘Thank goodness they’re Warner’s rust-proof corsets.’ And, the animated ad concludes with the text, ‘Wear Warner’s rust-proof corsets, they won’t rust, break or tear.’ Barrackville Breakfast Cocoa. This 60-second animated ad highlights the fact that Barrackville Cocoa is Australian produced. The scene begins with a large tin of Barrackville Cocoa set against a backdrop of the Australian continent. Soon, a number of smaller tins appear, each with a single letter printed on them that, when placed together, spell out ‘IMPORTED COCOAS.’ In response, the Australian cocoa smashes and destroys this array of imported tins. The phrase ‘Knocking them out!’ appears on screen. Next, the animated text of: ‘Australia’s own cocoa, Famous for Flavour. Barrackville Breakfast Cocoa’ appears. In the final scene, animated couple are seated at a table enjoying their cups of cocoa. Further animated text appears, declaring: ‘A cocoa of quality, perfect purity, high nutrition and fine flavour.’ The Overland Whippet. At nearly seven minutes in length, this is the longest of the surviving Cartoon Filmad productions. Produced in 1926, it is also one of the better examples of the sophisticated style of animation that Cartoon Filmads was able to achieve through their combined use of Julius’ cut-out animation technique and David Barkers rotoscoping technique. This cinema advertisem*nt features a Whippet motor car—The Overland Whippet. Surprisingly, the ad also features an extremely sophisticated multiplane effect consisting of, what appears to be, at least five separate offset levels.

The Empire Fades In 1924, the studio changed its name from Cartoon Filmads, Ltd. to the abbreviated Filmads, Ltd. And as indicated by the name change, they began to increase their production of live-action advertisem*nts. But then in 1927 the Australian advertising company, Catts-Patterson,



took over Smith and Julius (including the Filmads division). However, Catts-Patterson were more interested in print advertising than animation, so after a few years they slowly began to wind down the animation side of the business and gradually to close down the various overseas Filmads offices. During this period, Harry Julius remained with the company; but with the animation side of things diminishing, he directed his energies towards a number of other pursuits. He was certainly a man of many talents, and during the late 1920s, he successfully published at least three different newspaper comic strips, the most successful being, Mr. Gink, ‘which entertainingly portrays the escapades of a much harassed and henpecked gentleman.’ In 1927, Julius began making a weekly radio show called Air Cartoons. As part of this programme, he (with the help of well-known ventriloquist and radio personality, Russ Garling) would dramatise the Mr. Gink comic strips on air. Julius was still very interested in pushing the technique of animation further, and he began to experiment with lip-synched sound animation with Fred Daniell at Fox Movietone. One article from 1929 notes: At the present time Mr. Julius is concentrating upon the production of talkie cartoons, in which his darting pencil will delineate original topics of merriment whilst simultaneously the jest will express itself in spoken words. On his return to Sydney, he told a “Mercury” interviewer, the sound accompaniment of these newest forms of cartoons, would be ‘shot’ for release in Fox Movietone gazettes.27

By 1930, Filmads were releasing ‘talkie cartoons’ which featured both voice-over and lip-synched animation. Another big change occurred in 1934 when Catts-Patterson (due to a falling out between Mr. Catts and Mr. Patterson) dissolved their holdings. John Fairfax & Sons then acquired the Smith and Julius Company and in the process appears to have largely abandoned the Filmads animation division. At this time, Harry Julius set up his own independent advertising agency. His new company, a much smaller one, was simply called: Harry Julius Advertising Service. It is believed that he continued to make occasional animated films through this company, but he focused much of his attention on illustrations, comics and later, fine-art watercolour painting.



Rather unexpectedly, Julius died in 1938 at the age of 54. Many of his colleagues continued in the industry, and a few continued to produce animation with subsequent Australian studios.


1. For more on lightning sketch animation, see: Dan Torre, ‘Boiling Lines and Lightning Sketches: Process and Animated Drawing.’ Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 10, no. 2 (2015): 141–53. 2. The Mercury, Hobart, 12 December 1916, 2. 3. Harry Julius claimed that Alec Laing was the first Australian to make animation. 4. For more on the performances of La Milo, see: Anita Callaway, Visual Ephemera: Theatrical Art in Nineteenth-Century Australia (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000). 5. Melbourne Punch, 27 July 1905, 135. 6. The Advertiser, 16 October 1906, 7. 7. The Picture Show, 10 May 1919, 31. 8. The Mercury, Hobart, 12 December 1916, 2. 9. The Mail, Adelaide, 20 February 1915, 8. 10.  Poverty Bay Herald, New Zealand, 29 April 1915, 5. 11. The Mercury, Hobart, 12 December 1916, 2. 12. Get a Move on with Your Advertising (Sydney: Cartoon Filmads, 1921). 13. Lloyd Rees, The Small Treasures of a Lifetime: Some Early Memories of Australian Art and Artists (Sydney: Collins Publishers, 1988), 68. 14.  Harry Julius, ‘Improvements in the Production of Animated Cartoon Films for Cinematograph Display.’ Australia, 1918. 15. Stephen Cavalier, The World History of Animation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). El Apóstol (The Apostle), no copies of this film exist to prove its length, but it appears that it was well over 60 minutes in length. 16.  Harry Julius, ‘Improvements in the Production of Animated Cartoon Films for Cinematograph Display.’ Great Britain, 1921. 17.  David Barker, ‘Improved Method of and Apparatus for Producing Animated Cartoon Films.’ Australia, 1921. 18. Get a Move on with Your Advertising. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22.  See, for example, Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980).



23.  Get a Move on with Your Advertising. 24.  The Mail, Adelaide, 25 February 1922, 1. 25.  Get a Move on with Your Advertising. 26. Ibid. 27. ‘A Versatile Artist—Mr. Harry Julius,’ The Mercury, Hobart, 2 December 1929.

Bibliography ‘A Versatile Artist—Mr. Harry Julius.’ The Mercury, 2 December 1929. ‘Get a Move on with Your Advertising.’ Edited by Cartoon Filmads. Sydney, 1921. Melbourne Punch, 27 July 1905. Poverty Bay Herald, 29 April 1915. The Advertiser, 16 October 1906. The Mail, 20 February 1915. The Mail, 25 February 1922. The Picture Show, 10 May 1919. Barker, David. ‘Improved Method of and Apparatus for Producing Animated Cartoon Films.’ Australia, 1921. Callaway, Anita. Visual Ephemera: Theatrical Art in Nineteenth-Century Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000. Cavalier, Stephen. The World History of Animation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Julius, Harry. ‘Improvements in the Production of Animated Cartoon Films for Cinematograph Display.’ Australia, 1918. ———. ‘Improvements in the Production of Animated Cartoon Films for Cinematograph Display.’ Great Britain, 1921. Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980. Rees, Lloyd. The Small Treasures of a Lifetime: Some Early Memories of Australian Art and Artists. Sydney: Collins, 1988. Torre, Dan. ‘Boiling Lines and Lightning Sketches: Process and Animated Drawing.’ Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal 10, no. 2 (2015): 141–53.


Pat Sullivan and Felix the Cat

Pat Sullivan (1887–1933) was an Australian animator who, although he did not produce any animation in Australia, established a very successful animation studio in New York. The Pat Sullivan Studio was best known for its production of Felix the Cat, which quickly became the most celebrated animated star of the era. This famous cat was known to the world as Pat Sullivan’s Felix the Cat. A number of authors have more recently identified Otto Messmer (the studio’s lead animator), and not Sullivan, as being the person who was most significantly responsible for the creation and development of Felix the Cat. Some recent accounts suggest that Sullivan did not play any role in the creation of Felix. Undeniably, new information has emerged in recent decades which has identified Sullivan as a very controversial and an extremely problematic figure (with a serious criminal conviction) which has further complicated his placement in history. This shift in attitude towards Pat Sullivan is regarded by many as a long overdue correction of an historical inaccuracy, and one that seems to have been corroborated by some of Messmer’s contemporaries. Others have countered that Messmer’s claim as the sole creator of Felix, which, ‘made many years later in the absence of any defence from Sullivan – needs to be treated with caution.’1 It is worth further noting that this claim emerged, at least publicly, around the time of the death of Sullivan’s nephew (who was regarded as being the very last remaining heir of the Sullivan estate). The manner in which Messmer’s claim has been positively defended in recent years does seem to be in contrast to © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,



similar claims that have been made, and virtually ignored, such as: it was Ub Iwerks who created Mickey Mouse (and not studio owner Walt Disney), and it was Grim Natwick who created Betty Boop (and not studio owner Max Fleischer). Nevertheless, there are plausible arguments to be made which suggest that a number of animators at the Sullivan Studio played a more balanced role in the Felix enterprise. Interestingly, Alec Laing (who has been regarded as Australia’s first animator—see Chapter 2) was also employed for a number of years at the Sullivan animation studio. There are also some interesting crossovers that occurred between the Sullivan heirs and the emerging Australian animation industry that warrant exploration. Ultimately, a central focus of this chapter is to delineate the various plausible links between Australian animation and the Felix the Cat character.

Pat Sullivan’s Early Years Pat Sullivan was born in Sydney (as Patrick O’Sullivan) on 2 February 1887. His mother died while he was a young child; he and his older brother, William O’Sullivan, were raised by their father (also named Pat O’Sullivan). By the age of twenty, he had begun to contribute cartoon illustrations to a number of local publications including: The Worker, The Gadfly, The Bulletin and the short-lived Vumps (a humour magazine that he co-founded). Most examples that exist of Sullivan’s Australian published drawings are from the period 1907 to 1909; they are all signed with his true name, O’Sullivan (he would later drop the ‘O’ when he moved overseas). It was during this time that Sullivan established a close rapport with many of the Sydney ‘black and white’ artists (newspaper cartoonists), including Harry Julius and Alec Laing (whom he would later encounter in the animation industry in New York). Most of his drawings from this era reveal a fairly straightforward illustrative style and are usually rendered with a heavy use of cross-hatching and patterning (Fig. 3.1). Sullivan travelled to England in around 1909, where he was initially forced to accept a variety of low-wage jobs, the income from which he attempted to supplement with his artwork. For a brief time, he assisted in drawing the comic strip Ally Sloper for a weekly humour magazine. During this period in England, he began dropping the ‘O’ in his name, shortening it to Pat Sullivan.



Fig. 3.1  An early drawing by Pat Sullivan (as Pat O’Sullivan) c.1908 (Image courtesy State Library of NSW)

He made his way to New York in 1910 (his older brother had temporarily resided there a few years previously), where he struggled initially to find employment. In an Australian newspaper article from 1925, Sullivan recalls The first job I went after in New York was that of a shoeshine. The advertisem*nt directed one to apply to ‘Mike’. I walked from 22nd street to 125th street, hoping to find a sympathetic Irishman who would give me the job. I found ‘Mike’ to be an Italian. Shoe shiners, glorying in Irish names there, are generally Italians.2


But before long, and after a stint of other miscellaneous jobs, he began drawing comic strips for The McClure newspaper syndicate— initially as a ghost artist drawing the established comic strip, Sambo and His Funny Noises, and later originating and drawing his own comic strips, including: Great-Idea Jerry, Willing Waldo and Old Pop Perkins. Sullivan acquired his first job in the animation industry in 1914, working at Raoul Barre’s Animated Cartoons Studio (where fellow Australian Alec Laing was employed; later Harry Julius would also be employed there for a brief time). It was here that he learned how to animate. But his stay was short-lived; by the following year, 1915, he had set up his own competing animation studio. Sullivan hired a handful of other animators, including: W.E. Stark, Bill Cause, George D. Clardy, Will Anderson, Charles Saxton, Ernest Smythe and Otz (Otto) Messmer. Soon his studio was producing a steady stream of animated films. One of the first successful series that the studio produced, Sammie Johnsin, was based loosely on the comic strip, Sambo and His Funny Noises, which Sullivan had drawn a few years previously for the McClure newspaper syndicate. Approximately, ten of these shorts were released over a two-year period. At this time, Sullivan was highly promoted in the press. One American industry magazine of the time noted: He has a reputation of being an unusually hard worker, as he often turns out between 100 and 150 drawings a day on an animated cartoon. When he first became acquainted with this end of the motion picture industry he stated that he thought 1,000 drawings constituted a life’s work. Despite this early conviction most of his animated cartoons today call for from 3,000 to 5,000 drawings.3

If the official copyright details are accurate, it seems that in its first couple years the studio released at least seventeen animated shorts. The animation credits for the films are attributed: Pat Sullivan six films, Otto Messmer four films and Will Anderson two films, while W.E. Stark, Bill Cause, George D. Clardy, Charles Saxton and Ernest Smythe are each credited with one film. It is, of course, most likely that assistant animators as well as inkers would have collaborated on each of these films.



Enter the Cats Over the decades, there has been some controversy as to who deserves creative ownership of Felix the Cat. Both Sullivan and Messmer, during very different eras (and in very different capacities), have claimed that they were the sole creators of the Cat. Pat Sullivan made his claim while he was head of the Pat Sullivan Studios and while he was the lawful copyright holder of everything that his studio produced. Otto Messmer made the claim around 1970, long after Pat Sullivan had died. He made this retrospective claim, from a position of having been the studio’s lead animator, who would have played the largest role in the execution of the Felix animated films; he also was the chief artist (and writer) on the Felix newspaper comic strips and comic books for over 30 years. Without a doubt, Messmer could easily claim to have held the lengthiest, and most involved, creative stewardship of Felix the Cat. Central to this debate is the creation of the animated film, Feline Follies (1919), which has traditionally been regarded as the first Felix film—though it’s character, a black cat, was called Master Tom. Sullivan, as owner of the studio, took credit for the creation of Feline Follies and for the creation of the Felix character. He also took credit for naming the cat: The artist attributes the discovery of Felix to Mrs Sullivan. He stated that during one of their dark days she brought to the studio a scraggy cat and persuaded him to cartoon it. Sullivan should consider cats lucky, for since that day fortune has smiled upon him. In his New York studio, Sullivan has nine artists employed, the highest paid receiving the magnificent salary of £70 a week. The originator admitted that at times he found it difficult to find material for new episodes. Many animated cartoons were built upon actual happenings.4

Several years later, in 1936, Sullivan’s friend Kerwin Maegraith would elaborate upon the naming of the cat, suggesting its ‘Australian’ origins “What shall we call him?” said Mrs Sullivan. “What about Felix?” said Pat. “You’ve heard of ‘Australia Felix,’ and I’ll draw him in solid black like old Peter Felix the boxer, who used to frighten us kids in Sydney.”5


The Latin, ‘felix,’ literally means happy or lucky. In this case, the phrase, ‘Australia Felix,’ was a fairly common nineteenth-century phrase used to describe Australia as ‘the lucky country.’ Peter Felix was a West Indian/ Australian boxer who won the Australian heavyweight title and was one of Australia’s most legendary boxers at the time of Sullivan’s youth (and thereby, of course, attributing an unmistakable stereotyping to the cat). By contrast, Otto Messmer made the claim (many decades later) that he was solely responsible for the character, and in a 1970s interview he stated: Sullivan’s studio was very busy, and Paramount was falling behind their schedule and they needed one extra to fill in. And Sullivan, being very busy, said, “if you want to do it on the side you can do any little thing to satisfy them”. And I figured that a cat would be the simplest thing, make him all black, you know - you wouldn’t need to worry about outlines.6

Messmer went on to explain that he made Feline Follies by himself. Significantly, within Messmer’s claim of being the cartoon’s creator, he appears to have made three additional sub-claims: he claimed to have made the animated film entirely at home and away from the Sullivan Studios; secondly, he claimed that he made it in his own time; and thirdly, he claimed that he made it primarily at the request of another company, Paramount. Interestingly, Messmer did not claim that he had originated the name ‘Felix,’ but that it came as recommendation from the distributor, Paramount. Messmer recalled, ‘Mr King of Paramount Magazine […] suggested that if we would care to give it the name of Felix. Which we kicked around a little bit and decided that this was it.’7 Messmer’s claim was readily believed, with many accepting him to be the creator of Felix the Cat; while Pat Sullivan’s historic claim came to be regarded as very inaccurate. However, it is also worth pointing out that Feline Follies was actually not the first Sullivan Studio film to feature a black cat character. Perhaps the most significant example is that some two years before Feline Follies, the studio created what is now believed to be the studio’s first cat-themed cartoon, The Tail of Thomas Kat (1917). Although this film is not known to have survived, an early published summary of the film reads as follows: The Tail of Thomas Kat – The cat is rocking in a chair, and his tail is through a knothole in the fence. A chicken grabs it in its beak and pulls it



out till it snaps. The cat goes through the fence to settle with the chicken. They fight and the cat leaves the chicken for dead. But he wakes up, comes through the fence, and pulls the cat’s tail right out. The cat cries. Along comes a dog and laughs at the cat. Then a boy ties a tin can to the dog’s tail, and the cat is consoled, for it sees that tails are no good, after all.8

Thomas Kat is, of course, a very similar moniker to Master Tom, who was the star of the later, Feline Follies. Furthermore, in early 1918, the studio created a successful animated series, which was based on Charlie Chaplin’s celebrated screen persona. The Charlie (or Charley) series proved to be quite popular and included such titles as: How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (1918), Over the Rhine with Charlie (1918), Charlie on the Farm (1919) and Charlie at the Beach (1919). It is believed that Sullivan was also involved in the production of these initial Charlie films.9 Beginning with the very first Charlie Chaplin film, black cats became a recurring element. In fact, the title card for this series features a cartoon image of Chaplin along with two laughing black cats, which look remarkably like the black cat that would later appear in Feline Follies (1919) (see Fig. 3.2). Interestingly, on August 24, 1918, an ad was published in The Moving Picture World, for the premier film of the new Charlie Chaplin series, How Charlie Captured the Kaiser. The ad, prominently featured one of these black cats in the artwork. This black cat, in particular, bears an uncanny resemblance to the black cat character in Feline Follies (see Fig. 3.3). In Charlie on the Farm (1919), there is a sequence in which a black cat sits on a fence, along with five black kittens, and sings, ‘I’ve only got nine lives to live – an’ I’ll give them all to you!’—the caterwauling, waking up Charlie Chaplin. This gag is re-used in Feline Follies (1919) when the black cat sits on a fence, and serenades a white cat with, ‘I’ve only got nine lives to live – an’ I’ll live them all for you!’ This time, his singing wakes up the entire neighbourhood. These referenced animated films do seem to suggest that the Felix character might have evolved out of a number of earlier films. It could also be suggested that the first appearance of ‘Felix’ might be a rather ambiguous event. In recent years, writer/researcher Gerald Carr has conducted some interesting analysis of the animated lettering used in Feline Follies. Carr asserts that the writing style used in the film represents a much closer match to Sullivan’s than to Messmer’s. He also described some plausible


Fig. 3.2  Title card for Charlie Chaplin series (1918–1919) depicting two Felixlike black cats. This series was produced prior to Feline Follies (1919), which is often regarded as the first ‘Felix’ film

parallels between some of the line work and visual forms used in the animation, with line work and forms used in Sullivan’s earlier newspaper comics. Another intriguing point that he has raised pertains to the use of decidedly Australian vernacular in the speech balloons of the animation. For example, at one point in the film a litter of kittens call out to their mother, saying ‘Lo Mum!’ and ‘Lo Ma!’ Carr points out that it would have been unlikely that the New Jersey-born Messmer would have chosen to use the very Australian/British term of ‘Mum’10 (see Fig. 3.4). Messmer’s drawing style, as evidenced in his earlier published newspaper comics, could be described as being quite proficient and exhibiting well-crafted line work and very convincing volumetric forms. By contrast, Sullivan’s artwork generally showcased a much rougher and more angular execution. Donald Crafton, though certainly not questioning Messmer’s claim, does make note of the incongruous stylisation of the earliest Felix cartoons, which showcase ‘a surprising contrast



Fig. 3.3  (Left) a black cat, drawn by Pat Sullivan, featured in a magazine advertisem*nt published August 24, 1918 for How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (1918), part of the Charlie Chaplin cartoon series. (Right) a frame grab from Feline Follies, late 1919. There is a marked similarity between the design of these two cats

to Messmer’s earlier work – rather spikey. [Felix’s] facial features were harsh.’11 One possible explanation for these particular incongruous design features would be to suggest that the cat in Feline Follies was more or less a continuance of the reoccurring black cats that had been featured in the studio’s previous films. Interestingly, there are a few sequences in Feline Follies that do appear to have been completed in rather contrasting styles, which might also point to the possibility that more than one animator was involved. (Furthermore, it would be Bill Nolan who would, in 1922, dramatically redesign Felix into the more rounded, less angular, character that we recognise today). Moreover, Feline Follies features a rather dark narrative in which the Cat, after finding out that his love interest already has a large litter of kittens, runs away to the local gas works and commits suicide by inhaling large gulps of natural gas. It is a gag that seems to directly reference one found in the earlier-mentioned Charlie on the Farm (1919), in which a male bird runs away after finding that his new wife already has a dozen chicks. Such a scenario, if nothing else, does point to the fact that the studio was very prone to recycle gags and characters from film to film. Although such observations and readings of the extant animated films and publicity materials do not definitively clarify who the primary animators would


Fig. 3.4  Frame grab from Feline Follies (1919) which features the Australian vernacular, “Mum”

have been, it is quite possible that Felix was ultimately the result of a gradual evolution and of a team effort—which is what could be expected within a studio environment. Sullivan, at the time, liked to erroneously lead the public to believe that he single-handedly created all of the Felix animated cartoons (and comic strips)—a perception that Walt Disney or Max Fleisher would appear to have fostered about their own studio’s creations in the following decades. By contrast, Messmer claimed in an interview from 1976 that up through the early 1920s ‘there was never more than one animator helping me,’ and that he animated ‘at least 70 per cent’ of each of the early Felix cartoons.12 Messmer would most certainly have emerged, by this time, as the lead animator at the studio. By the mid-1920s, the pace at the studio had reached a fever pitch. The studio was soon churning out a completed Felix film every fortnight, as well as a regular newspaper comic strip. By then, Sullivan would have been dedicating most of his time to the publicising of a highly successful animation studio. While Messmer had become a very skilled animator



and was the studio’s animation director, there were a number of other full-time animators hard at work on the series (along with, at minimum, a dozen assistants, including inkers and cameramen). At this time, the studio was employing some of the most talented animators in the business, including Burt Gillett, Dana Parker, Hal Walker and, significantly, Raoul Barre (who had, just a few years earlier, given Sullivan his first job in animation). Perhaps most notably, in late 1922, animator Bill Nolan joined the studio and he dramatically redesigned the character of Felix. He created a much rounder and cuter cat, with larger eyes and more expressive facial features (Fig. 3.5). This ultimately resulted in a much more accessible and popular character—and no doubt played a significant role in his ensuing rise in popularity. The talents of these other animators would become apparent in many of the more mature Felix films. In line with this reasoning, Australian animator, Harry Julius wrote in a 1930 newspaper article that when, several years earlier, he visited

Fig. 3.5  Frame grab from a later Felix cartoon which shows the more rounded styling of the Felix films produced after 1922


‘Pat Sullivan’s Felix Studio’ he saw that ‘his group of assistants were capable cartoonists, and one was Alec Laing, the Australian, who was the first black-and-whiter to do cartoons for the screen.’13 Julius claimed that ‘an animated cartoon is not the product of one artist, otherwise it would be impossible to maintain a regular fortnightly release of a comic series.’ Julius also reported that for the studio ‘to produce a 500 ft feature fortnightly a studio staff of about 20 to 30 workers is necessary.’14 Felix made the leap into newspaper comics some four years after beginning his cinematic career. The Sunday Felix newspaper comic was launched in 1923, the daily strip in 1927. Messmer is believed to have drawn the majority of the Sunday comics. The daily strips were thought to have been done initially by Jack Bogle and primarily featured reworked narratives and artwork from the animated films; later, the daily strips would have also been created by Messmer.

Visiting Sydney Felix had become a world-wide phenomenon and the studio owner began travelling the globe to further promote the cartoon character. In 1925, Pat Sullivan made a very public visit to his home country of Australia (he had quietly visited his family there previously in 1920). On this journey, he and his wife, Marjorie Sullivan, were treated as royalty and there were almost daily articles about Sullivan and Felix the Cat. Many of these articles related anecdotes which were clearly tailored to the Australian public: “Something should be done to make Australia better known. People in America seem to confuse Australia with Austria,” said Mr Pat Sullivan artist and creator of Felix the Cat, on his arrival from America. Mr Sullivan said Felix had been censured in Ohio because of ignorance concerning the kangaroo. He had depicted Felix taking refuge in the pouch of a kangaroo. The censor, confusing the animal’s stomach with the pouch – regarded the incident as vulgar.15

He also made innumerable public appearances, including participating in a live stage show in which he drew large images of Felix before the audience and told stories of some of the cat’s various exploits. Undoubtedly, this visit to Australia, served to help identify Felix as being ‘Australian’ and it also successfully boosted the character’s local popularity. Felix the Cat was on top of the world at this point; but in just a few more years the popularity of Felix would begin to significantly wane.



Silent Felix One of the main criticisms that the studio has had directed at it retrospectively is that it failed to embrace the use of sound in the way that Disney had done so successfully with his Mickey Mouse cartoons. Although this was a significant reason for Felix’s fast decline in popularity, it should be remembered that Felix was, after all, an established silent film star. Therefore, rather than comparing him to Mickey Mouse, it might be more appropriate to compare him to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton or any number of established silent film actors. Virtually, all of these actors also found it very challenging to make the transition into the ‘talkie’ era. In 1930, in a move that is often over-looked, the studio signed a deal with Copley Pictures to create a series of synchronised-sound, Felix cartoons, thereby adding sound to already completed cartoons. These post-production soundtracks included musical scoring, sound effects and some limited voice acting. In the case of Felix, his ‘voice’ was mostly limited to meowing cries and his rather guttural exclamations. The initial series of ten films that went through this process included: False Vases, Woos Whoopee, Oceantics and April Maze.16 Although these Felix ‘sound cartoons’ could not compare with the careful synchronisation of Disney’s films, they did represent a logical, albeit measured, progression for a silent film star to take. We could look to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) as a parallel example. In this ‘sound’ film, Chaplin remained speechless, but the film was brimming with music, sound effects and some limited vocal performances. There were, in fact, many parallels between Felix the Cat and Charlie Chaplin—and interestingly, the Pat Sullivan Studios were responsible for animating both of these characters.

Sullivan’s Death Sullivan’s long-time Australian friend, Kerwin Maegraith, noted ‘tragically did his brother [William O’Sullivan] learn from a morning newspaper, while he was sitting in a train, of the cartoonist’s death.’17 When Pat Sullivan died (in 1933), his studio and affairs were left in a legal limbo (his wife had died one year earlier). So, his brother William O’Sullivan and his nephew, also called Pat Sullivan, travelled to America to endeavour to sort out his affairs.18 It took some months, but after having put things in order, William O’Sullivan (the brother) then


returned to Australia, leaving the younger Pat Sullivan (from here on referred to as ‘nephew Sullivan’) in New York to look after the Felix company. But since the studio had closed down, all that was left was the merchandising side of the company, and the Felix comic strip. It was agreed that Otto Messmer would continue to draw the comic strips, and he did so, with expert craftsmanship, until the early 1950s.

Talking Felix In 1936, three years after Sullivan’s death, Felix was now owned by the Sullivan heirs (the brother and nephew), and the first post-Pat Sullivan licensing deal was arranged. It was for Felix to return to the screen, this time in colour and with sound. The first film released was The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, which was directed by Burt Gillett at the Van Beuren Studio and released as part of the Rainbow Parade Cartoon series. Gillett had previously worked for many years at Sullivan’s Studio, but was head-hunted by Disney in 1928—where he went on to direct the Disney classic, The Three Little Pigs (1933). One reviewer, writing in 1936, noted that Felix was ‘Safe in the hands of Gillett, one of Sullivan’s very earliest staff, it is safe to say that Felix will make a big bid for supremacy.’19 Although the films were quite popular and were vibrantly animated, they lacked much of the surreal and magical qualities that were so integral to the earlier Felix films. Felix, of course, remained mostly black and white (except a bright red tongue and a pale-yellow hue that was added to his cheeks), but he was situated within vibrantly coloured scenes, reminiscent of Disney’s concurrent Silly Symphonies series. Perhaps the greatest modification was that Felix talked. But the voice that was chosen for Felix conveyed a decidedly childish tone, one that seemed rather incongruous to his generally resourceful and ultimately wise personality. Perhaps to counter this apparent detachment, he was animated with highly exaggerated mouth movements, almost as if every one of his facial muscles were working hard to form, and prove ownership, of each uttered syllable. Here, it is again possible to draw a link to Charlie Chaplin’s first talkie feature, Modern Times. In this film, although Chaplin does not ‘speak,’ in the final scene he ‘sings’ an operatic aria with a decidedly incompatible bravado and an extremely articulated lip-synch.



Two other Felix shorts were made, Neptune Nonsense (Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer, 1936) and Bold King Cole (Burt Gillett, 1936). Soon after this, the studio’s distribution deal with RKO began to falter and no further Felix films were made. These three films, however, did enjoy a long lifespan—they were screened and rescreened many times over the next two decades (including in Australia) and eventually aired on television.

Television Series By the late 1940s, ex-Fleischer Studios animator, Joe Oriolo, had begun assisting Otto Messmer on the Felix comic strip and comic books. In the early 1950s, Messmer retired and Joe Oriolo took over the full task of drawing Felix (and also updated his design). By 1950, nephew Sullivan had begun taking a more active role in the licensing of Felix, particularly for use in advertising. This was also noted in the press in Australia, where the Felix comic books (written and drawn by Otto Messmer, but promoted under the Pat Sullivan name) had become extremely popular. One Australian newspaper article heralded ‘Felix is soon to sell soaps, breakfast foods, and a string of other commodities to Americans with his antics on the video screen.’20 Although nephew Sullivan had been primarily living in America for some 15 years, his father William O’Sullivan (the elder Pat Sullivan’s brother) also travelled to America to help negotiate the particulars for this new venture. Then, in about 1956, nephew Sullivan teamed up with Joe Oriolo (who had by now been drawing the Felix comic strip for a few years) to develop a new animated series. They formed an updated company, now called, Felix the Cat Creations, and Oriolo’s long-time lawyer, Emmet Poindexter and Otto Messmer also joined as company directors.21 Initially, they planned to create a series of new theatrical shorts, but this idea was soon abandoned and a television series became the focus.22 At this time, the company did not have any capital to speak of, and they struggled to find a studio that would be willing to produce the series. Nephew Sullivan then learned of a newly formed animation studio in Australia called Artransa (see Chapter 4), who were very keen to secure international contracts. Artransa immediately expressed a strong interest in producing the show, and their representative in New York, Paul Talbott, began to facilitate the lengthy negotiation process between the Sydney studio and nephew Sullivan.23


At the commencement of these discussions, Artransa sent over a showreel to Talbott so that he could screen it for nephew Sullivan and Joe Oriolo to demonstrate the studio’s capabilities. The reel comprised a collection of their most recent animated TV advertisem*nts, as well as a short animated documentary that they had made under contract with U.P.A. called, Are You Positive?—an animation of which Artransa was particularly proud. In order to show off their work in the best possible light, the studio instructed Talbott to book a screening room and to show first the reel of advertisem*nts followed by the short film. But, to Artransa’s dismay, Talbot merely screened the reel of advertisem*nts from a portable projector that he had in his office. Even worse, he did not show the Are You Positive? short film. Although the advertisem*nts were of good quality, it is claimed that nephew Sullivan and Oriolo later expressed some scepticism that Artransa would be able to sustain lengthier productions (something that the short film would have likely demonstrated).24 Disappointed with how they had been represented, Artransa nevertheless continued negotiations in earnest. In the end, because Artransa was able to offer such a low-cost bid to produce the series, nephew Sullivan and Oriolo seemed happy for the deal to go ahead. As the two sides continued negotiating some of the details of the agreement, Sullivan finally admitted that his company did not have the financing in place for the production and suggested that Artransa should fund the production (which they would recoup from the eventual sales of the series). Artransa, of course, did not have such resources either, and the deal appeared to be dead.25 Then, out of desperation, Paul Talbot, Artransa’s New York representative, began scouting around for funding on his own. He eventually contacted his long-time friends at Trans-Lux to see if they might be willing to invest in the project, thereby allowing the production to go ahead at the Sydney studios. But, in a surprising twist of events, once Trans-Lux and nephew Sullivan were introduced to each other (and after Oriolo quickly produced a pilot) they began to negotiate their own private agreement. Even although Trans-Lux had never funded a television production before, a direct deal was soon secured in which they agreed to put up $1.75 million to fully fund the Felix series production. Furthermore, the deal stipulated that it would not be produced at the Sydney studios, but instead at the newly formed Felix studios in New York. Artransa had been completely shutout of the deal. Needless to



say, Talbot was devastated by the news—this was certainly not the outcome that he had envisioned. Artransa was equally upset, but they put their best face forward and told nephew Sullivan that they would still be keen to work with him on any future projects that he might be developing.26 The details of the agreement were soon made public in the trade magazines In a departure from their regular business of TV distribution, Trans-Lux Corp. has now entered the financing of production for TV. Completion of a deal whereby the firm is financing the production of a series of 260 ‘Felix, The Cat’ color cartoons, was announced by Richard Brandt, president of Trans-Lux. Approximately $1,750,000 will be spent on the series […] to be produced by Felix the Cat Productions, Inc, headed by Pat Sullivan, nephew of the man who created the original series over 35 years ago. […] Production on the new series will be started immediately at the Sullivan Studios here with the first segments of the program to be ready in about six weeks.27

Joe Oriolo directed the series; nephew Sullivan was listed as Executive Producer (as Pat Sullivan). The series featured a decidedly limited animation style and was animated primarily by retired Fleischer Studio animators working on a freelance basis, presumably to keep costs low. The animators for the series included: Cliff Augestin, Ellsworth Barton, George Geranetti, Frank Enders, John Gentella, Rube Grossman, Steve Muffati, Grim Natwick (claimed creator of Betty Boop), Joe Oriolo and George Ruhfle. The series did quite well and continued in syndication for nearly two decades, with subsequent video releases beginning in the 1980s. This series introduced a number of new themes and characters to the world of Felix including his magic bag of tricks, and Felix’s friend, Poindexter (who is said to be named after Oriolo’s lawyer, and one of the company directors, Emmet W. Poindexter). After the Felix television series, Joe Oriolo continued his alliance with Trans-Lux, producing and directing another animated series, The Mighty Hercules. Most significantly, over the next decade Oriolo also began positioning to acquire the rights to Felix. It has been noted that Oriolo ‘took steps to protect himself, as Messmer had not, by gradually assuming legal ownership of the character.’28 It was also during this period of acquisition that Otto Messmer was encouraged to make himself known as the originator of Felix the Cat. By the time nephew Sullivan died in


1971, Oriolo had procured the full legal rights to the Felix character. No further animated Felix films were produced for nearly three decades; but the merchandising and resulting licensing royalties for the character skyrocketed in the early 1980s and were managed by Joe Oriolo until his death in 1985.29 Otto Messmer died two years earlier in 1983; Emmet Poindexter died in 1985. After Joe Oriolo’s death, the ownership of Felix then passed to his son, Don Oriolo. Soon after this, another significant outing of Felix occurred in the form of a feature-length Felix the Cat: The Movie (1991), written by Don Oriolo and directed by Tibor Hernadi. This feature screened in limited release, but received generally negative reviews. A dismal attempt to update Pat Sullivan’s silent-screen hero for the Star Wars generation, complete with fugitive Princess, armoured villain and quotes from John Williams in the orchestration. Dedicated to Joseph Oriolo, the ex-Fleischer Studios animator who created the Felix the Cat television series, this strident and confusing enterprise is more likely to bury the ingratiating Felix beyond revival than to stimulate fresh legions of fans.30

Despite these original reviews, the film has gone on to garner a modest cult following. Then, in the mid-1990s, Felix emerged again when Don Oriolo executive produced the television series, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (1995–1997), which aired on the CBS television network. It was a moderately successful series that went some way in revitalising the character’s popularity. Another series called Baby Felix and a Felix Christmas special were also produced. Of course, the name of Sullivan (either the elder or the nephew) no longer appeared on any of these Felix productions. Not only had the copyright been transferred on, but by the 1990s, it was largely accepted that it had been Otto Messmer who had created Felix the Cat. More recently, in 2014, Dreamworks Animation purchased the rights to the character. Soon after the original Pat Sullivan’s death, fellow Australian cartoonist, Kerwin Maegraith eulogised America owes a lot to Sullivan; so does Australia. Although he became an American millionaire, he expressed a desire to die as a British subject. He did, far too early: but in film history his fame will live.31



However, contrary to this early prediction, Sullivan’s fame in ‘film history’ has been dramatically diminished. Yet, despite this fact, Felix the Cat has continued as a notable thread in the international history of Australian animation.


1. Reclaiming Felix the Cat, The Picture Gallery Exhibition Catalogue (Sydney: State Library of New South Wales, 2005), 13. 2.  ‘Felix the Cat Artist Originator in Adelaide,’ News, Adelaide, 30 November 1925, 6. 3. ‘Felix Will Remain in Paramount Films,’ Exhibitors Herald, 3 April 1920, 48. 4.  ‘Felix the Cat Artist Originator in Adelaide,’ News, Adelaide, 30 November 1925, 6. 5. Kerwin Maegraith, ‘The Romantic Story of Pat Sullivan, a Sydney Art Genius,’ Sydney Mail, 1 July 1936, 18. 6. Otto Messmer, quoted in the documentary film, Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat (John Canemaker, 1976). 7. Ibid. 8. ‘The Tail of Thomas Kat,’ 1917. 9. For example, ‘[Sullivan] is at present engaged in completing a thousand foot subject of the war, a humorous conceit in which the Kaiser figures in the heavy role.’ ‘Pat Sullivan Returns to Cartoon Making,’ Motion Picture News, 6 July 1918, 106. 10. Gerald Carr, Accessed June 1, 2013. 11. Donald Crafton, Before Mickey—The Animated Film 1898–1928 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), 305. 12. Otto Messmer, 25 January 1976, quoted in Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 30. 13. It is believed that Alec Laing would have been employed as an assistant animator at the studio. 14. Harry Julius, ‘Famous Cartoon Characters,’ Sydney Mail, 12 November 1930, 19. 15.  ‘Felix the Cat,’ Border Watch, Mount Gambier, South Australia, 15 December 1927, 4. 16. ‘Felix Will Remain in Paramount Films,’ Exhibitors Herald, 3 April 1930, 48.

50  D. TORRE AND L. TORRE 17. Kerwin Maegraith, ‘The Romantic Story of Pat Sullivan, a Sydney Art Genius,’ Sydney Mail, 1 July 1936, 18. 18. Kerwin Maegraith, ‘Fortune and Felix the Cat,’ Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1954, 9. 19. Maegraith, ‘The Romantic Story of Pat Sullivan,’ 18. 20. Lawrence McGovern, ‘Felix Is in Television Now,’ Sunday Herald, 26 November 1950, 2. 21. John Canemaker, Felix—The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat (New York: Da Capo Press, 1991), 148. 22. National Film and Sound Archive document. 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. ‘Trans Lux to Finance TV Film Productions,’ Radio Daily, 1959. 28. Canemaker, Felix, 150. 29. Canemaker, Felix, 152–53. 30.  Philip Strick, ‘Felix,’ Monthly Film Bulletin 57, no. 681 (1 October 1990), 293. 31. Kerwin Maegraith, ‘The Romantic Story of Pat Sullivan, a Sydney Art Genius,’ Sydney Mail, 1 July 1936, 18.

Bibliography ‘Felix the Cat Artist Originator in Adelaide.’ Adelaide News, 30 November 1925. ‘Felix the Cat.’ Border Watch, 15 December 1927. ‘Felix Will Remain in Paramount Films.’ Exhibitors Herald, 3 April 1930. ‘Pat Sullivan Returns to Cartoon Making.’ Motion Picture News, 6 July 1918. ‘The Tail of Thomas Kat.’ 1917. ‘Trans Lux to Finance TV Film Productions.’ Radio Daily, 1959. Artransa. ‘Artransa Studio Documents and Correspondence 1955–60.’ National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. Barrier, Michael. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Canemaker, John. ‘Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat.’ 1976. ———. Felix—The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat. New York: De Capo Press, 1991. Carr, Gerald. ‘All Media and Legends…A Thumbnail Dipped in Tar.’, 2013. Crafton, Donald. Before Mickey—The Animated Film 1898–1928. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. Julius, Harry. ‘Famous Cartoon Characters.’ Sydney Mail, 12 November 1930.



Maegraith, Kerwin. ‘The Romantic Story of Pat Sullivan, a Sydney Art Genius.’ Sydney Mail, 1 July 1936. ———. ‘Fortune and Felix the Cat.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1954. McGovern, Lawrence. ‘Felix Is in Television Now.’ Sunday Herald, 26 November 1950. Nelson, Judy. ‘Reclaiming Felix the Cat, the Picture Gallery Exhibition Catalogue.’ Edited by State Library of New South Wales. Sydney, 2005. Strick, Philip. ‘Felix.’ Monthly Film Bulletin 57, no. 681 (1 October 1990).


Early Australian Animators: Isolation and International Influences

Most of the early Australian animators who operated between 1930 and 1956 (the year that television was first introduced to Australia) worked in relative isolation—a seclusion that was the result of two mitigating ­factors: geography and temporality. At this time, Europe and America were the world-centres of animation production. Australia’s being a great distance from both severely limited any communication or potential collaborations. Also, Australia was a very sparsely populated country; in the early part of the t­wentieth century, it could take days to travel from one major city to another. There emerged two distinct centres of animation production; one was Sydney and the other, Melbourne. But the two cities might have been on different continents, there being ostensibly very little correspondence between them, or awareness of each other’s animated productions. The other form of isolation was one of temporality—early Australian animation studios tended to be rather short-lived. A studio would close down; then, before a new one emerged in the same locality, enough time might pass to limit the knowledge and experience that could be transferred between studios and animators. The directors of the new studio would then erroneously believe that they were the animation pioneers, quite oblivious to what had happened just a few years prior. In the late 1930s, Eric Porter was actively producing animation in Sydney, pleased with the fact that the local Sydney press was ­referring to him as ‘the Australian Walt Disney,’ but unaware that only a few years earlier the Australian press had been referring to Dennis Connelly © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




(then working in London) as ‘Australia’s Walt Disney.’ Simultaneously, the Owen Brothers were making animated short films in Melbourne, believing that they were the first Australians to produce Disney-styled cartoons. During this pre-television era, there were a number of animators and small studios operating around Australia, as well as some significant Australians who were producing animation overseas. It was during this era that Australian animation oscillated between isolationism and the acknowledgement of the growing influence of overseas studios, in particular the Fleischer Studios and Walt Disney. Disney’s influence was strongly felt throughout the early Australian animation industry. Most hoped that Australia would produce an equivalent creative force, pinning their hopes on whoever was the most visible animator at the time. Others speculated that, if an Aussie could not do it, then perhaps Disney himself would elevate Australia to the animated world-stage. Writing in 1945, one journalist suggested: Katie Koala or Peter Platypus may possibly be added to the Walt Disney retinue of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and the rest. For Walt Disney, now that peace has come, hopes to bring a team of artists in search of new ideas to Australia. His work here would be a potent force in helping Americans to understand Australia, just as his Mickey and his Donald have over the years, helped us to understand America. Disney, in brief, would be doing for Australian-American relations what during the war he has accomplished for his own country and Latin America. In 1943 he took a group of artists, writers and musicians to South America. For three months, they gathered material of the folklore, legend and arts of the Latins.1

At least one Australian animator, Ken O’Connor, did work for the Disney Studios in these early years. O’Connor was born in Perth in 1908 and, after moving to Los Angeles, was hired by the Disney Studios as an inbetweener in 1935. He later worked in prominent positions on such features as Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950) and Lady and the Tramp (1955).2

Will Dyson One of the least known of the early Australian animators was Will Dyson (b.1880). He never referred to himself as an animator—neither did the press. Dyson was, in fact, an established artist and illustrator. At the age of twenty, he was successfully contributing artwork to several Australian publications. Within a few more years, he had established himself as a



distinguished artist working in a variety of media, including sculpture. Significantly, in 1922 he began experimenting with animation, although not referring to it as such—instead considering it to be a novel form of living sculpture. As one newspaper article described his work: Every great sculptor must have known what it is to feel the limitations of his medium, and to chafe against the inexorable fact that his figures represent but one momentary phase of stillness or motion, arrested, and frozen into stone or clay. If he could but give movement to his statue, if he could show more than one attitude or gesture, if he could fashion a being of perfect work of art, and then breathe life into this creation of his brain, or some wonderful similitude of life, then indeed could he strike his breast and shout to the stars a challenge to the celestial potter of the gods. Mr. Dyson has discovered how the miracle may be wrought […] and he points the way to a new medium of sublime expression for the sculpture of the future.3

Although always very elegantly reported, it is clear that this new sculptural technique was simply a form of stop-motion animation. His sculptures were crafted from a non-drying plasticine clay and contained an armature structure. ‘The joints being all articulated below the modelled flesh by a clever invention of his own’ reported one article. Apparently, Dyson produced several of these stop-motion sculpture films, but no titles or specific details are known. But one writer prophesised, ‘It will not be long now before enterprising sculptors, employing this new discovery, will bring their creations to life in many a studio.’4

Dick Ovenden Dick Ovenden, nephew of Will Dyson, was born in Melbourne in 1897. He had his first illustrations published in the local newspaper at the age of seventeen and soon became a regular contributor of illustrations and comic strips to several Melbourne publications. Then, in the late 1920s, he began experimenting with animation and was soon hired by Australian Sound Films to produce a series of synch-sound-animated advertisem*nts. A few years later, he was employed to produce animated films at Herschells Films Pty. Ltd. and by the 1940s had established his own small production house, Dick Ovenden Animation, located in the Melbourne suburb of Auburn. In 1931, he animated a two-and-a-half-minute-long cel animation with sound. Although this was a very early example of a ­



synch-sound-animated cartoon, at the time it was erroneously claimed to be the first of such cartoons made in Australia. In fact, Harry Julius’ Cartoon Filmads in Sydney had been producing sound-animated films for nearly two years. But an article thus described Ovenden’s animation: The first talkie cartoon made in Australia has been completed by artist Dick Ovenden for Australian Sound Films, Melbourne. The picture which runs for two and a half minutes, has an advertising significance and was produced for the Shell Co. It has won every favourable Press comment. The cartoon required 400 main drawings and 3,000 subsidiary drawings. Ovenden is now working on a 600-footer for A.S.F’s initial sound programme.5

Most of the early extended-length advertisem*nt cartoons from this era were designed to fit seamlessly into the regular cinema programme, and often the audience would be oblivious to the fact that it was an advertisem*nt until the film’s conclusion when the ‘product’ was revealed. In this way, Dick Ovenden’s first two-and-a-half-minute-long film, Percy Perplexed (1931), begins as any other cartoon might. It stars a young man named Percy and his anthropomorphic car named Midge. One afternoon, Percy hops into the car and, after some humorous interactions with the automobile, drives it to the nearest petrol station. The petrol station is a very dilapidated looking place, and a surly looking attendant bad-temperedly fills up the tank with ‘Kar-Booze’ (clearly a second-rate fuel). Soon after driving away, the car begins to struggle, spewing out black smoke and sputtering. Percy is clearly ‘perplexed’ as to what the trouble could be. Finally, the car sputters to a halt. Exhausted and looking very unwell, the car cries out, ‘Get me some good petrol!’ Now understanding the problem, Percy leaps into action, picking up the sick automobile and carrying it quickly to the nearest Shell station. Here, in stark contrast to the station that sold Kar-Booze, they are greeted by a very pleasant, smiling attendant. With a full tank of Shell petrol, the car and Percy speed happily away. The following year, Ovenden released a five-minute sound cartoon, which was also an extended advertisem*nt. This animation was a promotional film for the ‘Dried Fruits Association, Publicity Committee’ and takes the form of an animated cooking show in which various recipes are presented. The cartoon takes the audience through, step-by-step, how to make sultana pudding, apricot jam and a Christmas cake. The ­animation features an array of anthropomorphised kitchen utensils and baking



ingredients that, to produce the various delicious foods, perform an elaborate choreography set in multiple locations. A couple years later, Ovenden created a follow-up animated advertisem*nt for Shell Oil called, King Billy’s First Car (c.1934). This five-minute film showcases a much more proficient animation style than his earlier efforts. It involves an ape character (King Billy) who tricks and coerces a bunch of native Australian animals (kangaroo, emu, koala and snakes) literally to form a make-shift car for him to drive. Thus, the emu and kangaroo become the motor, while the snakes form the circular wheels of the car. In the end, this make-shift car is replaced with a modern car that uses (of course) Shell brand fuel. However, from a contemporary perspective, this animation reflects some rather negative overtones with the ‘King Billy’ character clearly intended to reference an indigenous Australian—which unfortunately tends to overshadow its very clever animated antics. From the late 1920s to the mid-1940s, Ovenden also produced the comic strip Billy Bear that was featured both in newspapers and in numerous educational materials, published by the State of Victoria for school children. He later published a forty-page educational comic book, Round the World with Billy Bear (1938), in which the Bear visits most of the countries of the world, learning about each land’s unique customs. A portion of the proceeds of the comic book were contributed to an initiative to replant Eucalyptus trees in devastated koala habitats. At one point, Ovenden began developing a short animated film featuring Billy Bear, but it is unknown if this was ever completed. In his later years, Ovenden became an established and prolific painter, holding numerous solo art exhibitions. One of his most popular series of oil paintings was his ‘ghost paintings’ which thematically lamented the passing of significant components of Australian history. In each painting, Ovenden would incorporate an important object or monument depicted as a semi-translucent ‘ghost’ form, within a traditionally rendered landscape. One of his most distinguished paintings from this series was Ghost Train (1965) which depicted a ‘ghost image’ of the, by then, retired steam engine, Puffing Billy, which had regularly run through the mountainous regions outside of Melbourne.6 Dick Ovenden died in 1972. Interestingly, his obituaries lauded his career as a successful Australian artist and many of these eulogies provided detailed descriptions of his more significant paintings, but made virtually no mention of his animated films.



Dennis Connelly As with Pat Sullivan, Dennis Connelly was an Australian animator who did not produce any animation within Australia, but moved overseas where he learned the craft of animation and then set up his own successful studio. Connelly (b.1891) was moderately successful as a newspaper cartoonist in Melbourne and Sydney, but then, at the age of 40, decided to make the move to London. In 1933, within just a couple of years of his arrival, he had set up his own animation studio, Dennis Connelly Ltd., and commenced making a number of short animated films. As with many early Australian animators, he turned to the country’s native animals for inspiration, developing a pair of koala characters named Billy and Tilly Bluegum. He managed to secure a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in London to produce a series of six of these Billy and Tilly cartoons. Billy and Tilly in Harem Scarem (1934) was the first in this series, an eight-minute-long film that took a reported 25 artists and four months to complete.7 In order to save on production costs, Connelly hired most of his staff straight out of art school. One of these recent art school graduates was Joy Batchelor (who would later form the famed Halas and Batchelor Studios), and it was here that she first learned how to animate. Joy Batchelor later recalled: The only other job on offer was in a newly opened animation studio (with an Australian called Dennis Connelly). My first work consisted of in-betweening but within a week I was promoted to animation since I had noticed, and said, that the characters weren’t moving properly. Of course, I didn’t know how to move them but I found out.8

The Australian press strongly praised Connelly’s work—proudly referring to him as the ‘Australian Walt Disney.’ One article asked, Can Billy Bluegum outdo Mickey Mouse capers? Dennis Connelly, has produced a color film cartoon designed to break the Walt Disney monopoly. It is called “Billy and Tilly” and depicts the adventures of Australian native bears among a Rajah’s serpents in India.9

Another article proclaimed that ‘The manager of the Tatler Theatre danced with joy when he saw the film, and hailed the bears as something distinctly original.’10 It is interesting, and perhaps telling, that Dennis



Connelly received very little press in London, but countless articles appeared in the Australian newspapers—each one nearly bursting with pride for the Australian who was soon to rival Disney. Another article in the Australian Women’s Weekly declared: Two little native bears, Billy Bear and Tilly Bear, are ready to make their world debut in grand style in the very near future. These little people of the film world are the creation of Dennis Connelly, the Australian newspaper artist now in London. They were given a try-out in a London suburban theatre, and roused real enthusiasm. The film world hails Billy and Tilly as worthy successors to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Strangely enough, their creator, Mr. Connelly, is not unlike Walt Disney in appearance, and has the same simplicity and charm. He has spent nine months working on this one cartoon, which on the screen takes the usual eight minutes. Fourteen artists have been working steadily through the nine months. This particular film in which Billy and Tilly make their first appearance is called ‘Harem Scarem’ and shows the two little native bears going through sensational adventures in the Orient, with rajahs and serpents and harem girls. Some of the desert scenes are really wonderful effects carried out in modern design and colour.11

The article ends with the effusive supposition, ‘Won’t Australia be proud if the film-world prophecies that Billy Bear will usurp Mickey Mouse come true!’ Unfortunately, only four Billy and Tilly films were completed. They clearly did not catch on as well as Connelly had hoped. Joy Batchelor later recalled rather sardonically, ‘he thought he was going to make his fortune with a couple of koala bears but he didn’t. He just lost other people’s money.’12 Connelly’s Studio quietly closed down in 1937, just in time for the Australian press to transfer the title of ‘The Australian Walt Disney’ to the next recipient, Eric Porter.

Eric Porter Eric Porter (1911–1983) began experimenting with animation as a teenager, borrowing his older brother’s movie camera to photograph his stacks of drawings. In 1929, he took his modest efforts into the offices of Ken Hall, the director of Cinesound Studios in Sydney. Hall, recognising promise—or at least an unbound enthusiasm in the young Porter— agreed to pay him a token salary of £1 per week. More importantly, he allowed Porter to set up in the corner of one of the studios to continue his animation experiments. By 1930, Porter had produced his first



seven-minute animated short film, Bennie the Bear (starring Bennie, the koala). Though not at all successful, it did give Porter confidence to continue producing animation and within a year he had set up his own studio (initially in the large shed in his back garden), Eric Porter Studios. By 1935, the previously successful Cartoon Filmads had closed down (see Chapter 2) and several businessmen were looking to establish another successful animation studio in Sydney to take its place. The two key players in this venture were Archer Whitford (the managing director of the popular Australian film magazine, Everyone’s, and owner of Whitford’s Theatre Ads. Ltd.) and Frederick Daniell (who had worked with Harry Julius a few years previously developing sound cartoons). Whitford is said to have made a ‘complete and exhaustive survey” of the animation industry in both England and America prior to setting up the studio.13 By 1936, their new studio, Australian Animated Cartoons, was established. Two former employees of Cartoon Filmads, cameraman Ernest Higgins and animator Stan Clements, soon joined the new studio. Clements had worked for a number of years at Cartoon Filmads and had become the studio’s expert in dimensional stop-motion animation (where he had often employed such things as clay, found objects and elaborate backdrops in his animated sequences). They also hired Eric Porter as the chief ‘cartoon’ animator (Fig. 4.1). Porter would be employed for the next few years by Australian Animated Cartoons, while simultaneously operating his own modest home studio facilities. Between 1930 and 1940, he produced over 200 animated cinema advertisem*nts. Included with these were a number of longer form advertisem*nts, often disguised as entertainment (as with Dick Ovenden’s films). This approach fitted in well with the general Australian Animated Cartoons strategy, which was outlined in one of their promotional articles: The aim is to tell the story with the minimum suggestion of advertising, and balance this with a merit in drawing, animation, and story-interest to make the reels fit into the entertainment smoothly.14

In these early days, Eric Porter was producing the bulk of the studios’ animation (although there were a number of assistant animators, background artists, and ink and painters also employed). To cope with the sometimes very heavy workload, Porter’s family members would often help out. Porter’s children (John and Gabby) recalled how each evening their father would bring a stack of used animation cels to their



Fig. 4.1  Cover of sheet music for the theme song, “I’m Willie the Wombat” that accompanied the release of Eric Porter’s short film, Waste Not Want Not (1939). An accompanying dance step, The Wombat Waddle, was also created and promoted throughout a number of Australian dance halls



grandmother’s house. She would spend hours scrubbing the cels— removing the ink on one side and the paint on the other, so that they could be re-used on the next film, ‘until the cels got too scratched to be used anymore.’15 In 1938, Australian Animated Cartoons secured the rights to use a new locally invented colour process referred to as ‘Mal-com,’ which was a low-cost colour alternative for 35 mm film; this seemed to work particularly well for the simplified imagery of animation. The development of George Malcolm, and launched by Commonwealth Film Laboratories, last year, “Mal-com” color photographs the primary colors true to tone, and unlike Technicolor, only requires two negatives and one positive. Besides cartoons, the process is understood to be also suited to feature films.16

One of the earliest uses of this by Australian Animated Cartoons (and Eric Porter) was in the production of a long-form animated advertisem*nt to promote the radio programme, Following Father’s Footsteps. This popular comedy programme was broadcast weekly from the Sydney radio station, 2UW, sponsored by McWilliams Wines. Porter and his team of animators created a two-and half-minute-long animated sequence using the radio broadcast as the audio track. Each of the characters from the radio programme was animated in ‘cartoon caricature, even down to George Edwards with his inevitable cigar,’ as they performed and lipsynched the dialogue of the original broadcast.17 Another long-form advertisem*nt from this era was the three and a half-minute animated short, Red Riding Hood (c.1940). This cartoon featured an assortment of Australian animals in the various roles of the classic tale: Pam Possum played the role of Red Riding Hood, the grandmother was played by Granny Platypus and the wolf was Willie Wildcat. Just as Red Riding Hood was about to be gobbled up by Willie Wildcat, all the other native animals (kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus and kookaburras) came to Pam Possum’s aid, repeatedly battering the naughty Willie Wildcat on the head. The cartoon ends with an announcer proclaiming Ha Ha Ha! Well perhaps that will teach Willie Wild-Cat not to play wolf. And remember, all of the characters in this Sellex production appear on all the cups and jars of this lovely Sellex tea set. Willie Wildcat, Granny Platypus - they can all be found on Sellex-ware, made extra strong, in lovely colours, for happy children.18



Complementing the salesman’s voice-over were various live-action sequences of neatly displayed Sellex-ware tea sets and other popular Sellex plastic homeware products. In nearly every interview, Eric Porter remarks how influential Disney was on the development of his own animation practice (in later years, he would claim that he had watched the full-length feature, Snow White, twenty-seven times).19 But the Fleisher Studio was the other influential American studio of the day. In 1936, Max Fleischer patented a technique referred to as the stereoptical process, which enabled the production of 3D cel animation. It involved the construction of modelled sets for the backgrounds. The cels would be placed upright against a plate of glass so that the characters would appear to be moving among the constructed model backgrounds. The technique was most prominently used in the Popeye cartoon, Popeye The Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves (1937). The technique also allowed for a stunning motion parallax effect in which elements in the foreground would appear to move more quickly than things in the background, giving the scenes a remarkable sense of depth. In 1939, Eric Porter released a short cartoon, Waste Not, Want Not, using a similar process. This ten-minute long film featured the Fleischer

Fig. 4.2  Image, featuring Willie Wombat (left) and Bennie Bear (right) from the accompanying book to Eric Porter’s short film, Waste Not Want Not (1939)



technique of model backgrounds with overlaid cel animation—using also some minor elements of stop-motion animation. The film is essentially a retelling of the classic Grasshopper and the Ants fable—but, as is to be expected, the original characters were replaced with Australian animals (Fig. 4.2). Here, the Grasshopper was substituted with a wombat named Willie, while the hard-working ‘ants’ comprised a koala, a kangaroo, a platypus, an emu and a kookaburra. Stan Clements, who was well versed in the art of stop-motion animation and model construction from his years of work at the Cartoon Filmads Studio, constructed most of these sets. By this time, the press had awarded Porter the prestigious title of ‘Australia’s Walt Disney’ and, taking a cue from Disney, Porter mounted a massive marketing and merchandising campaign for this new animated film. In the weeks prior to its release, Porter appeared in a multi-page spread in the Australian Pix magazine in which he could be seen at the local zoo, carefully studying and drawing the various native animals. One of the photograph captions read: It is said that the koala is the best known Australian. Porter is shown studying movements, expressions of [koala] bear. He spent hours like this at Koala Park and Taronga Park Zoo (Sydney), making sketches, until he got the animal to perfection.20

To further promote the film, a daily newspaper comic featuring Willie Wombat and Friends was produced. The song from the cartoon was released on record, also the sheet music for the song was published. A children’s colouring book was produced (which ultimately sold tens of thousands of copies), and numerous merchandising products were planned including toffee, slippers, toys and dolls. Even a dance was invented to fit the song of the Wombat called the ‘Wombat Waddle,’ which was introduced to dance halls across the country. A press release by the studio proclaimed, ‘It looks rather obvious that these characters will become as well-known to us Australians as Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Donald Duck, and many other famous American characters.’21 Despite its great hype, the film merely received encouraging, but ultimately somewhat tepid praise. Perhaps recognising this, Porter said rather modestly in one interview: ‘This film was made, not with any idea of rivalling Walt Disney, but as a stepping-stone to better things.’22 Perhaps another reason for its rather lacklustre reception was that Porter, in trying simultaneously to reach a more adult audience, had the beloved main character, Willie the Wombat, die in the final act.



The cartoon was later revised, repackaged in the 1950s as a longform advertisem*nt for the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and pitched towards school children. Many of the bleaker scenes were removed in the new version, replaced with more cheerful ones. But the new sequences were visually quite different from the old ones in that they used traditional painted backgrounds rather than the original modelled backgrounds. In an attempt to match the style of the original film, these sequences employed a heavy use of a multi-plane effect. The new version also concluded with a healthy, and very much alive, Willie the Wombat. In the final sequence, the starring Wombat addresses the audience saying, ‘And listen children, you too can save for the rainy day by putting all of your saving into the school bank.’ Porter’s second major animated film (that was not an advertisem*nt) was called Adolf in Plunderland (1940)—but no copies of this animation are known to survive. The promotional materials for the film claimed that it was the ‘first cartoon in the world on Hitler and the war.’ It satirised Hitler and others related to WWII including Chamberlain, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, von Ribbentrop, Stalin and Mussolini.23 The film was described as: A burlesque on Alice in Wonderland, it subjects Hitler and his gang of international bandits to subtle and biting satire. The opening scene shows Adolf in a wood dressed as a little boy. He is seen picking the petals of a daisy and throwing them over his shoulder. As the petals go into the air they turn into swastikas and hit the ground with a metallic clang. Goering comes on the scene on his way to a tea party and Hitler decides to join him. […] when they come upon the tea party. The scene show Von Ribbentrop signing practice pacts; Goebbels is ranting into a microphone, and Stalin is busy painting the map of Europe red. […] The whole story is packed with very clever, humorous incidents, and goes on to a most successful conclusion.24

The animation featured a number of well-known Sydney radio personalities, including Lou Vernon playing Hitler, Ronald Morse as Chamberlain, Bill James as Goering and Howard Craven as Goebbels. The film was dubbed in French and other European languages, but it is unclear as to what, if any, international distribution it received. It was about this time that Australian Animated Cartoons closed down—most probably due to the shifting war economy. Despite this era of conservation, the Eric Porter Studio continued to produce a steady output



of animated advertisem*nts. Interestingly, one of Porter’s most enduring animated endeavours of all time was produced during this period, a simple animated advertisem*nt for the gelatine mix, Aeroplane Jelly (1942). This commercial featured a singing aeroplane named Bertie, who sang out his love for the jelly treat in a clear and joyous refrain. The ad, perhaps serving as an antidote to the gloom of the war, resonated extremely well with audiences and screened frequently in cinemas for nearly two decades. Porter also made some forays into live-action film-making around this time, producing and directing the ambitious, but critically well received, feature film, A Son Is Born (Porter, 1949). By the early 1950s, Porter was back to producing animated short films, some of which he managed to sell to the American market for theatrical screening. At this time, Porter was hoping to produce a steady stream of animated cartoons in the classic Hollywood style. Appropriately, the Eric Porter Studio’s screen logo during this era was unmistakably styled in a classic Hollywood design. The logo simultaneously proclaimed

Fig. 4.3  Screen logo for Eric Porter Studios, proudly noting the studio’s location in Sydney, Australia. The logo also depicts a movie camera silhouette that has an uncanny visual connection to the silhouette of the Walt Disney character, Mickey Mouse



its Australian origin (Sydney, Australia) and at the same time seemingly paid homage to Walt Disney. The highly prominent silhouetted image of the movie camera presents an uncanny visual connection to the s­ ilhouette of Mickey Mouse (Fig. 4.3). The initial series of cartoons featured his successful character, Willie the Wombat. The first of these, Rabbit Stew (1954), did moderately well in America; but, as one article noted, ‘The Yanks liked everything about the first film except one word: “What the heck’s this wombat thing?” they asked. “Nobody here ever heard of a wombat.”’ So Porter was compelled to rename him as Bimbo. ‘Bimbo became, and still is, an ex-wombat – a fat, button nosed, generally furious stooge for a frivolous rabbit, and a fine figure of fun even though he has lost his nationality,’ concluded the article.25 Rabbit Stew was followed by another successful animated film, Bimbo’s Auto. The film, Bimbo’s Auto, in particular, features a great number of sight gags and non-stop action as Bimbo races around in his new anthropomorphised, and out of control, car. He zips past a sign warning of a ‘Fork in the Road’ and, sure enough, smashes into a giant tableware fork that stands upright in the road. Next, he crashes through a house and pushes out a man in a

Fig. 4.4  Frame grab from the short animated film Bimbo’s Auto (Porter 1954), exhibiting a somewhat retro style, reminiscent of the 1940s



bathtub, who continues singing and scrubbing himself clean. A third film, Bimbo’s Clock, was begun, but never completed as the distributor decided not to accept any further films. Perhaps a contributing factor to this decision was that Porter had chosen to maintain a classic 1940s cartoon style (with rounded shapes and highly detailed backgrounds) for the Bimbo series (see Fig. 4.4). Yet, by the mid-1950s the stylistic influence of UPA was gaining popularity, making Porter’s traditional approach much less appealing to American audiences. Nevertheless, after viewing Bimbo’s Auto, The US firm, Kagran Corporation, which produced the Howdy Doody live-action television series (based on the ‘freckle-faced youngster in a cowboy suit’ puppet character), asked Porter if he could produce a series of 100 seven-minute Howdy Doody cartoons. The deal seemed like a sure thing: They asked him what was the best possible price his studio’s quote for 100 seven-minute cartoons. Back went Eric Porter’s answer – 780,000 dollars (or A$3500 per film). The US firm, Kagran Corporation, of New York, was delighted. Because of lower costs, Australia can produce good cartoons for one-third of the American article, Porter says.26

So, Porter began production on the series, employing a number of additional staff to do so. However, after several months, the deal fell through and Porter’s expenses were never recuperated. Largely because of this, by 1955 the Porter Studio was suffering financially and was on the verge of bankruptcy. But then in 1956, with the introduction of television Porter’s fortune would soon turn around (see following chapter).

Owen Brothers Will Owen (b.1911) and Harrie Owen (b.1913) opened a graphic design studio in Melbourne in the early 1930s. The brothers also owned a small cinema in their home suburb of Belgrave at this time, where Harrie would work as the projectionist each evening.27 As with most cinemas of the time, they would project a variety of animated films (mostly from America) at the start of each screening. The Owen’s were fascinated by these cartoons, taking the opportunity to learn animation by carefully examining each frame of the film reels. They soon acquired a second-hand movie camera and began experimenting, making their own animated films. Their first ‘experiment’ turned out to be a surprisingly proficient seven-minute long animated film called The Old Tree



(1938). The film was clearly inspired by Disney’s The Old Mill (1937) and other contemporary Silly Symphony cartoons. It was animated by Will, the backgrounds painted by Harrie. The next animated film they made was The Court of Old King Cole (1939), also a surprisingly advanced film for their second foray into animation. During this time, they both lived in Belgrave (a suburb some 35 kilometres outside the city centre of Melbourne—a substantial distance in the 1930s). They would commute to their graphic design studio each morning, riding into town on the old Puffing Billy steam train (the same one that Dick Ovenden would commemorate in one of his oil paintings), returning of an evening to run their cinema. With the onset of WWII, the Owens devised a plan by which they would try to sell their animation services to help the war effort. Their first idea was to produce animated training films for the military. But in attempting to gain such a contract they needed first to produce a sample film. They commenced by making a highly technical training film on the working of the Lewis Machine Gun. After working hard for several weeks, they sent their completed animated film off to the laboratory to be processed. But, upon seeing the contents of the film, the laboratory immediately reported them to the authorities. Soon after, the military police arrived at their homes, demanding to know how and where they acquired such detailed ‘classified information’ about machine guns. The brothers were stunned for, in fact, they had simply gone to the local newsagent and bought a book about guns. But, because they had illustrated the information so vividly—and so effectively harnessed the educational prowess of the animated form— it appeared to the authorities that they were providing a great deal more information than should have been readily available to the public. Because of this, they managed to secure a long-lasting and lucrative contract with the military to produce a wide range of training films. Other government departments soon hired their services, including the Department of Information, which employed them to produce a monthly series of propaganda and fund-raising films for the war effort. By this time, their graphic design studio had been transformed into a full-fledged animation studio called Owen Brothers Animated Films. Will and Harrie were still producing much of the animation themselves, but also employing a number of assistant animators and several inkers and painters. One of their more successful films of this period was The Squander Bug (c.1945), which was based on a British print-ad campaign which the Owen Brothers adapted to animation. The intent of this animation was to persuade Australians to stop spending money on frivolous things and instead to donate to the war effort. It featured an enemy ‘squander bug’





Fig. 4.5  Frame grabs from the educational animated short film, A Dairy-Land Romance (Owen Brothers, 1954). a depicts two very well-bred bovines, which speak in an unmistakably crisp British accent (which was the broadcast standard in Australia in the 1950s). b depicts a young bull, replete with flashy clothes, who lacks such proper breeding, and subsequently speaks in a much broader Australian accent. This film was animated by Bruce Petty, and represents a stark contrast to the much freer illustrative styling of his later independent animated films

replete with swastikas painted on his body, who would go about convincing the good people of Australia to ‘go on, spend more money!’ After the war, the Owen Brothers produced many other informational animated films for various industries including oil, electricity and agriculture. The Owen Brothers soon learned that one of the benefits of owning a theatre was that they were able straight away to screen their newly completed animated films, inserting these into the nightly programme and quickly gauging the audience’s reaction. Bruce Petty got his start in animation at the Owen Brothers Studios, beginning in about 1950. He had just completed his university degree in graphic design and was hired as an intern. He was initially trained by a recently immigrated French animator, Jean Tych (who would later spend a number of years animating in Sydney). Petty worked at the studio for a few years, designing and producing several animated films. One of his first was an extended-length road safety animation made for the State Government of Victoria called Careful Koala (1952). Later he also worked on a film produced for The Department of Agriculture called A Dairyland Romance (1953) which entertainingly presented information about the care and breeding of cattle.28 In order to distinguish between well-bred and poorly bred cattle, A Dairyland Romance presents several different character examples. In one sequence (Fig. 4.5a), two very well-bred bovines speak in an unmistakably crisp British accent. Such an accent was the broadcast standard in Australia in the 1950s, and indeed, the characters are portrayed as broadcasters. While Fig. 4.5b depicts a young bull, replete with flashy clothes, who lacks such proper breeding, and subsequently speaks in a much broader Australian accent. To further drive home this point, the well-bred characters are animated in a careful fluid style, while the poorly bred bull zips about in a rather erratic manner. This film was principally designed and animated by Bruce Petty and represents a stark contrast to the much freer illustrative styling of his later independent animated films (see Chapter 11).



With the advent of television in 1956, the Owen Brothers turned much of their attention to producing animated title sequences for locally produced television series. The very first TV credit sequence that they produced was in 1957, a time when not many people had televisions. In order to see their handiwork, they would journey down to the nearby electrical shop in the city where there was a television on display in the shopfront window and watch the evening broadcast of their animated credit sequences. Finally, tiring of the exhausting schedule of producing animation, the Owen Brother liquidated their studio in 1968. Both brothers, however, continued commercial graphic design work until they were well into their late seventies.

Immigrant Animators After WWII, a number of skilled European artists and animators migrated to Australia bringing, not only a high degree of expertise, but also a decidedly European aesthetic. Some also brought an apparently unbound enthusiasm for the animation craft, hoping to do great things with it in their new home country. Quite often, this enthusiasm would become dashed upon their arrival to Australia, where both resources and the pre-television industry were comparatively limited.

Serge Sesin Russian born, Serge Sesin (1909–1998), was a highly skilled artist and animator with an extensive formal art training, and over 15-years of experience in the animation industry, including in the role of Animation Director at a German studio. Arriving in Queensland in 1950, he was disappointed to find that there was no animation work available to him. Instead, he began producing comic illustrations, while working on the occasional freelance job in print advertising and continuing his independent fine art practice. Sesin, however, was reluctant to abandon animation. In 1952, the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper ran a story about Sesin (unsurprisingly, invoking Disney) with the headline, ‘Koala a Rival for Donald? An Australian Walt Disney?’ The article described Sesin’s extensive qualifications in the field, noting that he was hoping to spearhead a substantial Australian animation industry. ‘“The time will come when Australia will make her own screen cartoons, and I hope to



Fig. 4.6  Image by Serge Sesin of Australian animals (1952)—intended as a pre-cursor to a planned animated film



give my experience,” said Sesin.’ More specifically, he hoped to make ‘Australian animals as renowned on the movies as Walt Disney’s creations.’ But in the meantime, and in preparation for this, the paper noted that he was working on the production of a line of postcards for national and international distribution, based on Australian animals—‘to get people used to [the Australian animal characters] and thus pave the way for a full-scale animated screen cartoon.’29 Unfortunately, beyond a modest sale of his line of postcards, this strategy did not seem to pay off (Fig. 4.6). It was with the advent of television that Serge Sesin was finally able to find some animation work and, from approximately 1956 to 1960, he was employed in Melbourne at Cambridge Films as the studio’s Animation Director, producing a number of animated television commercials. But the studio ceased animation production after 1960, focusing instead on live action. For the next several years, Sesin worked as a freelance animator, operating his own animation-stand camera in his home studio to produce various cel-animated advertisem*nts. By the mid-1960s, competition from other studios, plus the decreasing demand for animated advertisem*nts in general, saw Sesin largely abandon animated film-making. He turned once again to the production of print graphics and commercial illustration, continuing his fine arts practice on which he worked profusely at his home studio in Melbourne. However, Sessin did continue to produce the occasional animated sequence in the form of educational flip-books which were used to promote such themes as work-place safety.

Gunter Illichmann Gunter Illichmann, who migrated from Germany in 1953, had several years of film-making and animation production experience prior to arriving in Australia. He settled in Tasmania, where he soon began making stop-motion animated films in his home studio in Hobart. His choice to work exclusively in stop-motion (and not cel-animation) was due primarily to the lack of available resources, but he learned to improvise with what was accessible; for example, in order to counter the puppets ‘nasty desire to fall down always in the middle of shooting’ he would stick chewing gum to the base of their feet to keep them upright.30 He made several short stop-motion films, both in black and white and in colour, including the colour film, Our Kitten, which screened in a number of film festivals and won best short film in a Melbourne film festival in 1955.



Dusan Marek Dusan Marek was a capable surrealist painter who migrated from Czechoslovakia in 1948. He settled in Adelaide, South Australia and, in his painting studio, began producing stop-motion puppet films. These early films included: Light of the Darkness (1952) comprising plasticine figures; Fisherman’s Holiday (1952) which utilised carved wooden puppets; and later, Nightmare aka The Magician (1956)—stylised stop-motion films quite reminiscent of his surrealist paintings. Marek then shifted to the more immediate technique of paper cut-out animation, producing such short films as: Spaceman Number One (1956) and 8 Nursery Rhymes (1960). The latter was a 16-minute film comprising a series of two-minute-long, animated sequences, including: The Bachelor’s Lament, Hey Diddle Diddle, Jack and Jill, King Arthur, Mother Goose, Tom the Piper’s Son, Pick a Back and Taffy. The following year he made several, longer form, nursery rhymes including: A Ship a Sailin (1961) and The Old Woman Who Bought a Pig (1961). Similar to the technique that Harry Julius had evolved many decades earlier, Marek did not hinge the parts of his cut-out characters together, instead keeping the individual pieces free-floating. Some of his characters were quite complex, consisting of more than twenty individual pieces and requiring a great deal of skill to manipulate. Not only was Marek able to translate his decidedly surrealist aesthetic to his animated films but, particularly in some of his cut-out animated films, he demonstrates accomplished skill and an astute sense of timing. In 1962, he completed the highly acclaimed short, Adam and Eve, which enjoyed success in a number of film festivals around the world, winning several awards. That same year he teamed up with writer Tim Burstall to produce the cut-out animated film, The Magic Trumpet (1962). This proved to be one of his more accessible short films and also his most overtly political. The film clearly satirises both the media and the government of the day, with one character, the newspaper editor, ­visibly modelled after the prime minister at the time, Robert Menzies. The story centres around a young boy who discovers that whenever he plays his magic trumpet, he literally blows people upside down. ‘The Governor and the Parliament are standing on their heads’ declares a reporter ‘a boy with a trumpet blew them upside down!’ This film also marked an important stylistic shift for Marek in terms of the materials and overall composition of his cut-out films. Figure 4.7 illustrates how the characters and other elements within the scene are composed of not just cut-out shapes derived from coloured paper but are in fact derived from a wide variety



Fig. 4.7  Frame grab from The Magic Trumpet (Dusan Marek 1962), a cut-out animated film that utilises a surprisingly eclectic range of materials

of sources (newspaper, magazine, bits of metal foil and cloth fabric). The result was at once a dizzying array of visual styles, but these are carefully united through the animator’s use of expertly choreographed movement. In the case of The Magic Trumpet, this eclectic visual style also exemplifies the narrative chaos that the boy and his trumpet inevitably foist upon the established forces of the media and the government. In 1963, and in a slight departure from his own style, he created the ­animated film, Windmills (1963). This film incorporated children’s ­drawings, which Marek cut out as individual figures and animated. Around this time, he founded his television advertising studio, Anim-ads, which over the next several years would produce a wide array of cut-out styled animated advertisem*nts for television, promoting a wide range of products (see Chapter 5). In 1967, he directed his first feature-length, live-action film, Cobwebs on a Parachute, which also incorporated sequences of cut-out animation. Although it is unclear exactly why, this feature would prove to be his final foray into animation. Dusan Marek spent his remaining years working, quite prolifically, on his surrealist and abstract paintings.




1. ‘Donald Duck Does His Bit,’ The Melbourne Herald, 1945. 2.  Jim Korkis, ‘Disney Legend Ken O’Connor,’, 9 November 2016. 3. ‘Will Dyson’s New Art,’ Adelaide Register, 24 January 1922. 4. Ibid. 5. The West Australian, Perth, 24 July 1931, 2. 6. In recent years, the Puffing Billy steam-train has been re-commissioned and primarily operates as a tourist attraction, 6. 7. ‘Australian Is New Walt Disney,’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 October 1934, 22. 8. Vivien Halas and Paul Wells, Halas & Batchelor Cartoons—An Animated History (London: Southbank Publishing, 2006), 86. 9.  ‘Can Billy Bluegum Outdo Mickey Mouse Capers?’ Tweed Daily, Murwillumbah, NSW, 3 September 1934, 5. 10. ‘Billy and Tilly,’ The Mail, Adelaide, 1 September 1934, 3. 11. Muriel Segal, Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 October 1934, 22. 12. Quoted in, Halas and Wells, Halas & Batchelor Cartoons, 217. 13. ‘Ambitious Local Cartoon Venture Launched: Prominent Personalities,’ Everyones, 29 April 1936, 6. 14. Whitford Colored Cartoons, Press Release, 1 December 1936. 15. Gabby Porter interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 1 August 2013. 16.  ‘Local Color Cartoon Advertising Impresses—Initial Subject Indicates That Big Field Open for New Screen Medium,’ The Film Weekly, 17 March 1938, 28. It should be noted that Mal-Com was not an entirely local invention, but was a variation of other bipack colour techniques. 17. ‘Special Technicolour Film to Boost Broadcast Programme,’ Broadcasting Business, 23 June 1938. 18.  Red Riding Hood Sellex-Ware cinema advertisem*nt (Eric Porter Studio, c.1940). 19. ‘Real Cash from Cartoon Fancies,’ The Sunday Mirror, 27 August 1972. 20.  Pix Magazine 3, no. 18 (6 May 1939), 47. 21. ‘General Information for Press and Advertisers,’ Press Release, Eric Porter Studio, 1939. 22. ‘Willie Wombat New Film Star,’ Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 15 May 1939. 23. ‘Hitler Satirised As Child in Color Cartoon,’ The Daily News, Sydney, 16 May 1940, 4. 24. Ibid. 25. ‘Bimbo, Australia’s Latest Film Find,’ Australia Magazine, 24 August 1954, 12. 26. Ibid.



27. Some of the information from this section was derived from: ‘Will Owen and Harrie Owen,’ interview by Ken Berryman and Anne Bayless, 11 October 1989. NFSA Oral Histories Program. 28. Bruce Petty interview by Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 July 2004. 29. ‘Koala a Rival for Donald? An Australian Walt Disney?’ The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 29 September 1952, 3. 30.  Gunter Illichmann, ‘Our Kitten,’ Victorian Movie Makers, December 1955, 11.

Bibliography ‘Ambitious Local Cartoon Venture Launched: Prominent Personalities.’ Everyones, 29 April 1936. ‘Australian Is New Walt Disney.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 October 1934. ‘Billy and Tilly.’ The Mail, 1 September 1934. ‘Bimbo, Australia’s Latest Film Find.’ Australia Magazine, 24 August 1954. ‘Can Billy Bluegum Outdo Mickey Mouse Capers?’ Tweed Daily, 1934. ‘Donald Duck Does His Bit.’ The Melbourne Herald, 1945. ‘Eric Porter.’ Pix Magazine 3, no. 18 (6 May 1939). ‘Eric Porter Studios.’ News Release, 1939. ‘Hitler Satirised As Child in Color Cartoon.’ The Daily News, 16 May 1940. ‘Koala a Rival for Donald? An Australian Walt Disney?’ The Courier-Mail, 29 September 1952. ‘Local Color Cartoon Advertising Impresses—Initial Subject Indicates That Big Field Open for New Screen Medium.’ The Film Weekly, 17 March 1938. ‘Real Cash from Cartoon Fancies.’ The Sunday Mirror, 27 August 1972. ‘Special Technicolour Film to Boost Broadcast Programme.’ Broadcasting Business, 23 June 1938. ‘Whitford Colored Cartoons.’ News Release, 1 December 1936. ‘Will Dyson’s New Art.’ Adelaide Register, 24 January 1922. ‘Willie Wombat New Film Star.’ Daily Telegraph, 15 May 1939. Halas, Vivien, and Paul Wells. Halas & Batchelor Cartoons—An Animated History. London: Southbank Publishing, 2006. Illichmann, Gunter. ‘Our Kitten.’ Victorian Movie Makers, December 1955. Korkis, Jim. ‘Disney Legend Ken O’connoer.’, 2016. Owen, Will, and Harrie Owen. By Ken Berryman and Anne Bayless. NFSA Oral Histories Program (11 October 1989). Petty, Bruce. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (5 July 2004). Porter, Eric. ‘Red Riding Hood Sellex-Ware Cinema Advertisem*nt.’ 1940. Porter, Gabby. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (1 August 2013). Segal, Muriel. ‘Billy and Tilly.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 October 1934. The West Australian, 24 July 1931.


Television and the Rise of International Collaborations

One of the most significant developments in the production of ­animation in Australia was the much-anticipated arrival of television in 1956. From this juncture, a flurry of animation activity began to occur and a number of new studios sprang up to fill the demand for animated series, specials and television commercials. These included Fanfare Films (in Melbourne), and two of Sydney’s major radio production studios, Air Programs International (API) and Artransa, who made a remarkably seamless transition from radio productions to animation productions (by, for example, utilising their extensive collection of voice actors for both radio and animation productions). Eric Porter Studios also reopened its doors and dozens of other animation studios, albeit smaller ones, emerged at this time. Australia soon became a large consumer of American and British television content. But there was one area in which strict regulations were put in place to stem this one-way flow—the field of television advertising. Australia banned the import of all television commercials, requiring these to be entirely locally produced. While this ensured steady work for the local studios, it also exposed certain loopholes in the animation production process. For example, some studios would routinely import already produced animated advertisem*nts from America, then merely rotoscope these frame-by-frame, thereby producing exact copies of the advertisem*nts while still obeying the letter of the law (and providing the overseas company with the advertising product that they had originally wanted). © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




Another regulation that was enacted referred to Australian content quotas, stipulating that a percentage of each broadcast day must be composed of Australian content. This, in tandem with advertising laws, did ensure that there was at least a modest television production industry in Australia—and by extension, a modest animation industry. Since there was only a very small pool of talented animators in Australia at this time, to meet this sudden demand for animation content some of the studios needed to look overseas for the necessary expertise, including mentors. For example, Fanfare films brought over several ex-Hollywood animators to train their staff in the craft of animation. Soon, some of these Australian studios began making not only Australian content, but also managed to enter into lucrative contracts to produce overseas content.

Introducing (and Internationalising) Animated Television Television arrived in Australia nearly a decade after many other parts of the world. And, even although television was officially introduced in 1956, it took even longer for it to reach some of the more remote parts of the country. However, this gave many in Australia a lengthy period to prepare for its arrival. In 1949, Fred Daniell (who had been instrumental in setting up Australian Animated Cartoons Ltd. in the 1930s), along with R.E. Denison, formed International Television Services Pty. Ltd. The company was created with two objectives, the first to procure television series (mostly from America) which they would then distribute to Australian television stations. The second was to produce local content that could be sold both to local stations and potentially to overseas television markets. By the 1950s, International Television Services had commenced producing advertising, documentaries and animation. In 1956, they formed an exclusive alliance with the newly formed Rowl Greenhalgh Studios to produce their animated content. One of the first ventures, besides producing numerous animated advertisem*nts, was a series of short (three minute) full-colour animated films set to popular songs. This series was called Tune Cartoons and included the very Australian, Waltzing Matilda (1957), followed by the Christmas themed,



Jingle Bells (1957), and a third set to the tune, You Never See Maggie Alone (1958). These were sold to the Australian ABC television and also sold to American television. In the few years prior to the arrival of television, Eric Porter had devoted substantial resources to studying overseas television advertising, particularly the effectiveness of animated commercials. In one trade magazine article from early 1955 (nearly two years before television would hit Australia), he contended that live-action ads, when aired during live-action programming, would tend to blend in with the programme, failing to ‘separate itself visually from the program.’ In contrast, he reasoned: American TV has proved that an animated cartoon breaking into the middle of a program is a pleasant diversion, and therefore, has more impressive result. They have found that the cartoon retains the attention of the viewer, while the straight commercial very often gives the audience an opportunity to have a one minute conversation between themselves about the play they are watching.

Also, in the two years just prior to television, Eric Porter Studios began offering cross-platform deals on their animated commercials; if a client were to commission a cinema advertisem*nt, then they would also receive television versions of the commercial at no additional cost. Some of the recent films we have made for theatrical distribution have been designed with an eye to TV. In most cases, our stories have been created so that each two-minute film has a distinct division, so that two separate one minute television commercials can be had by cutting the film in the middle, yet so designed when screened in one reel, it makes a complete two-minute advertising film for theatrical distribution. One particular film which is in production at the moment is a specially made two-minute colour film to be distributed in Sydney, Melbourne and particularly states and country towns which will not have TV for some time. This also has been designed for splitting into two one-minute ads, then the first and second sections will be intermingled with a new sound track to create a third one minute ad. This means the client will receive: a two-minute 35mm colored film for theatres; a two-minute black and white 16mm film for TV; and three one-minute black and white 16mm films for TV. From this it is also possible to make two or three 30 seconds ads.1



All of this, Porter explained, would cost the client less than £1000. Thus, even though many might have had the impression that the cost of animation was prohibitive, Porter stressed emphatically, ‘This is not so!’ As animation production developed in Australia, so did transnational collaborations. In comparison with traditional film-making, animation proved to be a rather effortlessly divisible and collaborative process. Because the whole of the animated imagery is constructed, animation is normally not dependent upon particular landscapes, settings, lighting or even actors. Thus, the dialogue could be recorded in one country, while the character designs and storyboards could be produced in another. Additionally, the key animation, and then the in-betweens, could occur in separate locales; then, the cel inking and painting could be created in yet another. This transference of production from one location to another facilitated a similar transfer of labour—particularly of skilled animators. According to veteran Australian animator Cam Ford: The sixties were the best time in animation – anywhere in the world really. You could do anything and anything was possible. You could always get a job. When we travelled, we’d leave one job, travel for six or eight weeks, come back and just get another – which was why people were very mobile in those days. Most young Australians travelled the world because of the availability of jobs. Animators really were always employed part-time, but then there was so much work around that you didn’t mind that. You’d work through the project and when it finished you went off, came back, something else was happening.2

This, of course, not only allowed for animators to travel, but also greatly benefitted many of the emerging studios in Australia, which would receive overseas expertise with enthusiasm. Thus, a great many Australian animation studios significantly benefitted both from the introduction of television and from international collaborations.

Artransa Artransa animation studio, which would become a very important producer of television animation in Australia, actually began as a radio production studio in 1934. In the year prior to this, A.E. Bennett, general



manager of the Sydney radio station, 2 GB, travelled to America to buy radio programmes (dramas, comedies and quiz shows) to bring back to Australia. He visited the Radio Transcription Company of America in Hollywood, and the salesperson there, Grace Gibson, convinced him to buy virtually every recorded radio programme that they had on offer. Mr. Bennett returned to Australia with suitcases full of recorded discs. He began to air these American programmes on Sydney’s 2GB, where they were very well received—and those that he was not able to air, he was able to on-sell to other radio stations at a healthy profit. Over the following year, he continued to purchase every new recording from the Radio Transcription Company of America (specifically from Grace Gibson). This led to his persuading Gibson to travel to Australia for a six-month sabbatical to help him set up his own radio transcription company. Having agreed to stay for six months, she remained in Australia for the rest of her life. Together they set up a company in Sydney called American Radio Transcription Agencies. The designated telegraph address for the company was ‘ARTRANSA,’ and this abbreviation eventually became the official company name. Initially, Artransa would simply import recorded American radio programmes; but they soon shifted to the practice of purchasing only the scripts of (and the performance rights to) these. They would then hire Australian actors to perform them and record them on disc for distribution to various radio stations. Soon Artransa set up an office in New York in order to facilitate the purchasing of these programmes. Then, in about 1950, the British newspaper, the London Daily Mirror, purchased Artransa, allowing a substantially increased operating budget. Artransa began selling its recorded programmes to New Zealand, South Africa, and in some cases, to England. The American scripts were often modified to make them more ‘Australian.’ Additionally, one Artransa staff writer explained how he would always need to add on an extra five minutes or so of original material to the American soap opera scripts because ‘it was obvious that the Americans [performed] soap operas much more slowly than we did.’3 Before long Artransa began to write a greater portion of its own original radio programmes as well. Although Artransa continued to make radio programmes into the 1960s, once television was introduced most of their efforts were directed to this new medium—and in particular, there was a big push towards animation. In 1956, the studio persuaded Eric Porter to help set up and



head the Artransa animation division (which he did for two years, before re-opening his own studio again). In the first months of operation, the studio hired three animators to work with Porter: Gerry Grabner, Stan Walker and Cam Ford. Initially, Artransa’s animation department focused on the production of television commercials. But in 1957 it gained early recognition with a Golden Reel nomination for its full-colour animated documentary about tuberculosis entitled, Are You Positive?—a documentary that had been sub-contracted by the American UPA studios. Artransa went on to produce several other animated documentaries, including one for the Atomic Energy Commission.4 After a two-year term Eric Porter left Artransa, and his assistant, Geoff Pike took over as the head of the animation studio. During this time advertisments were by far the most lucrative productions for the studio. In 1960, Artransa produced a promotional booklet which detailed the exciting possibilities of animation. This was distributed to prospective advertising clients. The introduction read: Before the introduction of Television in Australia, commercial Animation was the infant of the advertising world. With the birth of Television, the infant took a deep breath and rapidly grew into a vigorous youngster … a youngster to whom fun and games meant everything. Today, our youngster has matured. True, he’s still as light-hearted and playful as ever, but he’s learnt, from experience, that there’s more to life than fun, games and gimmicks. And, in learning, Animation has developed into the most disarming and effective salesman of our time.5

The brochure explained how the variations in style (ranging from ‘Disney’ to ‘UPA’) would greatly affect cost. For example, if the client wished to incorporate ‘A detailed Disney type character,’ each cel would require ‘Fine tracing in two or more tones, various tones in small areas, and detailed construction demanding precise and accurate drawing by the Animator.’ Thus, for each cel it would require: To draw = 10 minutes To trace = 6 minutes To paint = 10 minutes A total of 26 minutes per cell would mean a total of 208 h to produce your twenty seconder.



Alternately, if the client wished to go with a ‘U.P.A., or modern type character—which lends itself to gimmick animation, based on humour and timing rather than the reproduction of live action,’ each cel would require To draw = 5 minutes To trace = 3 minutes To paint = 3 minutes A total of 11 minutes per cell would mean a total of 88 h to produce your twenty seconder.6

Although Artransa Animation’s primary income came from the lucrative advertising market, the studio wished to expand into other areas of animation. Taking advantage of their office in New York, Artransa attempted to secure a number of ongoing series contracts with American animation studios. Initially, this proved to be somewhat difficult. Many studios were hesitant to contract to a studio that was on the other side of the world. But one property that appeared to hold great promise was Felix the Cat. The rights to Felix were held by Pat Sullivan’s Australian nephew (also named Pat Sullivan). As President of Felix the Cat Creations (along with Joe Oriolo, Studio Manager) Sullivan sought to produce a new animated television series based on Felix. To the Australian directors at Artransa, producing a series of Felix the Cat seemed a very fitting proposition; but unfortunately the negotiations went on for many months and proved to be both frustrating and fruitless. In the end, Pat Sullivan (the nephew) opted to set up his own production studio in New York to create the series (see Chapter 3). There were also lengthy ongoing negotiations with another studio to secure the contract to make a new television series of Popeye the Sailor, but these also proved unsuccessful.7 In these various negotiations, it would occasionally emerge that Artransa were not using standard ACME registration pegs (three pegs— the centre one round and the outer two horizontal rectangle shaped), but were instead using Eric Porter’s proprietary system (consisting of five, round pegs). At first Artransa animation was reluctant to switch from the Porter standard as they had substantial stocks of paper and cels that were all punched to that system. However, rather reluctantly, they had their representative in New York send over a few ACME peg bars,



and by around 1960 they had made the full transition to the international standard of ACME peg bars.8 Then, finally, in 1963, Artransa landed a contract with the American producer Al Brodax of King Features, who was looking to create additional animated series based on the popular American newspaper comic strips that King Features distributed. Paramount’s Famous Studios had been producing several King Features animated properties, but the studio had become greatly over-stretched. Brodax was looking for additional means of production. Through its contacts with Freemantle Media in New York, Artransa sent a demonstration reel of six of their most recent animated commercials, also the pilot episode of their in-development series The Unbearable Bear, for Brodax to screen.9 Evidently, he was impressed because, after some negotiating, they secured a contract for the production of eighteen Beetle Bailey episodes and seven Krazy Kat episodes.10 This was a welcome change from producing advertisem*nts. Cam Ford recalls working on these: We probably put more work into them than was necessary just for the sheer joy of doing something in entertainment, in colour, and that didn’t have somebody holding a product in the last scene!11

A representative from New York, Gerry Ray, was sent out to make sure that the production progressed well. He was largely responsible for getting Artransa on track—helping to streamline their production pipeline so that it was, more or less, in-line with the American studios. Cam Ford further recalls: The pre-production was, of course, done in the States. We had no control whatsoever. Storyboards and soundtracks were shipped out to us. We animated, inked and painted, and shot it here; then it was sent back to the States to have the music and sound effects added. Our feedback was very positive. They said we were turning out work to a better standard than the Paramount Pictures animation studio, known as Famous Studios – which was, by that time, on its last legs, anyway.12

Soon after this initial commission, Artransa secured another contract to produce some 20 episodes of the new Beatles television series. Rather than being based on an existing King Features property, it showcased characters based on the music group and their madcap adventures, each episode loosely based on the lyrics of one of their hit songs. But the contract for



the Beatles series, along with their steady flow of commercials, proved too much for Artransa to handle alone, forcing them to sub-sub-contract some of the work to Raymond Leach’s, Graphik Animation Studio (which would later be called Raymond Lea Animation). His studio, in all, produced about five of these episodes. Simultaneously, King Features contracted with three other international studios located in England, Canada and Holland, which collectively produced the remaining 60 episodes. Alongside the production of these contracted series, Artransa continued a heavy production schedule of animated commercials and was also actively developing its own original series. One of the more promising projects was the series, Unbearable Bear in T.V. Tours, created and written by Geoff Pike. This featured a koala named ‘Aussie’ and a little boy named ‘Archie.’ Aussie the Unbearable Bear only needed to think hard enough of a place that he’d like to go and say ‘Kabonk!’ and he and his friend Archie would be magically transported there. In total, approximately twelve of these 6-minute episodes were created, each taking place in a different part of the world. The series included such episodes as: Unbearable McDoodle McBear in Scotch Broth, Unbearable Pierre Le Bear in French Fried, Unbearable Herr Bear in German Sausage, Unbearable Bamboo Bear in Chop Suey, Unbearable Sombrero Bearo in Jumping Beans and Unbearable Sahib Bear in Indian Curry. Graham Sharpe described it as a project that the studio head, Geoff Pike, was developing, primarily ‘to maintain continuity of employment … to give us something to do in down times.’ He adds that unfortunately, ‘Nobody bought it!’13 The studio was unable either to sell the series to Australian stations or to distribute it overseas. However, each of these episodes was published in individual storybook form in 1964 and, on the strength of the completed episodes, further commissioned jobs were secured. In about 1965, Artransa acquired a further commission to produce the animated series, Cool McCool (an animated spy-parody created by Batman creator, Bob Kane). Again, a full production schedule compelled them to contract much of this series out to Eric Porter Productions, Raymond Leach’s Graphik Animation and even to freelance animators such as Gus McLaren in Melbourne. The production schedule was very tight, particularly for the Cool McCool series. For Artransa, it also became a logistical nightmare as they had, not only to produce their share of the episodes, but also to manage the other studios to get the work in on time. The shows were habitually last minute, and it was not uncommon for an Artransa staff member to have to pick the prints up from the laboratory and immediately



rush them to the airport, endeavouring to get them on the next plane to Los Angeles. The following year Artransa received a commission to produce a number of episodes of The Lone Ranger series, the balance of which were being produced by Halas and Batchelor in London (where, coincidentally, Australian animator Cam Ford was employed as unit director on the series). Artransa also accepted a contract to produce the series, Rocket Robin Hood and His Merry Spacemen, both of which shows also required sub-sub-contracting to other animation studios in Sydney. By the late 1960s, and after the commissions of Cool McCool, The Lone Ranger, and Rocket Robin Hood and His Merry Spacemen, the fortunes of Artransa had begun to change. Contracted shows from America began to dry up—local competition from other studios for animated television commercials increased, and Artransa’s once profitable radio production service had also closed down as television far outpaced radio as a popular entertainment medium. Thus, Artransa was forced to abandon its animation production. Only its live-action division remained open until the late 1980s, but in a more limited capacity.14

API (Air Programs International) Similar to Artransa, API (Air Programs International) began as a radio programme production studio. Originally called Air Programs Australia, the company began in the early 1950s, founded by husband and wife duo, Walt and Wendy Hucker. The Huckers wrote and produced a number of short format radio programmes that could be sold as package deals to smaller radio stations across Australia. One such show was called It Happens all the Time. It was a collection of 365 forty-five second dramatised situation comedies … funny things that can happen to anyone. Like the boss coming home to dinner … teaching your wife to drive … buying a dog – 365 different funny situations! Each comedy is a complete program in miniature, including theme music, full dramatization and extensive sound effects.15

The series featured several well-known Australian voice actors, including John Meillon, who would later become one of the staple voice actors for their animated features. Air Programs Australia also imported several short-format programmes from America. One of the more successful of these was The Big Sound, which was essentially a recorded library of



American entertainment celebrities, ‘big stars such as Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Jane Russell, Liberace, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Rosemary Clooney—and almost 400 others.’16 These recordings ranged in length from five seconds to three minutes. Some were merely excerpts from interviews, while others were more functional ‘drop-ins’ such as Jimmy Stewart introducing the weather report or the sports report. With the introduction of television, Air Programs Australia quickly made the move into animation, changing their name to API (Air Programs International) in around 1958. They, like Artransa, also had a large pool of voice talent that they could call upon to work on their subsequent animated films. They soon began production on a number of short-form animation series that they would hope to sell. One of these that proved successful was a double series entitled: The Challenge of Flight and The Challenge of the Sea. Each episode was five minutes in length. They ultimately sold thirteen of these episodes to the Australian ABC-TV, which were aired in 1962. They were described as being ‘historical satires.’17 Later they were sold to a number of overseas markets including: New Zealand, Canada, England, Italy, Hong Kong and parts of the Middle East. The series was soon followed by another 20-part (5 minutes each) series called Popular Misconceptions. This series, also aired on ABC-TV, had some success in overseas markets. It was in 1966 that API had great success with their original animated series, King Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table. The series, developed entirely at their studios, had a refreshing style that was primarily the result of its new director, Zoran Janjic. Zoran had recently emigrated from Eastern Europe, where he had worked at the Zagreb film animation studio as well as studios in Germany. His mother (Zora Bubica) had been head of the ink and paint department at the Zagreb studio.18 Once established in Sydney, Janjic set up a small animation studio with fellow animator, Ron Campbell called, J & C Animation (Janjic and Campbell)—and Zoran’s mother (Zora) worked there too. A few years later, API approached Janjic and asked if he would direct their new animated television series. Janjic agreed and became the studio’s animation director. In all, King Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table comprised 39 half-hour episodes. The series, a comedy set loosely in King Arthur’s court, has a very distinctive style and featured a limited animation aesthetic. The backgrounds were rendered in an almost impressionistic manner that is reminiscent of the Zagreb studio tradition from



which the director and the key background artist originated. The characters were also carefully designed in order to be both easily animated and to facilitate the required method of limited animation (see Fig. 5.1). The promotional material for the series proclaimed: ‘More hysterical than historical, Arthur and the Square Knights of the Round Table is one very warped account of merry old England.’19 It featured a wide-range of slap-stick humour and witty dialogue, for example: King Arthur: Tell me two things, what cured your cold? Merlin: I can’t quite remember, but if I do think of it again its worth a fortune! King Arthur: And why did you punish the witch by making her itch? Merlin: Simple Sire, it was the only word I could think of that rhymed with witch.

Fig. 5.1  Frame grab from the animated television series, Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table (1966)



Many of Australia’s most talented animators worked on this series. They included: Kevin Roper, Peter Luschwitz, Gairden Cooke, Don Mackinnon, Stuart Barry, Leif Gram, Ray Bartle, Jean Tych, Vivien Ray, John Burge, Eddy Graham and Gus McLaren. Incidentally, the animator, Gus McLaren, had previously created the Freddo the Frog animation series in Melbourne some four years earlier, at Fanfare Films. Animation director, Zoran Janic, also directed the voice actors (some of which had been radio voice actors that had worked with the API previously when it was a radio production company). Here, Janjic recalls the voice recording I directed John Meillon, John Ewart and Moira Sullivan, the voice characters. John Meillon, just back from London, was a terrific voice. He spoke the Black Knight and King Arthur. John Ewart impressed me too. Immediately, when he got the script, he would understand the additional characters. I would be concentrating on the script hearing four character voices, but when I looked up, there was only one guy standing there, John Ewart, changing from one voice to another. I expected to see a crowd! It was brilliant!20

In addition to screening on ABC-TV in Australia, the series was widely broadcast throughout America and Europe, with Spanish and Italian versions. After the King Arthur series, API made a feature-length (60-minutes) animated film of A Christmas Carol. This was wholly completed before it was sold—which constituted a big risk for the studio. But it was ultimately taken up for sponsorship by General Mills (a large American food manufacturer) and then sold to the American television network, CBS. It proved to be a huge success. On its first American broadcast in 1969, it reached an estimated audience of 33,000,000 viewers (which was nearly triple Australia’s total population at that time). It was subsequently rebroadcast annually for nearly two decades over the CBS network. It also screened in Australia and many other markets across the world. Based upon this success, API formed a long-term production/ sponsorship deal with General Mills and the American network, CBS, producing approximately 20 long-form animated specials (ranging from 48 minutes to 74 minutes in length). These included: A Christmas Carol, Black Arrow, The Prince and the Pauper, The Travels of Marco Polo, Moby-Dick, The Swiss Family Robinson, Around the World in 80 Days,



Huckleberry Finn, The First Christmas, Heidi, Robinson Crusoe, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Robin Hood, Kidnapped, Treasure Island, A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Sinbad, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Rip Van Winkle. Even although these animated films were primarily for overseas consumption, API prided itself in being an all-Australian production. Except for the voice recordings on the first two productions, all of the voices were by local actors. The scripts, storyboards, backgrounds and animation were also entirely produced at API. Even the music was locally recorded—original music, which, for most of these productions, they managed to recruit the 40-piece Sydney Opera House orchestra to perform. API was able to keep the costs of these productions remarkably low by: paying much lower wages than American studios (although comparable by Australian standards); employing a very limited and stylised animation technique; using Xerography (thereby avoiding the inking ­ stage); and finally, by shooting their animation on 16 mm master stock (rather than the costlier 35 mm standard). Although CBS normally required 35 mm, because of the bold use of colours and very stylised line work the network agreed to make an exception and accept the films on 16 mm.21 API did receive some assistance from the Australia Film Development Corporation (which had been established in 1970) for many of these productions; but this was usually in the form of an interest-free ‘loan’ which they were required to repay. Another very successful animated television series that was entirely developed in Australia by API was the sixteen half-hour episodes, Around the World in 80 Days. This was an original series, featuring Australian voices, music, pre-production and animation. It was based loosely on Jules Verne’s book (1873) of the same name. In the series, Phineas Fogg, who wishes to marry Belinda Maze, is forced to accept a wager by her uncle, Lord Maze, to attempt to make a journey around the world in only 80 days. Only if he succeeds would he then be able to marry Belinda. Lord Maze does not think he can do it, but just to make sure, he hires Mr. Fix to foil Fogg’s endeavour. The episodes follow Phineas Fogg, his assistant Jean Passepartout and a pet monkey named Toto, as they attempt to make the journey. Each installment humorously recounts a different part of the round-the-world voyage and the madcap attempts by Lord Maze’s henchman, Mr. Fix, to thwart their progress. Initially, broadcast on the American, NBC network in 1972, it was subsequently screened throughout a number of other international markets.



In 1971, API entered into a contract with Hanna-Barbera to produce the television series, Funky Phantoms. Unfortunately for API, Hanna-Barbera used this foothold as a means to set up its own competing animation studio in Sydney. To make matters worse for API, Hanna-Barbera Australia proceeded to poach many of their best animators. Perhaps the greatest blow to API came when their very talented animation director, Zoran Janjic, was recruited to be director of HannaBarbera Australia. Then, within a few years, Hanna-Barbera Australia also began to make animated specials for American television, some of which were competing directly with the API-produced specials (see Chapter 8). At this time, Paul McAdam took over the role of running API. The studio continued to have some critical success. For example, Gentlemen of Titipu, their adaptation of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, gained the ‘Best Animated Program’ award at the 9th Hollywood TV Festival, 1974. Although greatly reduced in size, API continued producing animated specials for a number of years, until 1982. In the later years, they directed most of their efforts towards European and, later, Middle Eastern markets, producing such features as: The Mikado, The Count of Monte Cristo and Gilgamesh. By focussing on these other international markets, they were able to avoid direct competition with Hanna-Barbera Australia.22

Eric Porter Productions: From Ads to ‘Yellow Houses’ By the mid-1950s, Eric Porter’s studio had been suffering financially. In 1956, when Artransa invited Porter to join their company and set up and run their animation studio, he quickly agreed. However, after two years with Artransa, he yearned to have his own studio again. By 1958, the television industry had become relatively established, and the need for animation content had dramatically increased. At least for the time being, there was plenty of work for all. Thus, in 1958 he reopened his own studio, calling it Eric Porter Productions. Things went well for Porter—the demand for animated advertisem*nts was phenomenal. Whereas his old studio (prior to television) might have produced perhaps twenty ads per year—by the late 1960s he was producing well over 500 commercials annually. The studio began to produce a wide range of advertisem*nts using a variety of techniques. The very talented stop-motion animator, Robert Knapp, joined Eric Porter Productions, and the studio also began making a



number of stop-motion animated advertisem*nts. Robert Knapp (a recent immigrant from Hungary) had previously been involved with the 1962 ABC Television stop-motion animated series, Wambidgee. This series, animated by Knapp and produced by Bill Copland, told the adventures of a young Aboriginal boy living in the Australian bush. But, as with many of the mid-sized animation studios, Porter was not content to produce merely advertisem*nts; he began looking to develop a number of larger animation projects. His stop-motion director, Robert Knapp, directed a short stop-motion film called Sunstroke Territory featuring characters in an Old West setting, which sold successfully to American and Canadian television. About the same time, in the mid-1960s, the studio began production on a series called Captain Comet of the Space Rangers. It was a science-fiction adventure series developed by cartoonist Monty Wedd and based upon his long-running comic strip appearing in the Australian children’s comic magazine, Chucklers Weekly. It was initially planned to be a stop-motion series, but developed into a hybrid show that featured stop-motion/model backgrounds with superimposed cel animation. Many of these sequences employed the aerial-image technique of optical effects, while some of the close-up shots were merely filmed over colour photographs of the model sets (see Fig. 5.2). It starred such characters as: Captain Comet (voiced by John Martin), Peter Space (Ray Hartley) The Major (Nigel Lowel), Draco (the villain, voiced by Kevin Golsby) and Jason (a robot, voiced by Ross Higgins). This show also struggled to find distribution. Another series that the studio produced was, The Yo-Yo Show, a 2D animated series starring Yo-Yo the Clown and a villain (of sorts), also voiced by Kevin Golsby. By this time, Porter had begun producing animated advertisem*nts for numerous overseas markets. But it was when he landed a contract with Mattel Toys in America, that he felt he was really on to something. He produced these and soon after had received their backing to produce a children’s variety show called The Yellow House. The show could be described as a cross between Sesame Street and The Mickey Mouse Club; it featured live-action sequences with as many as 50 children (each wearing a yellow shirt with their name emblazoned on it). The show also featured educational sequences as well as a number of short animations. In this way, it was the perfect vehicle for Porter to showcase many of his earlier animated shorts and animated series (such as Captain Comet of the Space Rangers and The Yo-Yo Show).



Fig. 5.2  Frame grab from the animated television series, Captain Comet of the Space Rangers which utilised a hybrid of live-action model sets and cel animation

The Yellow House was quickly sold overseas (to Canada and the USA), but initially failed to get distribution in Australia. This was due to the fact that the pilot episode was rated by the classification board with a standard ‘G-rating’ rather than the coveted ‘C-classification’ which would have ensured it’s being taken up by a network since it would have fulfilled the Government’s quota requirements for children’s programming. Without this rating, the series became much less attractive to local stations. Apparently, the classification board’s justification for this surprise rating was that the series contained ‘too much dancing,’ a ruling that Porter found quite frustrating, to say the least.23 In all, sixteen episodes were produced. However, despite having financial backing and guaranteed North American distribution through Mattell toys; receiving a $25,000 loan from the The Australian Film Development Corporation; and eventually securing screening on Australian television,



Porter still made a significant loss on the series and no further episodes were produced.24 As a number of financial problems began to mount against the studio, Porter agreed to take on further sub-contracted television series, this time from Hanna-Barbera. These series included: Abbot and Costello (1967), The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (1972), Superfriends (1973) and Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1974). This last effort, however, proved to be too little too late. Due to the studio’s poor financial results (including from the feature film, Marco Polo Jnr. Vs. The Red Dragon-see Chapter 6), increasing local competition (including from Hanna-Barbera Australia), and a general economic slump in Australia, Porter was forced to wind down much of the studio’s animation production. For a few years, she continued to produce some television commercials and some live-action projects—as well as hiring out much of his (now unused) facilities to other producers. But the days of television animation production and of stimulating international collaborations had essentially come to an end for Eric Porter Productions.

Fanfare Films Fanfare Films, originally called John Wilson Productions (JWP), commenced in Melbourne in 1957. Norm Spencer, Producer of the show In Melbourne Tonight for Melbourne’s Channel Nine television, visited America on the station’s behalf and there met with John Wilson, an English/American entrepreneur and animation director (who had worked for many years at UPA). He had recently set up his own studio, Fine Arts Productions, in California. One of his studio-partners, Stan Freberg (American radio comedy star, writer and animation voice actor), was writing the material the company was producing, mostly advertising, but also some animated films for television. Wilson had been to a number of countries, including Spain, Portugal and Mexico, and in each had assisted local television companies to establish animation studios. The local companies were then able to make commercials for their advertisers and short animated films to air on their programmes. Spencer, impressed with Wilson and his achievements, suggested to Channel Nine that they invite him to visit Melbourne.25 Wilson came to Australia and put the proposition to Channel Nine that they create a subsidiary company to produce animated commercials for the Australian market. He, Wilson, would bring from America



a core group of professionals to teach animation technique to a team of prospective Australian animators. Channel Nine agreed. Pat Matthews, an experienced animator, headed the American training team; his wife Connie took charge of backgrounds; cameraman Jean Balty set up a camera department; Phyllis Hay led the ink and paint department. Channel Nine sent a circular around to various newspaper editors; then, directly approached artists producing cartoons for the Australian press, seeking their interest in working with the proposed animation company.26 An Australian team was soon assembled, comprising some of the leading press cartoonists of the time. Frank Hellard was an illustrator for the Herald; Gus McLaren drew a daily front-page cartoon for The Argus; Anne Jolliffe was drawing comic strips for The Age; Wally Driscoll drew a comic strip for The Globe; Ralph Peverill was an illustrator. In the fledgling animation studio, Bruce Weatherhead and Alex Stitt formed the design department; Dick Sawyers painted backgrounds. Alex Stitt became the unit’s Art Director, having already some five commercials to his credit from his freelancing as an independent animator from a desk at the Castle Jackson advertising agency. Wilson engaged staff at their current salaries without asking for portfolios or examples of work. In its first year, the company, initially named JWP, was said to employ between thirty and forty people.27 Frank Hellard recalls that those chosen to be animators took part in the production discussions and were given opportunities to write stories and to produce storyboards. In accordance with American industry tradition, the animators were all male. So, Anne Jolliffe was put in charge of inking and painting, even though she had had prior animation experience making educational films for the CSIRO film department (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization). Seeing that this was unjustified, some of the other animators convinced the management to let her take an animation test—which she passed. Later Jolliffe found out that, not only was she the only one of the six animators at the studio with previous animation experience, but that she was the only one who was forced to take a ‘test’ to become one. ‘I realised then’ said Jolliffe, ‘that even though women do animate, they have to work about six times harder than men, and have to battle all the way through.’28 Wilson brought with him sample reels of American animated commercials made by some of their most accomplished studios, including UPA. The new productions were largely influenced by the American scene; but



since the programmes Channel Nine were putting to air were mainly American, the new commercials fitted in. During the three-month training session, Channel Nine gained commissions to produce a number of animated commercials. Due to the inexperience of the Australian trainee animators, Pat Matthews himself needed to animate the first of these, for Kia Ora Baked Beans, and chose Ralph Peverill to work with him. Soon, however, the animators were producing the advertisem*nts on their own. Other commissions were for Heinz, Cadbury’s, and The Age newspaper. In 1958, the studio was renamed as Fanfare Films, and John Wilson and the rest of the American contingent returned to the USA.29 Significantly, in 1961, MacRobertson’s chocolates commissioned what is considered to be one of the first animated series made for television in Australia. Gus McLaren recalls: I came up with an idea of Flash Jack and Wocka, two very Australian characters. An advertising guy who I knew and who worked for MacRobertson’ said “I can get this going for you; but you’d have to make the main character Freddo the Frog.” MacRobertsons made little chocolate Freddo Frogs. That’s how The Adventures of Freddo the Frog started. Though, I didn’t have to make it look like their chocolate frog, which would have been impossible to move!30

The Adventures of Freddo the Frog, which went to air on Channel Nine in 1962, was broadcast as part of the popular children’s television programme, The Tarax Show. Although it could be described as a thinly disguised advertisem*nt for the chocolate food-product, it presented an entertaining narrative with a distinctly Australian sense of humour. As Gus McLaren notes, his character designs were decidedly different from the products original styling. This was in part due to practical reasons (making the characters easier to animate) but additionally McLaren had been heavily influenced, and essentially trained, by UPA animators, and this influence is what is most clearly visible in the series (see Fig. 5.3). McLaren wrote, directed, and very largely animated, all sixty of the five-minute episodes of The Adventures of Freddo the Frog (although several other artists helped with the in-betweening and the ink and paint). By the time the Freddo series went to air, Fanfare films had begun laying off many of its staff. Those who left the studio continued in the animation industry. Anne Jolliffe went to London where she began working on the Beatles television series for the London studio



Fig. 5.3  Frame grab from the Freddo the Frog television series (1952)

(at the same time that Artransa studios in Sydney were producing episodes for the Beatles series), and then on the Beatles feature film, The Yellow Submarine. Following this, Jolliffe directed the 15-minute animated documentary, The Curious History of Money for Larkins Films (on which Cam Ford also animated), and she also worked as an animator on Bob Godfrey’s Academy Award-winning animated short film, Great (1976), before returning to Australia. Dick Sawyers also went to London (joining fellow Australians, Anne Jolliffe and Cam Ford) and became one of the designers on The Yellow Submarine. In Melbourne, Bruce Weatherhead and Alex Stitt commenced their own studio, Weatherhead and Stitt, and Frank Hellard soon joined them as their Animation Director. Gus McLaren became a freelance animator, subsequently working with Zoran Janjic on Arthur! The Square Knights of the Round Table at API, and numerous other productions for other studios. Thereafter Channel Nine began losing interest in its animation company, which was not returning much profit. By then, the newly formed



Weatherhead and Stitt studio was essentially using Fanfare Films as their production house. Finally, in 1962, Channel Nine decided to get out of the animation business and called Weatherhead and Stitt offering them the sale of its animation equipment, including its rostrum camera; and Fanfare Films came to a close.

Rowl Greenhalgh Productions There were a number of Sydney-based studios that were either founded by or associated with the talented animator, Rowl Greenhalgh. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Greenhalgh began animating in Queensland, producing a handful of advertising films and other minor productions. Then in 1952, he joined Eric Porter Studios in Sydney. Five years later, in 1957, he set up his own company, Rowl Greenhalgh Productions and produced the Tune-Cartoons series, as well as a large number of animated advertisem*nts. Later, Greenhalgh produced numerous animated advertisem*nts for Visatone Television. In the late 1960s, he became the animation director at Ajax Films (a studio with a long history of live-action production) which was just beginning to delve into animation. It was there that he teamed up with Marcia Hatfield to produce her 26-part animated series of Eddie’s Alphabet. Hatfield (who would later create the internationally acclaimed Toothbrush Family animated series) developed and wrote the series, while Greenhalgh produced the animation. Each two-minute long episode featured a different letter of the alphabet. The standard opening of each episode began with Eddie the Earthworm saying: Hi girls and boys! Whatever the letter that comes from my shape, watch me a minute a story I’ll make. An earthworm – that’s me—knows much of this earth I have found. Let me show you a lesson that’s sure to be sound.31

It would then launch into, for example, ‘A is the first letter of the word Artist.’ The series was screened repeatedly for several years on ABC-TV. This series was also seen as an ‘export success story, with sales in New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong.’32 Later, in 1970, Greenhalgh was re-hired by Eric Porter to run the studio’s animated television commercials division.



Animads (Dusan Marek) Television provided the impetuous for several independent and experimental animators to delve into the world of animated commercials— Dusan Marek was an excellent example of this trend. Although most animation production was occurring in Sydney and Melbourne, there were also some small studios and independent animators operating in other areas. In Adelaide, South Australia, surrealist painter, Dusan Marek (who had migrated from Prague in 1948) had been making a number of surreal and innovative independent stop-motion puppet and cut-out animations (see Chapter 4). When television came about he made the surprising shift into commercial animation. In the early 1960s, he set up a small production studio called Anim-ads. All of these advertisem*nts were created using the cut-out animation technique. His particular cut-out technique involved numerous free-floating, rather than hinged together, elements (like Harry Julius decades before). He found animating in this way to be much more liberating. Although virtually nothing has been written about the Anim-ads studio, and much of its history forgotten, fortunately many of these artefacts exist in Australia’s National Film and Sound Archives collection, which provides a glimpse into the workings of the studio. Several of the animated advertisem*nts have been archived there, as have a number of the storyboards for these commercials. Interestingly, Marek had printed a special storyboard template with his studio name, Anim-ads, emblazoned at the top of each page. But being the avant-garde artist that he was—it appears that he just could not bring himself to follow such a convention. Thus, he would turn the page over and draw his storyboards on reverse side of the printed storyboard template—filling up the blank page with a dizzying array of thumbnail images. And if he ran out of room, he would then continue the sequence on the front side of the paper—but instead of within the printed panels, he would go to great lengths to avoid the pre-­ fabricated boxes, squeezing his drawings onto the margins of the page. His animated films possessed many of the qualities of his personal experimental animation, often featuring abstract imagery and unconventional narratives. Yet despite this unusual aesthetic (and unconventional approach to pre-production) he managed to secure contracts for, and produce many successful animated commercials for a number of wellknown international products, including: Lifesavers brand peppermint candies and Caltex oil.



John Scheffer Another notable small-scale studio was that of John Scheffer Productions, founded by Dutch-born animator, John Scheffer and based in Melbourne. The studio, which consisted primarily of John Scheffer and his wife Vivienne Scheffer, focused almost exclusively on the production of stop-motion television advertisem*nts from the late 1950s to the 1970s.33 John Scheffer had begun experimenting with animation while in London in the 1940s, where he specialised in the construction of stop-motion puppets, which included plastics formulation, armature construction and mould-making. He furthered his skills while living in Amsterdam in the early 1950s, when he was employed in the ‘laboratory’ at Joop Geesink’s Studio (which he referred to as ‘Joop Geesink’s Dollywood,’ the puppet animation equivalent of Hollywood). John migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in 1955—coincidentally just as television (with all of its advertising potential) was about to debut. His studio, established in 1956, proved to be successful and managed to ‘corner’ the local market for commercial stop-motion animation. John Scheffer Productions contracted to make films for banks and for a number of manufacturing companies advertising a variety of products such as biscuits and other foods, shoes and clothing, home and garden supplies. They were perhaps best known for their ongoing series of advertisem*nts for the Grosby brand shoes, which featured a stopmotion dog character. Legendary cartoonist and animator, Bruce Petty, had originally designed the Grosby dog character in drawn form; Scheffer further modified it to work as a stop-motion character. Because stop-motion puppet armature construction techniques were relatively unknown at the time in Australia, the Scheffers were very careful to safeguard their technique as a trade secret. So, for example, when the puppets went out on loan to clients or for use in display, they would provide them without the inner armature—for fear that a rival studio might poach their trade secrets. Scheffer was also innovative with his production technique and experimented with diverse materials seeking to achieve the best results. For example, he created stop-motion water flowing from a hose using a series of cut-to-form sheets of plastic, changing them frame-by-frame. The cellophane-type plastic provided the reflective ‘water’ sheen. He then lightly sanded each of these sheets, achieving a scratchy, opaque animated texture that emulated the foamy quality of water spraying from a hose.



Scheffer tended towards experimentation in his later years, often letting the materials dictate the direction of the work. He worked directly on film, creating handmade scratch-on-films. And he gained recognition for his innovative film, The Drought, which visualised the traditional Australian poem of the same name. The film incorporated a series of large paintings that were pulled along at right angles to a warped reflective surface. This produced a distorted and dreamlike visual effect. There had been a visible shift in the aesthetics of his work when he moved from Europe and became more entrenched in the Australian culture. The Drought is a very Australian film, indicative of the cultural evolution in his work. John Scheffer Productions ceased business in the 1970s. Scheffer’s health was a contributory cause; but also changes were taking place in the industry. For example, Scheffer’s largest client, Grosby Shoes, decided to update their style, replacing their popular stop-motion animated Grosby Dog with the live-action cowboy, John Wayne, who was brought to Australia at the time. There were many other animation studios that emerged to capitalise on both the debut of television and the growing possibilities for international collaborations and sub-contracting work that television production seemed to foster. Some of these collaborations were equally beneficial to both parties; others led to a significant financial imbalance.


1. Eric Porter,‘Animation for TV is not Dear,’ Broadcasting and Television, 4 November 1955, 38. 2. Cam Ford and Diana Ford interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 8 July 2004. 3. Richard Lane, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923–1960 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994), 272. 4. Ford, 2004. 5. Animation for Advertisers (Sydney: Artransa Park Studios, c.1960). 6. Ibid. 7. National Film and Sound Archives document. 8. Ibid. 9. Mitchell Axelrod, Beatletoons—The Real Story Behind the Cartoon Beatles (Pickens, SC: Wynn Publishing, 1999), 70. 10. Ibid., 71. 11. Ford, 2004.



12. Ibid. 13. Graham Sharpe interview with Lienors Torre and Dan Torre, 9 July 2004. 14. Ford, 2004. 15. APA (Air Programs Australia) Promotional Brochure (Sydney, c.1954). 16. Ibid. 17. John Howard, ‘Our Cartoons,’ TV Times, 16 September 1970, 8. 18. Zoran Janjic interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 19 January 2005. 19. Promotional materials, API Studios (Sydney, c.1968). 20. Janjic, 2005. 21. Wendy Hucker interview. 22.  Dianne Colman interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 May 2004. 23. Joy Porter interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 6 August 2004. 24. ‘One Year for the A.F.D.C.,’ Film Maker, March 1972. 25. Frank Hellard interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 3 September 2004. 26. Hellard, 2004. 27. Ibid. 28. Anne Jolliffe interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 15 January 2005. 29. Hellard, 2004. 30. Gus McLaren interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 2 September 2004. 31. Marcia Hatfield, Eddie’s Alphabet (Sydney: Odhams Books, 1969), 1. 32. Howard, ‘Our Cartoons,’ TV Times, 8 33. Much of this section is derived from: Vivienne Scheffer interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 19 May 2007.

Bibliography ‘Animation for Tv Is Not Dear.’ Broadcasting and Television, 4 November 1955). ‘One Year for the A.F.D.C.’ Film Maker, 1972. APA. ‘Radio Broadcasting.’ Edited by Air Programs Australia (APA). Sydney, 1954. API. ‘Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table.’ News release, 1968. Artransa. ‘Artransa Studio Documents and Correspondence 1955–60.’ National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. ———. ‘Animation for Advertisers.’ Edited by Artransa Park Studios, 1960. Axelrod, Mitchell. Beatletoons—The Real Story Behind the Cartoon Beatles. Pickens, South Carolina: Wynn Publishing, 1999. Colman, Dianne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (5 May 2004).



Ford, Cam, and Diana Ford. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (8 July 2004). The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923–1960. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994. Hatfield, Marcia. Eddie’s Alphabet. Sydney: Odhams Books, 1969. Hellard, Frank. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (3 September 2004). Howard, John. ‘Our Cartoons.’ TV Times, 16 September 1970. Hucker, Wendy. By Craig Monahan (1989). Janjic, Zoran. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (16 September 2005). Jolliffe, Anne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (15 January 2005). McLaren, Gus. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (2 September 2004). Porter, Joy. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (6 August 2004). Scheffer, Vivienne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (19 May 2007). Sharpe, Graham. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (9 July 2004).


Marco Polo Junior: A Crisis of Animated Identity

Marco Polo Junior vs The Red Dragon is regarded as Australia’s first theatrically released animated feature film. But despite its occupying this unique position, the film seemed to struggle with its own identity and, ultimately, with its placement within the history of animated film. Marco Polo Junior was actually a co-production between Australia’s Eric Porter Productions and an American entity, Animation International, Inc., headed by comic book artist Sheldon Moldoff. It was Moldoff who wrote the original screenplay, designed many of the characters and provided 40% of the funding. In Australia, Eric Porter ultimately put up 60% of the funding; and his studio streamlined the story, designed a number of the characters and created all of the animation. Yet for marketing purposes (and perhaps due to individual egos) each side appeared reluctant to acknowledge the involvement of the other. In America, Sheldon Moldoff heavily marketed it as his own personal film with scarcely any mention of Eric Porter and virtually nothing of the Australian side of the production. In Australia, Eric Porter touted it as an all-Australian production, with hardly any mention of the American pre-production studio or Sheldon Moldoff. Even the local promotional posters declared it as: ‘Eric Porter’s Marco Polo Jnr versus The Red Dragon.’ The film also went through several title changes during its production and several more during its release and re-releases—a process that certainly helped to confuse the branding of the film. Initially, during its pre-development stages, the film was titled The Adventures of Marco Polo Jr.; then, it became Marco Polo Junior Return to Xanadu; at the © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




commencement of production, this was altered to Marco Polo Junior; and for a brief time, the production was sometimes referred to as Marco Polo Returns. Unfortunately, another major Australian animation studio, Air Programs International (API), had been quietly producing their own feature-length film on the theme of Marco Polo entitled, The Travels of Marco Polo. This made-for-television animated film was broadcast in both Australia and America just a few weeks before the Australian theatrical release of Marco Polo Junior, causing a great deal of confusion—and probably putting a dent in its box office. In response to this broadcast version of Marco Polo, for its Australian cinema release Porter’s film was renamed at the last minute to Marco Polo Jnr. vs The Red Dragon. It was titled Marco Polo Jr. for its initial American release. But then in 1974, the Rankin-Bass animation studios released a combination live-action and stop-motion animated feature under the concise title, Marco. In response to this (and the re-broadcast of the API television feature), Sheldon Moldoff reissued the film in America under the title, The Red Red Dragon. At around the same time, Eric Porter reissued the film for Australian television broadcast under the title, The Gold Medallion. Ultimately, the film was a financial disaster for the Australian studio of Eric Porter Productions, which had put up a majority of the financing and actually made the animated feature film. Sheldon Moldoff, it seems, fared somewhat better. Moldoff had, after all, a smaller financial investment in the project. It also appears that he had managed to continue to secure distribution deals without Porter’s involvement over the course of several decades. To complicate the film’s identity even further, nearly three decades later, in the year 2001, Toonerversal Animation Studio (in partial collaboration with Sheldon Moldoff), reissued the film with significant amounts of new animation (which were produced in China and in Slovakia) and featuring all-new voice actors and music. This version of the film was distributed worldwide (except in Australia) under the title, Marco Polo Return to Xanadu. Despite being eligible for an Oscar in the category of feature animated film, the movie received very poor reviews. As noted in earlier chapters, there have been many instances in which Australian produced animation has suffered from a rather ambiguous sense of identity. However, it has never, perhaps, been so confused as in the case of the animated feature film, Marco Polo Junior. This chapter details this animated feature film’s creation, distribution and reception,



describing some of the intriguing events that surrounded this important Australian production.

Finding Marco By 1970, Eric Porter Productions had become the largest animation studio in Australia and was beginning to make a name for itself internationally—Porter had successfully delivered on a number of sub-contracted animation series for Kings Features and for Hanna-Barbera. He had invested heavily in his studio and was able to claim to have the best and most up-to-date animation facilities. One of their promotional materials proclaimed: The only Oxberry Aerial-Image Camera in Australia is at Eric Porter Productions. This camera combines the varied functions of a standard optical printer and the versatility of a complete animation rostrum. The most complex effects can be obtained quickly and economically. Aerial image photography means to photograph a top-lighted cel and an underneath projected image simultaneously. For instance, a title or product superimposed over a live-action background. It eliminates the travelling matte. Consequently, shooting time is cut to less than half, whilst registration is rock-steady.1

At this time, Eric Porter Productions were producing as many as 800 television commercials (live-action, animation and hybrid animation/ live-action ads) each year.2 Additionally, they were seeking to develop a variety of animated series—and it was Eric Porter’s fervent dream to produce his own animated feature film. Quite curiously, there were several Marco Polo related films produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were at least a couple contributing factors to this trend. For one, 1971 roughly marked the 700th anniversary of Marco Polo’s original travel to China. Also, significantly, it was a time when China was beginning to engage more with the West— resulting in the West’s increasing interest in China. Of course, the story for this particular animated feature, and for many of the other films of this period, was not necessarily based on real-life accounts of Marco Polo. As Iannucci and Tulk have observed, such movies were ‘Marco Polo films in name only’ and ‘bear little resemblance to Polo or his Travels.’3 American comic book artist and animation producer, Sheldon Moldoff, was also influenced by this groundswell and set about writing



a fantasy-themed Marco Polo screenplay. He subsequently put together a concept book and, beginning in 1967, began shopping around his film idea. His initial proposal was titled, ‘The Adventures of Marco Polo Jr.’ He approached a number of studios and production companies, including UPA in America, but without success. At this stage, Moldoff envisioned his Marco Polo to be primarily an action film, his proposal detailing some rather overly ambitious sequences for cel-animation. One of the panels of his proposal book, for example, depicted a huge battle scene accompanied by the text, ‘See the most fantastic animation ever filmed in … The Battle of a Thousand Elephants.’4 He did finally engage a studio in Japan to produce a one-minute test sequence of the film, but he was very unhappy with the quality (and presumably the budget estimate for the film’s production). He then contracted a small New York-based studio, Ariel Productions, headed by Eli Bauer and Alfred Kouzel, to storyboard the entire film. Moldoff finally approached Eric Porter Productions. The idea seemed very appealing to Porter and his team; they also produced a one-minute sample sequence of animation and provided a competitive budget and a feasible production schedule. From this, Porter was able clearly to demonstrate that his studio could produce the feature, and he secured the contract. But rather than simply make the animation as a contracted ­facility, Eric Porter, who was very keen to get into the feature animation ­business, negotiated a deal with Moldoff also to co-produce the film. In doing so, he agreed to fund 50% of the initial $AU600,000 budget. Later, as costs blew out, Eric would put in another $AU150,000 of his own money, raising the budget to $AU750,000 and changing the ­production to a 60/40 split in financing. In this revised deal, Porter, in addition to earning half of the worldwide box office, was also to receive exclusive distribution rights (and box office) within Australia and parts of southeast Asia. Although it was a huge financial gamble for Porter, he had far grander plans than simply producing a single-animated feature. He was hoping that the film would serve to kick-start a substantial animation industry in Australia, and he envisioned the success of Marco Polo ultimately leading to further feature films that would be 100% Australian produced. In fact, he was already quietly planning his second animated feature—one based on the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.5 Moldoff, of course, happily accepted the co-production deal. Not only would he have his film made, but also he would need to provide only



half of the cost. Moldoff’s company, Animation International Inc, was a rather small operation with very limited capital and also a fairly limited history in animation production. By contrast, Porter had been building, over the course of several decades, a large and capable animation studio. Another benefit, of having the film produced in Australia rather than the USA or Japan (although it is not clear as to whether Moldoff knew this at the time of contracting with Porter), was that it then automatically qualified under the British Commonwealth quota system as being a Commonwealth film. Therefore, it would be all but guaranteed a screening run in Britain, Canada and Australia.6 The local Australian press were quick to publicise the feature film deal: Sydney film-maker Eric Porter is back from the States with a half-million dollar contract to produce a full-length feature cartoon for world consumption. Called Marco Polo Jnr. – it’ll be a first for us – landed against stiff competition from U.P.A. in America and animation companies in Japan. It’s based on the adventures of the great-great grandson of the original Marco Polo.7

Once the contract was secured, Porter began hiring additional staff in earnest. He did already have a core staff of talented animators, in particular Cam Ford, who had worked with Porter for a number of years earlier, and had just returned from overseas where he had been a key animator on The Yellow Submarine (1968), and Peter Gardiner who had also been animating for Porter for several years. Many of the best animators were either already employed by Porter or working for one of the other local studios. Some of these were coaxed across to work on Marco Polo, but he also had to resort to hiring a number of people who had little or no animation experience. At this time, there was very little animation training available in Australia other than a few institutions, such as Swinburne University in Melbourne, which offered film-making courses that allowed students to experiment with animation. So, when Porter put out the call for animators, some of these students, based on their very rudimentary student animated ‘test films,’ became successful applicants. As the production progressed a number of animators from overseas were also recruited, bringing their expertise with them. For example, one of the ink and paint specialists for the production was Pat Cureton, who had just come from the California-based animation studio, DePatie-Freleng.8 Similarly, the lead effects animator, Toshio Tsuchiya, had recently arrived from a studio in Japan.



In one newspaper article, Eric Porter noted ‘Australian animation has gained a world reputation. Ten animators and cameramen settled in Australia from the U.S. in recent months—it’s the coming place for it.’9 Another article made light of the fact that there was such a large constituent of international animators on the production, noting that there were ‘even a few Aussies’ working for Porter.10

Making Marco The first task for Eric Porter and team was to make some significant revisions to Moldoff’s original script, streamline the narrative, rewrite a number of sections of the story and rework nearly all of the storyboarded sequences. The finalised story line was publicised as follows: One day when a strange wind blows across the harbour, Grandpa Polo decides the time has come to tell young Marco that he must follow the Eastern Star to a far away place called Xanadu where his famous ancestor had been many centuries ago. Before Marco leaves, Grandpa Polo explains that he must free Xanadu from the evil Red Dragon and rescue the lovely Princess Shining Moon. Unknown to each other, Marco and the Princess are wearing a half of a magic medallion and these two halves must eventually be joined together to bring back peace and happiness to Xanadu. Marco and his pet seagull Sandy are only just out of sight when the Red Dragon’s warship arrives with soldiers and spies to capture him, but by now Marco is sailing away on his perilous quest. After being shipwrecked he continues his journey on a pirate ship where the 1st Mate orders him to scrub the deck and the Captain tries to steal his medallion. Eventually Marco lands in India only to be chased again by the Red Dragon’s wicked agents. Once more Marco escapes, this time with the help of a Guru who promises to lead him to Xanadu. Their journey through the mountains is full of danger and just as they appear to be cornered by their enemies, they are saved by a huge but harmless monster, the Delicate Dinosaur. Meanwhile Pangu, a loyal servant, helps the Princess escape from the dungeons of the Red Dragon and they make their way through the jungle on Maja, the royal elephant, to the Valley of the Ferns where she meets Marco. The medallion is joined in one piece at last, the Red Dragon foiled and under the rightful rule of Princess Shining Moon, Xanadu is once again a happy place.11

Eric Porter and Cam Ford, his Animation Director, then travelled to New York to meet Moldoff and record the voices for the film. Initially,



they had hoped to get Simon and Garfunkel to do the music, a talking point that attracted immediate attention in the Australian press: Eric Porter has just won the contract in America from American and Japanese film companies and Simon and Garfunkel – who, of course you all know – have begun writing the music for it.12

This did not actually eventuate, as the music duo ultimately turned down the offer. They did, however, contract American pop singer Bobby Rydell to do the voice of Marco Polo and to sing some of the songs. Arnold Stang (an established American actor and the voice of the animated character, Top Cat) provided the voice for the Delicate Dinosaur character.13 They also slated in Hans Conreid, who had provided the voice of ‘Captain Hook’ in Disney’s Peter Pan feature, to perform the voice of the villain, the ‘Red Dragon.’ But eventually he was unable to do this; so back in Australia, Porter recruited the local voice actor Kevin Golsby to make a temp track of the character to provide the animators a reference track to work to. Golsby did such a suitable job that they eventually used his performance in the final film. Ultimately, this became a strong marketing point in Australia—as the talents of the Australian actor Kevin Golsby were well known locally. It was a very busy time for the Porter Studios and, in fact, soon after beginning work on Marco Polo, Porter was approached by several other American studios to do work for them. Hanna-Barbera offered him a reported $670,000 contract to do series animation for them; but Porter, whose studio was stretched to the limit working on Marco, had to turn it down.14 Porter was also approached by the American studio, Filmation (who had begun to have strong success in television animation) to help with their stalled production of the ‘official’ animated feature sequel to the original live-action Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming 1939), entitled, Journey Back to OZ. Filmation had begun the project many years earlier with a lot of high-profile voice actors attached—such as Mel Blanc and Liza Minelli providing the voice of the character, Dorothy. Minelli, incidentally, was the daughter of the screen actress, Judy Garland, who had played Dorothy in the original live-action Wizard of Oz. The Filmation studio sent Porter a few pages of storyboard which depicted a very ­elaborate and complex action scene. It featured a huge stampede of hundreds of elephants, being led by the wicked witch who sat atop the lead elephant. Although Porter did reply with a quote, he nevertheless did



not win the contract. But this project would later come back to haunt Porter when it was subsequently released in Australia at the same time as Marco Polo Jr., effectively becoming its rival at the box office. In addition to being co-producer, Eric Porter was also the director of the film, and employed the two animation (or sequence) directors, Cam Ford and Peter Gardiner. The majority of the backgrounds were painted by the very talented Yvonne Perrin, whose brother, Eyvinde Earle, had been a long-time background artist for Disney (styling many of the backgrounds for the feature, Sleeping Beauty). The production also greatly benefitted from international influences. For example, they ‘borrowed’ a visual technique from Norman McLaren’s experimental animation, Pas de Deux (1967), for a dance sequence between the characters, Marco Polo Jr. and Princess Shining Moon. There was frequent letter correspondence between Porter and Moldoff, and every six months or so Porter would board a plane, carrying with him a reel of completed animation to show to Moldoff. Also, on one occasion, Moldoff visited the studio in Sydney. In some of their correspondence, Moldoff was critical of the lack of action and humour in the completed sequences, and he also attempted to interject with a number of minor critiques, such as commenting how some of the characters should be drawn with five fingers and toes, rather than the more cartoony four-fingers. He further criticised the opening credit sequence, suggesting that it should have served to build up the audience’s engagement in the film, rather than just convey production information. As the production progressed, both Moldoff and Porter desired to be regarded as the creative force behind the film. Naturally, from Porter’s perspective, he was actually making the film, had put up the majority of funds and desperately wanted to create a viable Australian animation industry. By contrast, Moldoff saw it as very much his film (it was his idea after all), and he had merely commissioned Porter to make it. It is interesting that in the USA, Eric Porter’s Sydney studio was hardly ever mentioned. Porter of course had the credit of ‘Director,’ but there was essentially no mention of who he was or where the film was produced. Similarly, in Australia, the press mostly ignored Moldoff, beyond the occasional reference of a co-producing American company. In one letter to Porter, Moldoff, acknowledging the patriotic Australian press, requested that Porter at least mention him and his



American company in his dealings with the local press. Soon after, and coinciding with Moldoff’s visit to Sydney, the following article appeared in a local trade magazine: Mr. Sheldon Moldoff, President of Animation International, a Paramus, New Jersey, based film company, stopped at the Wentworth Hotel last month while watching the progress of the film he is co-producing with the Eric Porter Studios of Sydney. Sheldon Moldoff created the characters and the story, “Marco Polo Returns” which will be Australia’s first fulllength animated feature. He is delighted with the Australian artists and was completely captivated by Sydney. We are indebted to Mr. Moldoff for the accompanying drawing (left), which he drew specially for us.15

But after this brief article, the local press went back to basically ignoring Moldoff and focussing their journalistic efforts on Porter. However, besides some apparently minor squabbles between Porter and Moldoff, it was regarded as a generally happy production and everyone interviewed who had been involved on the Australian side has spoken very positively about the experience. During production, a number of good-natured sendups to Porter were cleverly hidden into the film. In one scene, on the pirate ship, Eric Porter is caricatured as a ship’s captain within a painting on a background wall. In another, there are several wine barrels on the ship deck, one of which is labelled ‘Porter’; while another read ‘Monty’s olde biscuits’ (a reference to Monty Wedd who did the layouts for the film). A great deal of effort was put into the design of the backgrounds and into the completion of the action sequences. In Figure 6.1 Marco can be seen precariously dangling from a kite and flying across vast landscapes that seem to at once combine the scenery of North America, China and Europe. Another sequence, Fig. 6.2, showcases the magical powers of the villainous Red Dragon character as he casts a great storm upon the young Marco Polo Junior who is attempting to travel across the ocean in his small fishing boat. In this sequence, the waves fluidly shift between large crashing sprays of ocean water and of frightening dragon formations, which seemingly attack and lunge upon Marco. As the film progressed, these sequences became more elaborate and ultimately costlier. Production costs blew out, and the original budget soon escalated to $AU750,000. To make up for the shortfall, Porter was forced to



Fig. 6.1  Frame grab from the original Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon (Porter 1972) which showcases some of the elaborate background scenery used in the film

put in an extra 10% (making it a 60%/40% split). In order to do this, he had to withdraw all of his personal savings and re-mortgage his house.16 Ultimately, he also managed to secure a $60,000 grant from the Australian Government. Thus, the final budget of the film ballooned to approximately $AU800,000. Despite the budget increases, Moldoff was resolute in maintaining his initial contribution of only $AU300,000.

Great Expectations Even with the ballooning budgets, expectations for the film remained very high. The Australians were clearly pinning their hopes on this production, and the local press coverage was very positive. In 1970, the daily national newspaper, The Australian, quoted Porter as saying ‘This



Fig. 6.2  Frame grab from the original Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon (Porter 1972) shows a particularly engaging sequence in which the crashing waves momentarily metamorphose into menacing dragon formations

film will rate with Bambi and Pinocchio and other major cartoon features.’ The article went on to note that ‘Eric is aiming to fill the theatres of the world with school children […] and their parents.’17 Some months later, another paper declared that the film was almost ready for release, adding enthusiastically ‘So watch out Disney People!’18 By the time, the release date neared, the anticipation had reached a fever pitch and the Sunday Mirror declared that the film: could reap $15 million when it is distributed worldwide in December – and that’s no fantasy. It promises to rival such Walt Disney successes as Bambi, Fantasia, The Lady and the Tramp and the Aristocats – and animation experts say its quality is equal to or better than the Disney productions.19



Just prior to the Australian release, Porter’s ‘publicity man,’ Terry Quin, prepared a special screening of the film to which he invited the press. In addition to its being a press screening, he also organised it as a special birthday party for the Prime Minister’s daughter, Melinda McMahon, allowing her to invite 30 of her friends to the matinee screening. Just before the film commenced, she and her friends were invited on stage to sing ‘happy birthday’ and eat birthday cake—while the press audience looked on. After this very public birthday celebration, the children were asked to take their seats and the film screening commenced. Most of the press, not only praised the film, but also made a big fuss about the prime minister’s daughter—with lots of photographs of her in her best party dress eating cake. A few did make the obvious connection that this was likely to have been a political stunt—particularly as it had occurred less than a week before the federal election. I don’t begrudge the pretty Melinda her sixth birthday – all children turn six and most of them have a party to celebrate the occasion. But when members of the press are invited to the Prime Minister’s daughter’s birthday party just six days before a Federal election, I suspect that somebody is trying to make political capital out of the event.20

In hindsight, perhaps the Porter studios made an error in converging animation and politics. Perhaps it could also be argued that the studio had ‘picked the wrong horse,’ as the then Prime Minister, Billy McMahon (and his Conservative Party), dramatically lost the election in a surprise upset, and the progressive Gough Whitlam became the new prime minister. Porter also made some initial forays into film merchandising. But because of limited advertising budgets and a modest scheduled opening in only ten theatres within Sydney and surrounding suburbs, the efforts were limited to what could easily be produced locally and inexpensively. Nevertheless, several substantial movie tie-in books were published by a local Sydney publisher, Paul Hamlyn, featuring full-colour images from the film. Other items included a series of plaster-cast figurines that were sold as part of an art and craft paint-kit. These plaster-cast characters were hand-produced by the main background artist, Yvonne Perrin. Porter had granted her the merchandising rights for these as a reward for her exemplary work on the feature. Interestingly, the packaging for this product referred to the film under one of its preliminary working titles, Marco Polo Returns. A series of 17 different sew-on patches or ‘woven



motifs’ were also produced. Inscribed on the packaging for these was the following: Porter Animations Pty. Ltd. released the first full-length Australian produced animated film titled: “Marco Polo Junior versus the Red Dragon”. As a tribute, the characters in the film have been made into some interesting woven motifs which have a wide range of uses. The following are available: Marco Polo, Princess Shining Moon, Sandy, The Red Dragon, The Delicate Dinosaur, Maja, The Captain, First Mate, Guru, Pangu, Kong and Pung, Marco’s Boat, Princess Shining Moon (Full Length), Grandpa, Condor, Marco and Princess.21

Additionally, a series of t-shirts were made, and these received a good measure of free advertising as part of a newspaper article: Kids who’ve been to see Marco Polo Junior vs the Red Dragon will want one of these T-shirts sporting a character from the film. They’re white with multi-colored figures, come in sizes 18–24 and cost $2.99 in the Children’s World departments at all Grace Bros. Stores.22

Several local department stores participated in window display tie-ins with the film and held colouring-in contests in which children were invited to colour images from the film in order to win free movie tickets and other prizes. Additionally, several of the key animators were recruited to make public appearances in order to demonstrate their animation skills publically. If [your children], or you, want to know more about the film there’ll be displays of drawings used in the making of it in all Grace Bros. stores throughout January. A senior animation artist will demonstrate how the animation was done and hand out drawings to the children.23

Interestingly, there seems to have been little or no merchandising produced in America surrounding any of the various releases of the Marco Polo Jr. film.

Competition Unfortunately, the film did not fare well at the Australian box office. This was due to the fact that it experienced unexpectedly heavy competition from other children’s and animated features. Related to this, the film’s name and



identity was to become bleakly confused. One of the events that helped obscure the identity of Porter’s Marco Polo Jr. film was the production and broadcast of another Marco Polo themed animated feature, The Travels of Marco Polo, produced by the rival Australian animation studio, API. Eric Porter was very good at exploiting the local media, and most of the attention regarding animation production in Australia was focussed upon him and his studio. Over its nearly 2 years of production, countless a­ rticles were published about the film and its progress. However, quietly, API was also producing a huge volume of animation, primarily for the American television market, but also for the worldwide television market. In fact, between 1970–1972, while Eric Porter productions were working on the single feature of Marco Polo Jr., API completed the following long-form animated films (ranging from 48 minutes to 74 minutes in length): A Christmas Carol (60 minutes, 1970), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (74 minutes, 1970), The Tales of Washington Irving (60 minutes, 1970), The Legend of Robin Hood (60 minutes, 1971), Treasure Island (48 minutes, 1971), The Prince and the Pauper (60 minutes, 1972), and most significantly, The Travels of Marco Polo (60 minutes, 1972).

These animated feature-length specials were broadcast on US television as well as Australian television and were subsequently screened in numerous countries around the world. Both Porter and Moldoff had known about the API Marco Polo themed film as early as January 1972 and were understandably quite concerned. Moldoff even had his lawyers looking into the issue to see if pressure could be placed on General Mills (the American sponsor of this animated special) to halt or modify the project. He also encouraged Porter to attempt to dissuade API directly in Sydney.24 API’s The Travels of Marco Polo was a much drier, very limited animation production: it begins with the following narration, set primarily against the rather austere visuals of an animated map: In the year 1271, an enterprising merchant from Venice named Marco Polo set out on one of the world’s most remarkable journeys. A journey that was to last 23 years and cover many thousand miles through countries that no European had ever seen before. Marco Polo travelled through Persia, across the Gobi Desert and the Mountains of Tibet to China, where he earned the trust and confidence of the Great Kublai Khan, ruler of the vast Mongolian Empire.25



Whatever pre-emptive efforts were attempted by Moldoff, the API ­production, of course, still went ahead. When the API movie was finally broadcast on Australian television, just weeks before the release date of Porter’s film, it managed to create a great deal of confusion. As mentioned, there had been a lot of positive reporting in the press for nearly two years about Marco Polo Jr.—the all-Aussie animated feature. Then suddenly, without much fanfare, it was apparently being broadcast (for free) on television. The API animated film represented much more of a straightforward and historical approach to the story of Marco Polo and was therefore quite different to what the public had been expecting from Eric Porter Studios. It was certainly not a fun-filled children’s adventure story. Reportedly, a number of people, after watching the television special, had actually assumed that they had just viewed the Eric Porter studio’s much-hyped feature film. So when Porter’s film was released for the Christmas holidays, and the public were faced with the choice of seeing either Disney’s re-release of Pinocchio or that ‘rather dry animation’ that they had already seen a few weeks ago on TV, it is not surprising that they chose Pinocchio. In response to the API film, and after much discussion between Moldoff and Porter, Marco Polo Jr. was quickly renamed as Marco Polo Jr. versus the Red Dragon for its Australian release. Also, unfortunately for Porter, the Australian Christmas season of 1972 proved to be a banner year for the release (and re-release) of many children-friendly feature films. ‘The distributors and exhibitors, ever open-eyed for better box office, have done the younger generation proud over this holiday season. No fewer than 16 G-rated films are on show,’ declared one local newspaper.26 Some of the films that were in competition with Porter’s film included the aforementioned re-release of the animated feature Pinocchio (Disney), the release of the partly animated Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Disney), the child-friendly The Tales of Beatrix Potter (Reginald Mills), the re-release of the classic animated feature Hoppity Goes to Town (Fleischer), the release of the French-produced animated feature Aladdin and His Magic Lamp (Jean Image Films) and the release of the animated feature Journey back to OZ (Filmation) What perhaps made this listing of competing films so depressing for Porter was the fact that he (in collaboration with a very cheering press) had been touting his film to be as good as, or ‘better than Disney.’ Yet that year, Disney released two films, both of which did much better in Australia than Porter’s film. Additionally, just a few years previously



Porter had turned down the contract with Filmation studios to make Journey back to OZ. In turning it down, the film ended up becoming his competition as well. This film also did much better in Australia than Marco Polo. Furthermore, Porter had publically stated that his next feature film would be Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (based on the book Arabian Nights). Coincidentally, another of the competing animated feature films was the French-produced feature, Aladdin and His Magic Lamp (Jean Image Films), which was also based on the Arabian Nights book. This film also performed better at the box office than did Marco Polo. Adding to these woes, Porter’s film was distributed strictly as a children’s film by the distributor, BEF, which severely limited its screening options. According to one article, [Porter] said that although he was pleased with the deal, “I cannot get it screened at night, not even for one week, yet two other children’s films, Pinocchio and The Tales of Beatrix Potter were to be screened at evenings.27

The Trouble with Titles Clear brand marketing and name recognition are essential aspects of any promotion campaign; the animated feature, Marco Polo Jr., severely lacked these. As mentioned before, the production of Marco Polo went through countless name changes and a summary of these are noted below. In 1967, Sheldon Moldoff began shopping his film around under the title, The Adventures of Marco Polo Jr. But in 1970 he changed the title, and officially copyrighted it as Marco Polo Jr., Returns to Xanadu. Then in 1971, at the start of production in Australia, the film went under the name of Marco Polo Jr., even although it also was periodically referred to as Marco Polo Returns. In December of 1972, for its Australian release it was renamed Marco Polo Jnr. versus The Red Dragon (this in response to API’s animated TV movie, The Travels of Marco Polo). In April 1973, it was distributed in America as Marco Polo Jr. But in the following year (1974), and in response to the Rankin-Bass live-action/ animated film Marco (and the television re-broadcast of API’s The Travels of Marco Polo), the film was re-released in America by Premore/Solo Cup Company under the title, The Red Red Dragon. In Australia around this time, Eric Porter sold the film to local television under the name, The Gold Medallion. Then in the 1980s, in America, Sheldon Moldoff secured a deal with Viacom to release the film on video and broadcast on



cable television. The Showtime cable channel screened the film annually from 1983 to 1989 under the name, The Adventures of Marco Polo Jr. Not surprisingly, the press and the public would become rather confused. This was due in part to the production’s name changes and the similar names of competing films; but also it is likely that giving a children’s film a really long and complicated title did not help. The press never seemed to know whether to spell out ‘junior’ or to abbreviate it as Jr. (or Jnr), nor whether to spell out ‘versus’ or to abbreviate it as ‘vs.’ Some newspaper misprints were minor, such as the omission of the ‘Versus’ making the title: ‘Marco Polo Junior and the Red Dragon’. Other articles radically mixed up the title, to, for example, one article referred to it as: ‘Marco Polo Jr. vs. The Red Baron.’28 This error was clearly a confusion with the recently successful Peanuts movie, Snoopy Come Home (Bill Melendez 1972) in which the character Snoopy battles the mythical ‘Red Baron.’ Though not directly a part of the nomenclative confusion, the film title was translated into a number of different languages for its worldwide release (over 30 countries in all). But for many of these, rather than just calling it Marco Polo Jr. (which would have worked in many languages), the name was significantly altered from one market to the next. For example, in Spain and Mexico, it was billed as: Nuevas Aventuras de Marco Polo (the New Adventures of Marco Polo) (Fig. 6.3).

Reviewing Marco Demonstrating how briefly the movie screened at most theatres in Australia, one reviewer did not even have time to publish her review in the paper before it was pulled from the cinemas: And here you must forgive me for writing about a picture you can no longer see; a fine local production ended a brief run at the Bryson yesterday for lack of enough support. In a season with so much to offer in the way of family entertainment I suppose something has to go. Let’s hope we can see it somewhere else soon. For Marco Polo versus the Red Dragon is an animated feature cartoon, a tale of enchantment with a mystic touch and the message that things are not always what they seem, that holds the young audience enthralled. It has all the classic ingredients: a beautiful princess to be rescued, a monster that is utterly appealing, exotic palaces, forests, dangerous mountains to be crossed and raging oceans to battle in a small boat. We encounter pirates drunk in charge of a galleon, a wise old



Fig. 6.3  Advertising sheet for the Australian release of the feature film, Marco Polo Junior versus The Red Dragon, highlighting the fact that it was an Eric Porter Studios production guru and a delightful little seagull called Sandy as the 49th descendant of Marco Polo returns to Xanadu on a mission of peace. Story and characters by Sheldon Moldoff, happy humour and tuneful songs, with the voice of Bobby Rydell, ingenious effects all round; producer director Eric Porter of Sydney, created a feature quite as good as the Disney prototype.29

Some reviewers, who had been led to believe that Porter’s ‘All Australian production’ would look more ‘Australian’ (or at least more like what they envisioned an ‘Australian’ animated feature to look like), expressed their disappointment: The best animated film in Sydney for the kids’ holidays also has the distinction of being Australian-made – Marco Polo Junior Vs the Red Dragon. Not that there is any sign of its national origin. Producer Eric Porter won the tender for the cartoon from an American company and for all its local work



it looks and sounds like anything that could have come out of the States. Still, a good imitation is preferable to a poor original and the Eric Porter studios must be congratulated on a very skilled and satisfying production.30

On the same theme, another reviewer commented: It’s logical for Eric Porter to make something like this as his first feature. He has international links made through producing animated series for television, and the blandly internationalised product is, it’s thought, the easiest thing to market.31

Others, who gave it a fairly mediocre review, noted that one should go see it for purely patriotic reasons, noting that ‘You will be giving the Australian film industry your support by including it on your holiday show list.’32 Though most of the local reviews were either positive or somewhat mediocre, a few were quite scathing. If Marco Polo jnr versus the red dragon has a divine purpose laid down from the beginning of time it is to show us how grateful we should be for Disney. […] Never have I been so bored to such stupefaction so fast. Never have I left a film so early.33

Unfortunately, Eric Porter, by taking all of the glory of creating this movie, also opened himself up to taking all of the criticisms as well. Porter also distributed a 30-minute pilot episode (shortened down from the 60-minute original) of his television series, The Yellow House, which was screened with Marco Polo Jr. in the cinemas. This series, as mentioned in the previous chapter, was a variety show that was essentially a cross between Sesame Street and Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. It featured live-action segments, interspersed with animated shorts (including ongoing segments of Yo-Yo the Clown and Captain Comet of the Space Rangers). It was hoped that this theatrical screening would generate increased interest in the series, which at this time had already screened internationally (in Canada) but was still awaiting Australian television distribution. On the other side of the world, the American-produced marketing manuals from 1973 to 1974 for the US release of Marco Polo Jr. (and the re-release under the title, The Red Red Dragon) took a very different tone than had the publicity in Australia. Not only did they seemingly exaggerate Moldoff’s credentials, but also greatly minimised Eric Porter’s contribution. One section of the promotional text reads:



Sheldon Moldoff, who as illustrator and creator of comics has brought the world Batman and Robin, Courageous Cat, Minute Mouse, Captain Midnight, Superman, and scores of others, turned his attention and considerable talents to Marco Polo’s legendary adventures, and The Red Red Dragon is the delightful result. […] Moldoff has combined a number of his talents to produce a unique piece of family entertainment, a full-length animated musical adventure, a feat usually reserved for Walt Disney and his successors. […] The Red Red Dragon is the culmination of years of work by Moldoff in the fields of cartoon and animation.34

Much of this information, although ‘technically’ accurate, was misleading. Moldoff had worked primarily as an anonymous (or ghost) comic book illustrator for a great number of DC comics. During this time, he had drawn many of the superheroes mentioned in the review (along with many others), but he certainly did not invent or originate most of these. Furthermore, up to this point he had done very little animation work. These exaggerated claims were further distorted in Moldoff’s favour when taken up by the press, as the information in the marketing manuals became some of the main talking points in press reviews and stories of the film. In one trade journal review of the film from 1975 (coinciding with one of its many re-releases), the article declares ‘Excellent animation was handled by Sheldon Moldoff, creator of Batman and Robin, and Superman.’35 Here again, the use of the term ‘handled’ wrongly implies that Moldoff was responsible for creating the animation (although it could be argued that the term ‘handled’ was merely meant to imply that he had had a managerial or financial role in the animation production, it was again clearly misleading). Similarly, the claim that Moldoff was the ‘creator of Batman and Robin and Superman’ is also misleading (Bob Kane created Batman and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman)—but in one sense, because Moldoff drew those characters (as a ghost artist) in comic book illustrations, he was indeed ‘creating’ the drawings of those particular characters. In some of the American marketing materials, Eric Porter was listed as ‘Director’; but in others this information was simply omitted. Prior to the film’s initial Australian release there had been some dispute between Moldoff and Porter as to how the names should be listed on the film credits—Moldoff wanted to be listed as Executive Producer, but Porter disagreed.36 In the end the credits read, ‘Produced and Directed by Eric Porter. Executive Producer for Animation International Inc. Sheldon Moldoff.’ In much of the American promotional material, Sheldon



quietly altered the credit listings to read: ‘Executive Producer, Sheldon Moldoff’ and omitted any mention of Porter’s role as Producer. About a year after its initial Australian release, an article appeared in an Australian daily newspaper noting that ‘[Porter’s] losses on Marco Polo were a stunning $400,000,’ concluding that because costs had ‘spiralled alarmingly in the last few years […] it has put producers like Porter into a position where only television commercials can make them a living.’ In the same article, Porter, who was clearly frustrated by the film’s financial failure, claimed The trouble is the public doesn’t know what it wants, it should be ­psychoanalysed to find out exactly what it requires. I’ve tried. People will tell me that programs are rubbish – but when you ask them what they want they can’t tell you.37

It has also been alleged that Eric Porter did not receive his fair share (50%) of the profits from overseas sales.38 If this was in fact the case, then having the film screened under multiple names and with multiple distribution deals may have facilitated this alleged financial inequity. There is very little data available to indicate how the film performed overseas in terms of box office, but certainly it did enjoy at least five different theatrical releases (albeit limited ones) in America. It also experienced very extended runs (and was heavily marketed) in Italy, Germany and Spain. It ultimately screened in over 30 countries and was ‘translated into all European languages, Japanese and Chinese.’39 The film also enjoyed annual broadcasting on the Showtime cable channel in America throughout the 1980s. Finally, in the 1990s, Moldoff sold the complete rights for Marco Polo Jr. to Toonerversal Animation Studios for an undisclosed amount.

Marco Polo: Recycled to Xanadu Both Porter and Moldoff were obviously unhappy with the financial performance of the film, but they both also seemed to think that if the feature had only been a little bit better, it could have been a much greater success. This feeling seems to have stuck with both producers for many years. In the early 1980s, Eric Porter began to make initial forays into the idea of remaking the film—but unfortunately by then his health was failing, and the project had to be abandoned.40



Some years later, in the early 1990s, Moldoff also began working towards remaking and re-issuing Marco Polo Jr. In the process, he sold the film and character rights to a small American-based animation company, Toonerversal, which was then headed by Igor Meglic and Ron Merk. Initially, the studio had planned simply to redo the film’s soundtrack (dialogue and music) and then re-release it. However, they later decided to significantly alter the film. They dramatically re-edited the original footage, cutting out several sequences, and added approximately 30 minutes of new animation. Many of the revised narrative choices in the Ron Merk directed film seem rather disjointed—but were probably made in order to allow for the use of as much of the original footage as possible. In a review by animation writer Charles Solomon in 2001, he noted Although the story ends after about an hour, when Marco and the princess reunite the halves of the medallion and defeat Foo-Ling [The Red Dragon], the film drags on for 20 minutes longer as Marco, Reginald and Delicate pursue the villain into the age of the dinosaurs and outer space.41

The new version of the film was called Marco Polo—Return to Xanadu, which was very similar to the title that Moldoff had officially copyrighted back in 1970 (Marco Polo Jr., Returns to Xanadu). From the 2001 posting on the film’s website, Sheldon Moldoff explains his perspective of the origins of the film: My first experience with feature animation production was an unhappy one. An earlier version of this story was first made into a feature back in 1970. Because of a very limited budget, and some conflicts between the producers, the film turned out to be a terrible disappointment, especially to me. But all was not lost. Good stories and characters have a way of re-emerging, and being re-invented, almost as if they have lives of their own.42

Interestingly, as part of its marketing strategy Toonerversal chose to assert that the film was not a recycling, but an all original production which was merely inspired by an earlier film narrative. This, of course, was not the case; but in an article published in 2002 the director, Ron Merk, stated: We originally were going to put a new sound track on the old film and then re-release it, but it just didn’t work, and then we found that the original negative had deteriorated so badly that it was not useable. So, we



essentially started from scratch, utilizing some basic story concepts and designs from the old project, but expanded it exponentially.43

Comparing the two film versions it is, of course, clear that the majority of the original film was actually recycled. Additionally, there is no mention of the true origins of the original film in either the marketing or press coverage. But in the final moments of the end credits there is an abbreviated credit listing of those involved in the original animated film from Eric Porter Productions. In the original film, as a gentle send up to Eric Porter, a caricature of him had been inserted into one of the scenes aboard the pirate ship sequence—perhaps implying that he was the captain of the pirate ship. Correspondingly, in the re-make version, Marco Polo Jr.—Return to Xanadu, the director Ron Merk was also inserted into the film. In this instance, his likeness became the character design for the captain of the prestigious international space station (although probably coincidental, perhaps this could be interpreted as a game of directorial-one-upmanship). But during this same space station sequence, Foo-Ling (The Red Dragon) who has inexplicably transformed into a red spaceship, fires a laser-beam down to Earth, obliterating the Australian continent, ‘He’s cutting Australia right out of the ocean’ yelled the young Marco in response. Again, it is likely to be just coincidence, but one might wonder if this was in some way a symbolic continuation of the feud between the original producers of the original film: the American, Sheldon Moldoff, versus the Australian, Eric Porter. Curiously, a number of the characters were renamed for the new version. Marco’s pet seagull’s name was changed from ‘Sandy’ to ‘Reggie’ (Reginald). Even more surprising, the name of the main villain, ‘The Red Dragon’ was changed to ‘Foo-Ling’ (read as ‘fooling’). The two spies, originally called ‘Kong’ and ‘Pung’,44 were changed to: ‘Lo Fat’ (read as low-fat) and ‘Wong Wai’ (read as ‘wrong-way’). It is true that the original 1972 film did contain some rather unflattering stereotypes (as did many films of that era). But it does seem very surprising that the more contemporary film-makers would deliberately rename many of the characters with a decidedly pejorative use of Chinese pinyin. In his review of the film, Charles Solomon echoes this observation when he notes, ‘naming Asian characters Lo Fat and Wong Wei in 2001 ranks as dubious taste at best.’45 It seems that the saga of Marco Polo Jr. is set to continue for some time. From a recent posting on the company website (updated in



2014), the following animated feature and television series, Marco Polo Adventures in Space & Time, is noted as being in development: All great stories have their basis in fact, but legend soon replaced much of the truth, and this story is no different. The 25th great grandson of Marco Polo, is on a quest to find his parents who were kidnapped when he was a baby. His travels bring him back to the kingdom of Xanadu, where he makes friends with a dinosaur named Delicate and a seagull named Reginald. The trio are pitted against a villain named Foo Ling, who wants to get his hands on a magic medallion that hangs around Marco’s neck, a gift to Marco’s ancestor from the great Kubla Khan. The medallion allows Marco and his friends to travel through space and time, where they will have repeated conflicts with Foo-Ling who’s just nasty enough to create trouble wherever he goes and just silly enough to make stupid mistakes that are his own undoing. Along his journey, Marco will make new allies including a mysterious female warrior named Meliya, and a great wizard named Zhadi. Foo-Ling will menace society, no matter where or when in history he may decide to appear, but Marco and his friends will always set things right before moving on to another place and time, and Marco will continue to grow in strength, cunning, and self-confidence. Produced in 3D computer animation, and presented both in 3D and 2D formats, this feature and TV series follow-up will have truly international appeal.46

It might be worth revisiting the quotation at the start of this chapter in which Iannucci and Tulk observed that many Marco Polo movies have been ‘Marco Polo films in name only’ which ‘bear little resemblance to Polo or his Travels.’47 One could argue that this latest proposed television series might represent the least resemblance to any traditional Marco Polo narrative.

Conclusion Both of the original producers, Eric Porter (1911–1983) and Sheldon Moldoff (1920–2012) have now died. Unfortunately for Eric Porter, the Marco Polo Jr. feature was one of the reasons for his studio’s demise. He was compensated, in a way, when he and the film received a number of high honours in the Australian film world. He won Best Director for the film at the 1973 Australian Film Institute Awards, and the film also won a prestigious Gold Award. Nearly a decade later, in 1982, the Film Institute awarded Porter the prestigious Raymond Longford award for



his life-long contribution to Australian film. And in 1984 he was posthumously awarded Australian Medal of Honour by the Prime Minister. All of the people associated with the Australian side of the film’s production that have been interviewed for this research have spoken very positively of their time working at Eric Porter Productions, and particularly working on Marco Polo Jr. It is unquestionably regarded in Australia as being a very important production, despite its financial disappointment. By contrast, in his extensive autobiography, I Am a Successful Failure (2012), Sheldon Moldoff hardly mentions the Marco Polo feature. In fact, he devotes a mere 10 words to the entire subject. Below is the sole excerpt from the book in which the Marco Polo film is mentioned: From there I went into film production, working on numerous animated projects, one of which was storyboarding Taru. I also produced a feature-length animated film Marco Polo Jr. In the ‘70s, I moved to Florida where I produced comic books for restaurant chains including Shoneys, Burger King, Red Lobster, Captain D and the Atlanta Braves and Blockbuster stores. In each giveaway, the comic consisted of sixteen pages and was completely produced by me as I did the artwork, editing, the inking, and the overlays to get the book ready for the printer.48

Curiously, his stint as illustrator of free promotional ‘comic books for restaurant chains’ is given more emphasis (65 words in total) in his autobiography, than his role as the writer and co-producer of Australia’s first animated feature (10 words in total). He does not even mention the 2001 re-make, Marco Polo Return to Xanadu. It would appear that he was not very happy with how that film turned out either. In 2015, the original version of the film was restored by the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia and released on DVD. This DVD release also contains the short documentary ‘The Making of Marco Polo Jr.’ and some further production notes.


1. Promotional Film (Sydney: Eric Porter Productions, c.1965). 2. ‘Sixpenny Cinema Seat Set Him on the Track,’ The Age, 9 December 1972. 3. Amilcare Iannucci and John Tulk, ‘From Alterity to Holism: Cinematic Depictions of Marco Polo and His Travels,’ in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, eds. Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Iannucci (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 217–18.



4. Original Pitch Book For Marco Polo (Sheldon Moldoff, 1967). 5. ‘Real Cash from Cartoon Fancies,’ The Sunday Mirror, 27 August 1972. 6. ‘Animated Film a ‘First’ for Aust,’ The Advertiser, Adelaide, 6 December 1972. 7. ‘Sydney Today,’ The Sun, 16 April 1970, 12. 8. ‘Production Scene’ Film Weekly, 22 November 1971. 9.  ‘Sixpenny Cinema Seat Set Him on the Track,’ The Age, 9 December 1972. 10. ‘Even a Few Aussies,’ Newspaper, 1972. 11. Marco Polo Jnr, Plaster Cast Packaging (Sydney: Artefact, c.1971). 12. ‘In the Steps of Marco Polo,’ The Australian, 16 April 1970, 26. 13.  Eric Porter had originally cast Australian actor, Ross Higgins, but was vetoed by Sheldon Moldoff who desired to have a better known American voice actor in this role. 14.  ‘Cartoon Characters March into a Gold-plated Future,’ The Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, 18 July 1971, 74. 15. ‘Producing Australia’s First Full-Length Animated Feature,’ Film Weekly. 16. Joy Porter interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 6 August 2004. 17. ‘In the Steps of Marco Polo,’ The Australian, 16 April 1970, 26. 18. ‘Production,’ The Age, 23 December 1971. 19. ‘Real Cash from Cartoon Fancies,’ The Sunday Mirror, 27 August 1972. 20.  ‘Daily with Deiley: Behind Billy, a Red Dragon,’ Daily Telegraph, November 1972. 21. Marco Polo Jnr, Woven Motif Packaging (Sydney: Artefact, c.1971). 22. ‘Kids Want to Dress the Part,’ Daily Mirror, 1972. 23. Ibid. 24. National Film and Sound Archives document (Australia). 25.  The Travels of Marco Polo (API 1972). 26. Mike Harris, ‘Animated Christmas Fare,’ The Australian, 23 December 1972, 14. 27. ‘Tariff Board Inquiry Final Hearings: Film Industry Under Heavy Attack,’ Film Weekly, 11 December 1972. 28. Ibid. 29. Ann Gillison, ‘Films,’ The Herald, Melbourne. 30. John Henningham, ‘Local Production is Tops for the Kids,’ Daily Sun, 10 January 1973. 31.  Sandra Hall, ‘Where Logic Doesn’t Always Work,’ The Bulletin, 13 January 1973. 32. ‘Marco vs the Red Dragon—A Film Well Worth Seeing,’ Daily Mirror, 27 December 1972. 33. Bob Ellis, ‘Films—A Spoonful of Welsh Molasses,’ Newspaper, 11 January 1973.



34. Sheldon Moldoff Press release. 35. ‘Feature Reviews’ Box Office (Eastern Edition), 27 January 1975. It should be noted, however, that Moldoff is generally credited with being a co-creator of such characters as: Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Bat-Girl. 36. National Film and Sound Archives document (Australia). 37. Jim Oram, ‘The Image Makers—Battling to Beat Killer Costs,’ The Mirror. 38. For example: Ron Cerabona, ‘From the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine to Australia’s First Animation: Cam Ford in Canberra,’ The Canberra Times, 6 April 2016. This claim was further articulated by Porter in interviews. 39. ‘Marco Polo Nears As Aussie Cartoon,’ Variety, 9 February 1972. 40. Joy Porter, 2004. 41. Charles Solomon, ‘Marco Polo,’ 2001. 42. Sheldon Moldoff, Accessed November 2, 2010. 43. Heather Kenyon, ‘Beyond The Majors: Independent Animation Feature Production,’ in Animation World Network. January 29, 2002. Accessed May 1, 2016. 44. According to Cam Ford, the original names, Pung (pong) and Kong were derived from the Chinese game of Mah-Jong. 45. Solomon, ‘Marco Polo,’ 2001. 46. Ron Merk, Accessed November 2, 2010. 47. Iannucci and Tulk, ‘From Alterity to Holism,’ 217–18. 48. Sheldon Moldoff, I Am a Successful Failure (Xlibris, 2012), 141.

Bibliography ‘Animated Christmas Fare.’ The Australian, 23 December 1972. ‘Animated Film a ‘First’ for Aust.’ The Advertiser, 6 December 1972. ‘Cartoon Characters March into a Gold-Plated Future.’ The Sunday Telegraph, 18 July 1971. ‘Daily with Deiley: Behind Billy, a Red Dragon.’ November 1972. ‘Even a Few Aussies.’ The Sunday Mirror, 12 March 1972. ‘Feature Reviews.’ Box Office (Eastern Edition), 27 January 1975. ‘In the Steps of Marco Polo.’ The Australian, 16 April 1970. ‘Kids Want to Dress the Part.’ Daily Mirror, 1972. ‘Marco Polo Nears as Aussie Cartoon.’ Variety, 9 February 1972. ‘Marco Vs the Red Dragon—A Film Well Worth Seeing.’ Daily Mirror, 27 December 1972. ‘Producing Australia’s First Full-Length Animated Feature.’ Film Weekly, 1972. ‘Production Scene.’ Film Weekly, 22 November 1971. ‘Production.’ The Age, 23 December 1971.



‘Real Cash from Cartoon Fancies.’ The Sunday Mirror, 27 August 1972. ‘Sixpenny Cinema Seat Set Him on the Track.’ The Age, 9 December. ‘Sydney Today.’ The Sun, 16 April 1970. ‘Tariff Board Inquiry Final Hearings: Film Industry under Heavy Attack.’ Film Weekly, 11 December 1972. 1970–1973, Productions Eric Porter. ‘Eric Porter Productions Documents and Correspondence.’ National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. API. ‘The Travels of Marco Polo.’ 1972. Cerabona, Ron. ‘From the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine to Australia’s First Animation: Cam Ford in Canberra.’ The Canberra Times, 6 April 2016. Ellis, Bob. ‘Films—A Spoonful of Welsh Molasses.’ Daily Mirror, 11 January 1973. Gillison, Ann. ‘Films.’ The Herald, 1973. Hall, Sandra. ‘Where Logic Doesn’t Always Work.’ The Bulletin, 13 January 1973. Henningham, John. ‘Local Production Is Tops for the Kids.’ Daily Sun, 10 January 1973. Iannucci, Amilcare, and John Tulk. ‘From Alterity to Holism: Cinematic Depictions of Marco Polo and His Travels.’ In Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, edited by Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Iannucci. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. Kenyon, Heather. ‘Beyond the Majors: Independent Animation Feature Production.’ Animation World Network, 2001. Merk, Ron. ‘Marco Polo—Return to Xanadu.’ Moldoff, Sheldon. ‘Marco Polo—Return to Xanadu.’ www.premierepicturesinc. com. ———. ‘The Adventures of Marco Polo Jr. (Pitch Book).’ 1967. ———. ‘The Red Red Dragon.’ News Release, 1974. ———. I Am a Successful Failure. Xlibris, 2012. Oram, Jim. ‘The Image Makers—Battling to Beat Killer Costs.’ The Mirror, 1974. Perrin, Yvonne. ‘Marco Polo Jnr (Plaster-Cast Figurine Packaging).’ Sydney, 1971. Porter, Eric. ‘Eric Porter Studios (Promotional Film).’ Sydney, 1965. ———. ‘Marco Polo Jr. (Woven Motif Packaging).’ Sydney: Eric Porter Productions, 1971. Porter, Joy. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (6 August 2004). Solomon, Charles. ‘Marco Polo Review.’ The Los Angeles Times, 28 December 2001.


Yoram Gross: Bringing Australian Animation to the World, One Dot at a Time

Yoram Gross (1926–2015) was one of the more prolific animation producers in Australia. He is perhaps best known for his Dot and the Kangaroo films, producing in total nine of these feature-length Dot films. He also produced many other animated features, many of which were pre-sold to cable television in America (this ensuring their financial success). Most of these films featured live-action backgrounds with superimposed animated characters. The backgrounds would often highlight the Australian landscape in a way that no other previous animations had. Gross’ studio also produced a great number of animated television productions, including Blinky Bill, Skippy, Tabuluga, Flipper and Lopaka, and Old Tom. Being a migrant from Poland (and having fled war and hardship), Yoram Gross was keen to quickly embrace and celebrate Australian culture. Ultimately, the animated films of Yoram Gross have had strong cultural implications having both reflected and projected Australian culture onto the domestic and international scenes.

Early Years Born in Cracow, Poland in 1926, Yoram Gross studied musicology for three years at the Warsaw Conservatorium of Music, specialising as pianist and composer, before turning his attention to film. For Gross, film-making has always been a composite art form: ‘Film is not only picture; you have the sound effects, the music, the editing, the lighting - a lot of things are coming together to form a good film - or a very bad © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




film.’1 He was accepted into the Polish film industry as a third assistant director on the strength of his years at the Warsaw Conservatorium. ‘For two years I was assistant director, watching how people are making films, the shooting, camera work, directing - everything.’2 From Poland, he moved to Israel where he found work as a newsreel cameraman, what Gross considered to be a temporary position, since he had minimal interest in news and documentary, and was becoming much more interested in experimental film and animation. So, in his spare time, with a very old second-hand 35 mm camera, he began experimenting with stop-motion animation, which he came to really enjoy. He once quipped, ‘My animated figures, they have more patience to work with me than the actors in the documentary films I was doing.’3 One of his first animated films was Chansons sans Paroles (1958) A short film composed of two distinct sequences that highlight the materials used and employ a good deal of metamorphosis. The first sequence, which deals with concepts of identity and self, features crumpled newspapers which transform into various creatures. Initially, the crumple of paper becomes a spider-like creature. This creature soon sends out a long tendril and ‘gives birth’ to a bird. The bird subsequently begins to peck at the spider, pecking off all of its legs, and finally swallows the entire creature. This has an effect, which causes the bird to sprout multiple legs, and to eventually morph into a spider as well. It transforms again—this time into a human female, which consequently transforms into a male. Then after further abstract transformations, the newspaper form splits into two characters—a man and a woman. These two defined characters then engage in a lengthy dance, but in doing so, continually swap heads with each other, blurring their previously distinct identities. Finally, they dissolve away into nothingness. The second part of this film involves an abstract dance and manipulation of three matchsticks. Sometimes they rip apart, sometimes they form together to make new formations. Gross described it as ‘a love story based on three matches. One match was in love with another match; came a third match—you know these horrible stories!’4 In the end, all three matches light up in flame and tragically burn away. One day, by chance, he came across a man sitting in a coffee shop making little human figures from bits of silver foil. Yoram asked the man if he could make a whole series of these figures, which resulted in his next short animated film, Hava Nagila (1959). This short film featured these foil-figures which danced and played traditional music



in a wedding celebration. What is intriguing about the film is the manner in which the figure’s underlying materiality is highlighted. There are several sequences in which the foil is made to tear apart, becoming part of the narrative. For example, a drummer bangs on his drum too hard and the foil drum tears apart, another plays his violin too vigorously and the instrument rips apart. Yoram Gross’ next project was a full-length feature, Joseph the Dreamer (1961) based closely on the biblical story and using stopmotion puppets. It is regarded as the first feature film produced in Israel and was the first feature film by Yoram Gross. For this film, Gross gathered a small film crew which included Nathan, his brother, who was a film-maker, scriptwriter and film director; John Bird, who made the puppets they used; Eddie Harper, with whom Gross had studied music at the Warsaw Conservatorium, who wrote the music score. The film, though critically praised, did not do very well financially; despite the fact that the Minister for Education had decreed that schools should take children to see the film at the cinema. It was a financial flop because, although the Minister said the kids had to go to see the film, they had to pay only twenty cents per ticket which wasn’t enough. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t thinking about profit. But in this way, I jumped into animation – and if you jump into animation, you like it so much that you can’t get out.5

Encouraged by the critical success of the film, Yoram began to dedicate virtually all of his time to animation. He continued to make short experimental animated films—sending them out around the world to film festivals. Then in the late 1960s, war broke out in Israel, and Gross, being very much a pacifist, decided to relocate his family to Australia as soon as possible. Fortunately, a few months earlier, Gross had sent an experimental animated film to the Melbourne Film Festival and an Australian film critic had reviewed it in The Age newspaper, concluding his review with the comment ‘we need such filmmakers in Australia.’ Taking the critic literally, he and his wife showed the newspaper cutting at the Australian Embassy when applying to immigrate. It seemed to have held some influence, for he and his family were awarded visas straightaway.6 Upon arriving in Australia, in 1968, within just two weeks, he got a job on the very popular television series, Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. The programme’s resident film-maker, Stephen Sargent, had just unexpectedly



moved overseas, and they needed someone to quickly fill the position, and Yoram had happened to apply at the opportune moment. On the first episode that Yoram Gross participated, the Bandstand host introduced him: Yoram has a distinctive continental style, and although it may be very different from Stephen’s we hope that you will find it equally original and imaginative and this week you will see some of it for the first time on Australian television.7

His role as Bandstand film-maker involved creating original music video clips to go with popular Australian songs. These would normally involve combinations of live action, manipulated still photographs, and some animation. The schedule was very gruelling, requiring him to produce at least one music video per week. After about a year of this schedule, Gross was exhausted and decided to open his own animation studio. His new company, Yoram Gross Film Studios, began by making animated television commercials. Simultaneously, he continued making and exhibiting experimental films, two of which were awarded prizes in the Sydney Film Festival: The Politicians (1970) and To Nefertiti (1971). After a few years, his studio was in a position to begin making more substantial productions. An early project was to write a book, aimed at young readers, on how to make an animated film, called, The First Animated Step (1976), and he also made an accompanying film which illustrated how animation is made, the basic principles and a brief overview of its history. This was sold to schools as part of an educational package, with the aim to encourage young animators.

The First Dot His first real breakthrough occurred with the production of the animated feature, Dot and the Kangaroo (1977). Yoram Gross was very keen to celebrate Australian culture and had been looking for quintessential Australian stories to produce in animation. In his search, he came across a book by Ethel Pedley called Dot and the Kangaroo, a classic children’s book which was first published in 1899. But, according to Gross, the book had long drifted into obscurity ‘only the old mothers remembered it from their childhood’.8 The animated film version describes a young girl named Dot and her adventures after she becomes lost in the Australian bush. Fortunately, she



encounters a variety of friendly native animals, and after eating from ‘the root of understanding’ she is given the ability to understand and to communicate with the animals. A large kangaroo then helps her to find her way back home, and on her journey, she learns a good deal about the natural world. The film contains a strong environmental message, which is prefaced with a quote from the books author, Ethel Pedley: ‘To the children of Australia - in the hope of enlisting their sympathies for the many beautiful and frolicsome creatures of their fair land; whose extinction, through ruthless destruction, is surely being accomplished.’ Gross wanted to accurately depict the Australian landscape in the film, and so, for both economic and aesthetic reasons, he decided to make the film a hybrid of live action and animation. Using an aerial image projector-camera system, he was able to overlay the animated characters onto the live-action backgrounds. (This was the same type of system that Eric Porter Studios had used in the shooting of many of their animation/ live-action advertisem*nts and in the production of the television series, Captain Comet). The budget for Dot and the Kangaroo was a modest $250,000 (less than half of what Marco Polo Junior had cost) and twothirds of this budget was provided by the Australian Film Commission. The manner in which the animation is integrated into the live action varies somewhat from scene to scene. In some shots, the characters appear as if they are merely placed on top of a live-action film (as in Fig. 7.1), and in others the characters feel much more unified through a careful use of ground shadows and other visual cues. Taking advantage of the live-action camera work, there are a number of points of view travelling shots (to simulate the point of view of the moving animated characters). This type of movement and depth would be near impossible to have been achieved in traditional animation. Despite these various approaches, the film’s fantasy-laden narrative does, on the whole, provide a much more integrated experience than is represented in the isolated frame grab of Fig. 7.1. As also would be expected in a modest-budget animated film, there is a heavy use of animated cycles, but surprisingly, there is a lot of repetition that is visible in the live-action background footage as well. The numerous songs that are interspersed throughout the film also facilitate this visual repetition. Recognising the draw power of well-known international celebrities, The British actor, Spike Milligan, who happened to be in Australia at the time, provided the voice of the platypus. However, in Australia, Gross (as with Eric Porter before him) was only able to secure matinee screenings



Fig. 7.1  Frame grab from Dot and the Kangaroo (1977)

of the film—while overseas children’s films enjoyed both day and evening screenings. One reviewer commented on this dilemma: It is amazing how American films can have many an Australian production relegated to daytime only showings even though picture theatres need Australian money at the box office to keep them in existence. What is more amazing still is that the Australian film is quite often far superior to the American. Take Dot and the Kangaroo from the Yoram Gross Studio for example. This was judged to be the best feature film by the Children’s International Jury. But when Dot and the Kangaroo was released through Hoyts on 15 December 1977, it was screened only in the morning sessions. It is enough to provoke the remark, ‘to hell with Walt Disney!’9

Surprisingly, Dot and the Kangaroo did much better overseas, eventually screening (either theatrically or on television) in over 50 countries. However, the take-up of the film was initially rather slow, and it took a



variety of marketing tricks to achieve sales. In the USA, the ­distributor, Satori, rented a kangaroo suit and would hand deliver the film to all of its buyer-bookers. ‘The effect was terrific, because when a kangaroo walks in with a picture that no one has heard of, they’ll never forget that film.’10 As further publicity, they would photograph these kangaroo deliveries and send them out as press releases to all of the trade magazines and local newspapers. Gross learned very early on that there was a novel appeal and interest in Australian themes, and of course in particular, Australian animals. But he also had very strong humanitarian convictions, advocating tolerance, peace and protection of the environment and he imbued nearly all of his films with these messages. In his autobiography, Gross stated, ‘I make films for children and children understand them, and that for me is the main thing. I don’t much mind if some adults don’t appreciate them.’11 But, along with the Australian animals, it seems that these positive messages also had an international appeal.

Lots More Dots In total, nine Dot feature films were produced, some of these recycled previous storylines, while others strayed quite a bit from the original concept. In a more contemporary interview, Gross made light of this fact, ‘Now I have done all the series of ‘Dot’ films, which maybe later I will tell you the titles - I can’t remember them all. But a lot of ‘Dots’!’12 Nevertheless, most of these were fairly well received. The first three films formed what Gross regarded as a trilogy and were initially intended to form the complete Dot series. After the initial film, the next film in the trilogy was Around the World with Dot (also known as Dot and Santa Claus) (1981). In this film, Dot ventures out in search of a baby kangaroo and is given a significant helping hand from Santa Claus, who takes her ‘around the world’ in his sleigh. In doing so, she learns a good deal about geography and various cultures around the world. She finally finds the joey in a New York zoo and brings it back home to Australia. In the third instalment, Dot and the Bunny (1983), Dot again goes searching for a lost baby kangaroo. In this instance, she has a young orphaned rabbit as a companion. The film, in particular, teaches the viewer a great deal about Australian native wildlife. A noticeable shift in quality happened by the mid-1980s, which could in part be attributed to increasing budgets, but also due to the growing



maturity of the studio. Not only did the quality of the studio’s animation greatly improve, but so did the quality of the live-action footage. Importantly, the way in which the two were combined had also greatly improved. This was due in part to more professional cinematography, but also, many of the ‘live-action’ backgrounds were becoming hybrid shots. For example, fixed location shots would often be augmented with painted elements—helping to facilitate their integration. Furthermore, an increasing number of backgrounds were being constructed in scale model—which allowed for a more careful and calculated set-design. One of the original chief modellers who worked at the studios was Norman Yeend, who along with Graham Binding, built most of the studio’s models throughout the decade. Many of these models would be built on a very large scale. Yeend recalls one such model, which comprised ‘a whole mountain-top scene with a waterfall running through it. But needless to say, the whole thing leaked: there was water all over the floor and it was a huge mess on the carpet; but they got their shots.’13 Later, the studio spent several years in the development of a stop-motion feature film that was to be called Terra Australis which would feature some of the mega-fauna which are believed to have roamed the continent some 50,000 years ago. But this film was never completed. Many of these advancing techniques were employed in the next Dot instalment, Dot and the Koala (1984). In this film, a struggle between domesticated animals (which more or less were intended to represent the human race) and native Australian animals ensues. The domesticated animals planned to build a huge dam, which would end up destroying the habitat of the bush animals. In one scene, the native animals take to the streets in protest, and on the opposing side, a domesticated cat can be seen wearing a t-shirt that says, ‘Marsupials Stink!’ In the end, Dot helps to halt the dam-building project and a koala gives a speech about protecting native wildlife. In Dot and Keeto (1985), Dot accidentlly eats the wrong native plant root—so instead of allowing her to communicate with the bush animals, she shrinks down to insect size. At this Lilliputian scale, she is able to learn all about insects and their essential value to the ecosystem. In the next feature, Dot and the Whale (1986), Dot sets out to save a stranded whale, and in doing so campaigns vigorously for the marine environment. Dot and the Smugglers (also known as Dot and the Bunyip) (1987) also carries a strong animal welfare message. In this film, Dot encounters a circus that turns out to be a front for an international



animal smuggling operation, which captures native Australian animals and sells them to buyers across the world. She, along with the help of the animals, puts a stop to this criminal activity. The final two Dot films represent a significant departure from the rest of the series. In Dot Goes to Hollywood (1987), Dot travels to Los Angeles, and along with her koala companion, experiences the vintage years of the Hollywood film industry. There is extensive use of live-action clips of classic Hollywood films such as: Laurel and Hardy and Tarzan which are interspersed throughout the feature. Dot in Space (1994) is the only Dot film that does not utilise live-action backgrounds, and it has a very different aesthetic and therefore feels somewhat out of place in the rest of the Dot series.

More Animated Features One year, while travelling around parts of Australia with his family, Gross happened upon Old Sydney Town, a tourist attraction of a reconstructed early Sydney. This inspired Gross to write a fictional account of what it would be like to have lived in the early ‘convict’ days of Australia. As a result, he wrote and produced The Little Convict (1979) another hybrid film of live action and animation in which the real-life Old Sydney Town formed much of the films background settings. Though the film was fictional, it portrayed a narrative and atmosphere that could have been and it was deemed at the time quite authentic and was regularly screened in schools. The film also contains a minor subplot, in which the main character, a young boy named Toby, rescues an orphaned koala. In America, in order to highlight the popular Australian animal theme, it was retitled as Toby and the Koala Bear. Yoram Gross had been greatly impacted by the Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII, and it is a theme that has surfaced in many of his films. He recalls that period as being full of ‘horrible days,’ and that, ‘In everything I make I can find my childhood, my history, my troubles.’14 These ‘troubles’ are most clearly reflected in Sarah: The Seventh Match (1982), a film about a child who is forced to survive on her own in the midst of a war. As with the studio’s other films, it utilised live-action backgrounds. It starred Mia Farrow, who appeared in live action at both the start and end of the film—she also provided the voice of the animated child-character, Sarah. In this film, the little girl in the midst of a



violent war becomes separated from her parents. She is left alone to fend for herself in a vast forest. Luckily the forest animals are there to keep her company and the story highlights Sarah’s resilience and bravery. The film projects a very robust anti-war message, and although it clearly references the WWII period, Gross wanted it to signify a more general treatment—a film that would highlight the plight of children in any war situation. The message of the film was critically acclaimed around the world, and Gross received a special award at the Manilla International Film Festival for ‘demonstrating special concern and affection for the children of the world.’15 In an effort to make the film more accessible to North American audiences, it was retitled, Sarah and the Squirrel. His next film The Camel Boy (1984) dealt with issues of immigration, and in this case, the history of middle-eastern migrants at the turn of the century who were instrumental in bringing camels to the northern desert regions of Australia. The film seeks to convey a message of tolerance for other cultures and tells a story in which these immigrants are faced with discrimination by the resident Australians. However, the migrants eventually find acceptance in their new home. Around the same time, he also produced Epic (1983) which takes place in prehistoric Australia. The film was marketed as Epic: Days of the Dinosaur in North America. The planned (but never completed) stop-motion film Terra Australis was intended to work as a sequel to this film. Later, in 1991, the studio released The Magic Riddle, which was the studio’s first fully animated feature (with painted backgrounds, and without any liveaction sequences). It was a mashup of numerous classic children’s ­stories, including: Pinocchio, Snow White, The Ugly Duckling, The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella, in which the characters overlap from one story sequence to another. The film did well internationally and it was also the studio’s first feature that did not feature any overtly Australian themes. Following closely on the heels of The Magic Riddle came Blinky Bill: The Mischievous Koala (1992). This feature marked a return (albeit a final one) to the studio’s use of live-action backgrounds. It also incorporated the most frequent use of miniature models as well. The story and characters of Blinky Bill were based on the classic Australian children’s books by Dorothy Wall which were originally published in the 1930s. It proved to be a very popular film, both domestically and internationally, and it also spawned the first highly successful merchandising campaigns by the studio—and a wide variety of Blinky Bill books, clothing, kitchenware and toys were produced.



TV Series After the release of the Blinky Bill feature, the studio began to focus exclusively on the production of animated television series. What followed were a number of successful series, including three different Blinky Bill half-hour series: The Adventures of Blinky Bill (1993), Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Excursion (1995), Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Balloon Adventure (2004). As a result, the Blinky Bill character soon became synonymous with the Yoram Gross Studios. Other popular television series included, Tabaluga (1994–2004) which was an early example of a German co-production. Old Tom (2001–2002) was based on the popular Australian children’s book series by Leigh Hobbs. Another series Skippy: Adventures in Bushtown revisited the characters, in animated form, of the classic live-action series, Skippy. While another series, Flipper and Lopaka borrowed its main character from the old live-action television series Flipper. Each of these examples proved to be successful in the international marketplace. In 1999, the German-owned media company, EM.TV, purchased a fifty-per cent stake in Yoram Gross Film Studios forming a new entity of Yoram Gross-EM.TV. By the early 2000s, Yoram Gross was much less involved in the everyday production of the studio. However, one later television series that he was directly involved with was the Art Alive (2003–2005) series. ‘The films are of the children making drawings. When the drawings are finished, the drawings are talking to children, and the children are talking to the drawings; and we have a small story.’16 Then, in 2006 Yoram Gross sold his stake in the company, at which time it was then rebranded as Flying Bark Productions. After selling his stake, Yoram Gross and his wife Sandra Gross set up a new production company, Yoram Gross Films Pty Ltd. through which they continued to make occasional animated productions, including further series of Art Alive. Flying Bark productions has continued a steady output of television co-productions. In 2015, it released its first 3D animated feature, Blinky Bill the Movie (2015). This feature, though having a very different look than anything that the studio has produced before, has a very Australian feel. It features, in addition to a wide range of Australian animals, many cultural references, and the voice actors speak in a decidedly Australian vernacular. Yoram Gross died in 2015, just days before the cinema release of Blinky Bill 3D.




1. Yoram Grossinterview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 9 July 2004. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Brian Henderson’s Bandstand, 1968. 8. Gross, 2004. 9. Eric Reade, History and Heartburn: The Saga of Australian Film 1896– 1978 (Sydney: Harper & Row Publishers, 1979), 316. 10. Ernie Sauer interview with Peter Hamilton and Sue Mathews, American Dreams Australian Movies (Sydney: Currency Press, 1986), 188. 11. Yoram Gross, My Animated Life (Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2011), 224. 12. Gross, 2004. 13. Norman Yeend interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 20 April 2005. 14. Gross, 2004. 15. ‘Yoram Gross,’ Variety, 16 February 1983. 16. Gross, 2004.

Bibliography ‘Yoram Gross.’ Variety, 16 February 1983. Gross, Yoram. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (9 July 2004). ———. My Animated Life. Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2011. Hamilton, Peter, and Sue Mathews. American Dreams Australian Movies. Sydney: Currency Press, 1986. Henderson, Brian. ‘Brian Henderson’s Bandstand.’ 1968. Reade, Eric. History and Heartburn: The Saga of Australian Film 1896–1978. Sydney: Harper & Row Publishers, 1979. Yeend, Norman. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (20 April 2005).


Alex Stitt: Animation by Design

Alexander Stitt (1937–2016) stands out as a prominent figure in the ­history of Australian animation. He was involved with animation continuously since the introduction of television in 1956 (see Chapter 5)—a career that spanned well over a half-century. Over the decades, he generated a vast amount of animation including numerous advertisem*nts, title sequences and short films, and designed and directed two animated features. His work is striking for its careful attention to design, for its use of colour and form; yet, perhaps most intriguingly, for its use of line. Although the works themselves have been diverse, there is always an overall quality that labels each a design by Alex Stitt.

Early Years Alex Stitt studied design at RMIT University in Melbourne, including courses in illustration, advertising design and industrial design. He had always enjoyed watching animated cartoons, including Disney; but, in particular, the Fleischer Studios’ Superman cartoons of the early 1940s for their strong sense of design. Stitt recalls that it was after watching UPA’s A Unicorn in the Garden (Bill Hurtz 1953) that, ‘I knew this was what I wanted to do, to make films—make that film, in fact!’1 Commencing with a home-made camera stand and a Bell and Howell camera which, ‘if you pressed the release button just enough, would take one frame of film; but which otherwise took continuous motion,’ Alex Stitt experimented with animation while still at © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




university. Upon graduation, designer, Richard Beck, who was one of his mentors, arranged for him to occupy a freelance desk in Castle Jackson Advertising, becoming a third member of the studio together with a layout artist and a finishing artist. Being the only one of the three with a design background, he was given the majority of the design tasks. He also made it known that he could make animated commercials—‘which I’d never actually done, but I had the feeling I would be able to!’—and during the next two years produced some half-dozen of these which went to air. Later in 1957, he was employed by John Wilson as a member of the animation team at what would become Fanfare Films. ‘We were in production right from the start. I became—I suppose I was the Art Director of the Unit. I actually had a reel—after all, I’d made five commercials!’ He worked at the studio for some six years (see Chapter 5 for more on Fanfare Films) before leaving in 1963 to set up an independent studio.2 Stitt teamed up with Bruce Weatherhead (who had also worked as an animator at Fanfare) forming the production studio of Weatherhead and Stitt. A year later Fanfare Films closed down, and Weatherhead and Stitt purchased Fanfare’s extensive collection of animation equipment. Producing a wide variety of animated advertisem*nts and short films, the studio flourished for nearly a decade. Then, in 1971, wanting to expand and try out other ventures, they also launched an ambitious toy company that became known as The Jigsaw Factory and created splendidly designed, educational books, toys and games. ‘For new and different toys, games, posters, books and honest-to-goodness surprises, visit The Jigsaw Factory,’ declared one of their promotional ads. In addition to toys, art classes for kids and many other ventures, the studio continued to produce animated films. Unfortunately, after a few years, the Jigsaw venture proved to be too broad in its scope and ultimately unsuccessful. In 1973, the entire company closed its doors.3

Al et al. Stitt then formed his own company, Al et al. (the ‘Al’ for Alex Stitt, and ‘et al.,’ Latin for ‘and others’). The ‘other’ animators soon comprised Frank Hellard (the studio’s animation director), Gus McLaren, Ralph Peverill, Anne Joliffe and David Atkinson. The Al et al. studio, while concentrating on animated television commercials, also made several short animated films. The first, the



fifteen-minute, One Designer, Two Designer (1978), was commissioned by The Industrial Design Council of Australia. Written by Alex Stitt, it was a humorous, although educational, look at the concept of design, and what it means to be a designer. During its production, the film was divided into sections, enabling each animator to work with a different set of characters. This allowed freedom to each of the animators, producing an expansive variety, the scenes changing in style from the diagrammatic, to more expressive designs, to an entertaining lunar setting.4 A number of the studios’ animated campaigns were used to support charitable organisations or to promote particular causes. In 1974, film producer, Phillip Adams, was approached by the Victorian Government to devise a campaign directed towards fitness and health. He immediately thought of an animated film campaign, as it would avoid dealing with specifics (such as age) so that anyone could relate to the characters. He devised the title, Life, Be In It, and asked Alex Stitt to design sample storyboards to be put to the Minister at a meeting the following day. That night Alex Stitt produced four, sixty-second storyboard options. One featured ‘Norm,’ the anti-fitness, Life Be In It character. Another, that Stitt imagined would be considered totally outrageous and unacceptable for commercial television, recommended to viewers that they turn off the television set and exercise instead. Presented to the client the next day, all four concepts were accepted. The campaign spread over some fifteen years, the Victorian State project being taken over by the Commonwealth Government. Alongside the films, merchandise including brochures, calendars, books, was produced. Then, commencing in 1986, Alex Stitt produced over a three-year period a thousand Life Be In It comic strips for publication in The Sun and other newspapers across the country. The studio also promoted a long-running campaign to promote awareness of skin cancer with the Slip! Slop! Slap! series. This was another idea initiated by Phillip Adams, while Alex Stitt produced the storyboards and designs. Peter Best wrote and sang the jingles. The essence of the campaign was to encourage the public to ‘Slip’ on a shirt, ‘Slap’ on a hat and to ‘Slop’ on some sunscreen. The campaign featured a character named Sid the Seagull and began as a single one-minute spot, evolving into a long-running series of television ads, supplemented with posters, T-shirts and badges. In the early days of television, the Broadcasting Control Board of Australia set a condition to the issuing of television licenses to the commercial television stations, requiring them to devote a specified amount



of airtime to religious broadcasting. In response, the Catholic Church set up their own unit to produce material for television; and the Protestant churches united with the Salvation Army, pooling funds to set up a similar unit. But their budgets were insufficient to produce the required volume of material. Thus, Reverend Douglas Tasker, director of the unit, conceived the idea of producing one-minute spots in the form of television commercials that could be run in the TV breaks. A modest budget was required to make a one-minute spot and this, over the course of a year, could be screened some two hundred times producing, in effect, two hundred minutes of television. ‘It became one of our great creative experiences,’ recalls Stitt. ‘We had complete freedom. The films were intended to be surprising and challenging, so we got to try out all kinds of strange techniques—some of which we’d stolen from other people, some that we invented.’ Over the years, the studio produced nearly fifty of these shorts—each one employing a thoroughly different style of animation.5 Another series, beginning in 1987 and running for nearly three decades, promoted literacy through ‘The Reading Writing Hotline.’ It was estimated at the time that over a million people in Australia had problems reading and writing. This series of television spots was meant to encourage these people to call the ‘Hot line’ number to get help in developing these skills.

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel One of the most extraordinary productions to emerge from the Al et al. studio was the feature-length animated film, Grendel Grendel Grendel (Stitt 1981). The film features groundbreaking design aesthetics—highly stylised characters with bold colours that were entirely devoid of ink outlines. Much to the confusion of the audiences of its time, Grendel Grendel Grendel is not a children’s film; it is a mature, intelligent, irreverent and quite unique animated feature that, both in terms of content and in terms of an aesthetic, was well ahead of its time. Based on the novel, Grendel, by John Gardner, the film is a loose adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, but told from the point of view of the monster, Grendel. Unlike the original, which conveyed a heroic tale of bravery and the triumphant slaying of a horrific monster, Gardner’s book highlights the stupidity and brutality of the human race. Stitt’s animated feature, although somewhat faithful to Gardner’s novel, introduces a great deal more humour, along with a stunning visual style.



Designed and directed by Alex Stitt and produced by Phillip Adams, the film features the vocal talents of Peter Ustinov (among others) and the music of Bruce Smeaton. It was brought to life by a very small team of animators, including: Frank Hellard (Animation Director), Anne Jolliffe, Gus McLaren, Ralph Peverill and David Atkinson. The production supervisor (who directed the cel painters) was Maggie Geddes. Stitt explains how Peter Ustinov, who performed the voice of Grendel came to be involved with the production: I imagined Grendel as a haughty prince among monsters, and a tragic figure of operatic size. Who better than Peter (later Sir Peter) Ustinov to perform the voice part? Phillip sent Ustinov’s agent a copy of the storyboard. We had no idea how the budget could get us to London to record him if by any chance he agreed; but Ustinov replied, saying he liked the project and, as it happened, would be touring Australia in the next couple of months. We couldn’t believe our luck. With a recording date to work to, we set about casting other voices.6

Once the voices were recorded, they were then able to commence animating. But having a very small budget to work with, they had to devise a very strict and economical production schedule. The maths were very simple. We decided to make one minute a week. Therefore, to make ninety minutes, plus a bit of messing around, it was going to be a two-year production project. We assigned four major animators, each responsible for fifteen seconds of work each week. And we set a budget of about five hundred cels per minute: for more than that we couldn’t afford buying the cels, let alone tracing and painting and everything else. So it was utterly pragmatic in that sense.7

The film’s production began in the conventional way. The animators were hard at work animating, while Stitt was painting the backgrounds. He was striving for a cohesive image, one in which backgrounds and the animated characters would be treated in a similar manner. I’ve always had a hatred for animated things where you know the bits that are going to move in the scene, all these little bits that are signalling to you ‘Hey, I’ve got a black outline around me, so I’m going somewhere,’ and you know that that house painted on the background is never going to go anywhere!8



So, he designed the film so that everything would have a black line around it. But, about two months into the production, the results of this integrated image emerged. Up until that point, Stitt had viewed the completed animation on just a small editing screen; but when they held a theatre screening of the first several minutes of the film, he became very disappointed with the result, which looked dull and very flat. I needed to change it somehow. I decided the solution was to eliminate the outlines and add a feeling of light and shade to the forms of the characters. The animation work was fine, but it was a decision that meant scrapping many of the completed cels. It also meant devising a new tracing system to eliminate the line work.9

So, Alex went back and reworked the backgrounds, creating them anew without any line work at all. He then directed the cel painters also to remove the line work: to take the original animation drawings and, placing them upside down on a light box, to trace the drawings in paint on to the cels. The painters would paint the flat colour on to the back of the cel in the usual way; but instead of painting to the black line that would previously have been drawn on the cel, they were painting through to the animator’s pencil line. Animation director, Frank Hellard, recalls: This meant that you had to change the design of the characters because their arms had to be one colour and their body another so that, if the arm went in front of the body, it would be a different tone from the body; otherwise, if you saw them at full figure they’d all be one colour. It seemed a good idea, although I thought there must be difficulties we hadn’t thought about. But that went through swimmingly – unexpectedly! The problems just didn’t arise: they seemed to work themselves out.10

Choosing to throw away the line entirely was a very bold move. Many other studios had tried to find innovative ways to integrate the line work of their animated films. For Disney’s big-budget Sleeping Beauty (1959), the characters were inked in correspondingly coloured ink— thus if the dress of a character was to be painted blue, that part of the cel would be outlined in a blue-tinted ink. This, of course, proved to be a very expensive undertaking. Contrastingly, in the production One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961), they opted to use Xerography to ‘trace’ the line from the animator’s drawings onto the cel, and in order to make these cohesive with the backgrounds they applied a similar ‘Xeroxed’ black line-treatment to the background paintings. But



with Grendel, being devoid of outlines altogether, the film achieved a certain level of dimensional believability. Rather than have the image flattened by the line, it blended seamlessly into the background, attempting to use light, shadow and colour to define spaces and forms (see Figs. 8.1 and 8.2). Unfortunately, the film when released did not initially do well at the box office. It was, being an animated film, assumed by many to be for young children—it was after all rated ‘G.’ ‘They could not imagine a film that is not for kids if it’s animated!’ recalls Hellard. Although children delighted in the visuals, they tended to lose interest in many of the dialogue-heavy scenes. This was despite the fact that most of the newspaper ads for the film included a review quote, printed in large type, ‘The most interesting animated film for adults that I have seen (Alexander Walker, London Evening Standard).’ Unfortunately, adults also failed to see it in droves. One reviewer noted at the time of the film’s release: Grendel Grendel Grendel is a clever, intelligent film incorporating a subtle plea for understanding and tolerance, although it may have trouble finding an audience. Except for the sporadic attempts by Ralph Bakshi, the animated feature film has largely been relegated by the public to the restricted

Fig. 8.1  Frame grab from Grendel Grendel Grendel (Alex Stitt 1980) showcasing both Stitt’s strong sense of design and the omission of any black outlines around the character and background elements



Fig. 8.2  Frame grab from Grendel Grendel Grendel (Alex Stitt 1980) which further illustrates the bold character designs and the omission of linework around the characters. This approach also seemed to work well against a solid coloured background, as shown here field of children’s entertainment. […] It is to be hoped that Grendel Grendel Grendel goes some way towards breaking down such considerations by generating an understanding of the animated film as a legitimate form of adult entertainment. Certainly Stitt’s film deserves serious consideration as an important landmark in the Australian film industry and as a development of that form of animation pioneered by UPA in the U.S. in the 1950s, a tradition breaking away from the strongly naturalistic style which had dominated commercial animation up to that point.11

Stitt later reflected, ‘I came to realise for the first time an important truth—that if I came across something that I embraced passionately, other people might not necessarily embrace it to the same extent.’12 However, in recent years, the film has gradually attained a significant national and international cult status, finally appreciated by contemporary audiences (indeed proving that the film was significantly ahead of its time). Many now regard Grendel Grendel Grendel as a masterpiece of animation and design. This resurgent interest has been helped considerably with the digital remastering and DVD release of the film (an undertaking that was facilitated by Malcolm Turner, director of the Melbourne International Animation Festival and by festival manager Helen Gibbins).



Abra Cadabra The next animated feature that Stitt designed and directed was Abra Cadabra (1983), which is regarded as the world’s first 3D format animated feature film. It is based loosely on The Pied Piper of Hamlin, but set in outer space. The main characters, while being pursued by three bumbling villains, set off on a series of magical adventures. Having learned his lesson from Grendel, Stitt decided to pitch this film unmistakably towards children—but with enough sophisticated elements for adults to appreciate it. The film featured the vocal talents of John Farnham, who (at the peak of his popular music career) performed the role of the character Abra Cadabra. Jacki Weaver was the heroine Primrose Buttercup, and Hayes Gordon played the villain B.L. Z’Bubb. Humorously, the soundtrack featured a number of well-known (public domain) tunes, including children’s songs and Christmas carols, but using entirely new lyrics written by Stitt. The film developed an innovative new 3D production process that involved complex multiplane separations and projections. Called the Triangle 3-D System, this process had recently been invented by local cameramen Mike Browning and Volk Mol. They had originally shown Stitt the process while he was in the midst of making Grendel, so impressing him that he had contemplated using it on the Grendel feature. But as this would have required a radical shift in production, he had decided to save it for his next animated film. Thus, Abra Cadabra was written specifically with this 3D process in mind. ‘That is why it is called Abra Cadabra; we are using the process as a part of the film,’ explained Stitt.13 The advantage of the Triangle 3-D system was that it created a dramatic 3D effect, but without actually requiring a two-camera system. Instead of the usual iris, the camera had a vertical slit, one side of which was blue, the other side red. If an object were in focus there would be no distortion to the image. If it was forward of focus there would be a red edge to one side, a blue edge to the other; if it was behind focus, vice versa. The glasses would switch them so that the foreground objects were in front, the background ones receded, the remainder being normal.14

However, the most remarkable thing about the system was that the resulting films could be viewed with or without 3D glasses. When



wearing the traditional blue/red glasses, the film would appear to be 3D; but without the glasses it would look virtually like any other 2D film— except that some of the imagery (namely the extreme 3D elements in the foreground) would appear slightly out of focus. As is visible in Fig. 8.3, the foreground character (right) appears slightly blurred, while the background character (left) is in comparatively sharp focus. The process required a custom-built animation camera system. ‘It has four planes: the basic camera plane and three up in the air.’15 In order to create the 3D effect, the camera would have a fixed focus on the middle plane; anything on the upper plane would have a slightly distorted and shifted colour edging which (when wearing glasses) would make it appear to pop forward; anything on the lower planes would appear to recede. In addition, Alex came up with the idea of adding a back-projection system (known as a Zoptic Screen) to the animation stand, which

Fig. 8.3  Frame grab from Abra Cadabra (Alex Stitt 1983). Note the character on the right appears somewhat out of focus, due to the 3D optical processing



would project images from below, adding further layers of depth to the scenes. This process allowed for a number of other innovative approaches to animated film-making. While in the midst of production, Stitt explained: We are doing little bits of new film grammar, and re-thinking the process. We are not thinking of it as a ‘round’ 3D film but as a series of planes. The analogy is toy theatre; instead of doing a cross dissolve, as you would in a regular film with one flat plane, you dissolve out only the back pane. For instance, we can dissolve out a forest and dissolve into space, with the characters remaining in the foreground doing what they were doing.16

Of course, the system also had its challenges for the animators. One was that because of the extreme focal differences, if a character needed to be on the bottom plane, the animator would have to work to a drawing of about 43 cm wide (17 inches); but if that same character had to appear on the top plane, then they would need to be drawn significantly smaller, at about 18 cm (7 inches) across. Stitt describes the planning process for this: It is difficult to get your mind around the change of size; and the fact that something in the foreground is drawn smaller than something in the background is peculiar. It is due to the focal length of the lens we are using and the size of drawings. I solve most of the problems when I am doing the layouts. I do a basic layout of the scene at the major field size, say 17 inches (43 cm) across. I draw all the elements at that size, then put them into the copy camera and make reduction drawings of the appropriate elements. The animator then has a basic layout that shows him how the whole thing looks and a series of separate pieces of paper with items drawn to scale. Once that is provided, it is all clear and understandable. But the tricks, such as jumping from one plane to another, and having a character move out of frame on one plane and in on another, which happens quite often, certainly test their concentration.17

For Abra Cadabra, Alex had not initially planned to use the same linefree imagery that he had used for Grendel. However, solid black lines around the characters proved to be problematic because of the 3D process—they did not look right when out of focus. But when a character comprised mere shapes of colour, they looked much more acceptable. Also, the colour shading on the characters that was used in Grendel



would not work with the 3D process of Abra Cadabra—so Stitt opted for a slight amount of cross-hatching. He also designed each character with greater detail than he had with Grendel.18 This time around, Stitt had nearly 20 animators working on the film. Frank Hellard reprised his role as the Animation Director; Anne Jolliffe took on the role of Sequence Director. The other animators included: Gus McLaren, Steve Robinson, Maggie Geddes, Arthur Filloy, John Skibinski, Charles MacRae, Ralph Peverill, Graeme Jackson, Gwyn Perkins, Luis Garcia, Gairden Cooke, John Martin, Harry Rasmussen, Janine Dawson, Ross Gathercole, Mark Trounce and Paul Cowan. Often a single animator would focus on just one character and carry it through the entire production. For Abra Cadabra, rather than provide set character designs in the traditional sense, Stitt produced a single design sheet containing no character turnarounds or detailed measurements. This allowed the animators a generous measure of creative freedom in developing a character according to their own perceptions, while keeping to the spirit of its distinctive design. Despite the many technical difficulties that were encountered during the production, the film was completed on schedule and release prints were made. However, just as this was being done, a calamitous corporate takeover of the production company occurred and, as a result, the entire production was shut down. Although the film was completed, there was now no budget for its release or promotion: the film did not have any formal cinema release, either in Australia or elsewhere. However, it was screened at a number of film festivals (even winning some awards). It was later released on video and went on to be broadcast on American television. Unfortunately, these video releases, although featuring the 3D effect, did not mention the fact that it was a 3D film on the packaging, and most viewers would have only experienced it as a 2D film— perhaps mildly puzzled by the fact that certain elements looked slightly out of focus from time to time. This was a very unfortunate turn of events because, as with Stitt’s earlier feature, Abra Cadabra remains a very accomplished work of animation that should have been successful. Furthermore, according to The Guinness Book of Film Facts and Feats by Patrick Robertson, Abra Cadabra holds the title of being the first 3D format animated feature film ever produced.




1. Alex Stitt interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 17 April 2005. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Frank Hellard interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 3 September 2005. 5. Stitt, 2005. 6. Alex Stitt and Paddy Stitt, Stitt Autobiographics—50 Years of the Graphic Design Work of Alexander Stitt (Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, 2011), 177. 7. Stitt, 2005. 8. Ibid. 9. Stitt, Autobiographics, 178. 10. Hellard, 2005. 11. Geoff Mayer, ‘Grendel, Grendel, Grendel,’ Cinema Papers, no. 33 (July– August 1981), 287. 12. Stitt, Autobiographics, 178. 13. Fred Harden ‘Alex Stitt: Interview,’ Cinema Papers, no. 43 (May–June, 1983), 144–45. 14. Hellard, 2005. 15. Harden ‘Alex Stitt: Interview,’ Cinema Papers, 144. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid., 145. 18. Stitt, 2005.

Bibliography ‘Harden, Frank. ‘Alex Stitt: Interview.’Cinema Papers, May–June 1983. Hellard, Frank. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (17 April 2005). Mayer, Geoff. ‘Grendel, Grendel, Grendel.’ Cinema Papers, July–August 1981. Stitt, Alex. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (17 April 2005). Stitt, Alex, and Paddy Stitt. Stitt Autobiographics—50 Years of the Graphic Design Work of Alexander Stitt. Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, 2011.


Hanna-Barbera Australia

I actually had an argument with a cab driver coming back from the Sydney airport once. I told him I was working for Hanna-Barbera doing a Fred Flintstone special at the time, and he just flatly refused to believe me, totally convinced that I was telling a pack of fibs. “I thought that was all done in America.” “No, it’s not all done in America, it’s done here.” After a while, I thought, I’m not going to try any more. So, in future, if someone asked me what I did for a living, I said I sold real estate! - Dianne Colman, Australian animation director.1

Unknown to many, Hanna-Barbera established a large animation studio in Sydney that operated from approximately 1972 to 1988. The formation and rise of Hanna-Barbera Australia represent a colourful narrative and a previously unpublished segment of both Australian animation history and that of the Hanna-Barbera studio.

Overseas Expansion Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had left MGM after winning a number of Academy Awards for Tom and Jerry and other animated films for the cinema and had opened the Hanna-Barbera Studio in Los Angeles in 1957. The commencement of television had created an almost insatiable demand for animated films at minimal cost. Hanna-Barbera responded by developing and exploiting a uniquely limited style of animation,

© The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




costing only a fraction of that of the cinema shorts. Early productions included The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear and Top Cat. In 1967, after a steady stream of hit shows, Hanna and Barbera sold their animation studio to the Taft Broadcasting Company, but stayed on to run the studio, overseeing a number of further successful series. But cost increases and competition from other television animation studios prompted Hanna-Barbera to look offshore to find more cost-­effective places in which to produce their animation. Having a low exchange rate in relation to the American dollar, and generally lower labour costs, Australia appeared to be a promising market. In his autobiography, Bill Hanna describes After an initial evaluation of prospective locations for such expansion, we concluded that Australia would be a good place to start. Although we were prepared to work with any communication problems that might arise from language differences, it was just common sense to launch the organization of our first foreign studio in a country that spoke English. I was absolutely confident of my ability and experience in putting a cartoon studio together, but assimilating people of different cultures to the logistics of our American operations would still be a trial-and-error process. If I was going to break ground in this region of business development, I preferred to do it without an interpreter.2

Hanna-Barbera’s link with Australia actually spanned back to the mid-1960s when Eric Porter Productions was first commissioned to produce the Abbot and Costello animated series (which aired in 1967). In 1970, Hanna-Barbera asked Porter to produce a further series under a contract that was reported to be worth AU$670,000.3 But Porter, who had just begun production on the feature film, Marco Polo Junior, had to turn down this proposition since his studio was already working at full capacity. Hanna-Barbera subsequently contracted with Sydney-based API (Air Programs International) in 1971, to produce the animated television series, Funky Phantoms. At that time, API was working simultaneously on a number of feature-length animated specials, including The Legend of Robin Hood. Consequently, they soon fell behind in their production of the Hanna-Barbera commission. Bill Hanna used this as a pretext for travelling to Australia where he could then supervise the production. He also, it would appear, had a further motive, which was to set up a



Hanna-Barbera studio in Australia. Zoran Janjic, who was animation director at API, describes Bill Hanna’s arrival. He sub-contracted ‘Funky Phantom’ to API, a thirteen-part half-hour series and supervised the work on it. The owner of the studio stuck Bill Hanna into a pokey little office, partitioned off by himself, no phone or anything. I had a big corner office; so I went to Bill Hanna, said ‘Would you like to move in with me?’ And he said ‘you sure?’ I said ‘Yeah! We’re working together; you’re doing the timing: I’m storyboarding and doing this and that’. He replied, ‘Oh, I’d love to. There’s only one thing: I really like to go out for lunch.’ After a while it became routine, he’d say ‘Let’s go!’ As we were going past the paint department he would look in: ‘O.K., this row of girls, come with me; we’re going to lunch!’ He would take out the whole row of girls, twelve or more of them! ‘You are next day!’ he’d say to the others. He was terrific fun to work with, and very good with people.4

Margaret Parkes, who began working as an animator soon before Hanna arrived at API, also noted Bill Hanna’s gregarious nature: He was in his 60’s, just the most amazing man, energetic, a person who works beautifully with people. He wants you to work hard, but he really appreciates his staff. He’d bring in whole bowls of chilli, put them on the up-side radiator and serve everybody in the studio lunch. Then, if you’re working back late, he’d walk around the studio and buy everyone there a hamburger. Or he’d say ‘Come on; let’s all go out to dinner’.5

Ultimately, API became the channel through which the Los Angeles Hanna-Barbera Studios expanded into Australia. During the time that Bill Hanna was supervising the production of Funky Phantoms, he was also quietly laying the groundwork for setting up a studio in Sydney, scouting out locations and making note of useful contacts. After API’s completion of Funky Phantoms, he returned to Los Angeles. But soon after, he contacted Zoran Janjic, inviting him to fly to Los Angeles to meet with both himself and Joe Barbera. It was then that they offered Janjic the top job of managing their Australian studio. In his autobiography, Bill Hanna recounted these events in a rather abbreviated manner (leaving out the essential details about the API studio), I booked a flight to Sydney to scout out the various facilities and meet some of the folks currently involved in Australian animation production.



During this reconnaissance, I became impressed with some layouts by a talented animator named Zoran Janjic. After some discussion with Zoran, I was convinced that I had found the right guy to function as manager of the Australian studio – to be called Hanna-Barbera Australia.6

However, Hanna-Barbera’s plan to open a studio in Sydney was met with a great deal of resistance—on both sides of the world. In America, the animation unions were already angered by the fact that Hanna-Barbera had taken the Funky Phantoms series to API for production (instead of undertaking it at the LA studio where pre-­ production work had begun). They claimed that Hanna-Barbera had ‘breached its pact by failing to notify the union’ of its plan ‘to finish films in pre-production in Hollywood, in a foreign country (Australia).’ In protest, the union had ordered its Los Angeles animators to stop all work on the Funky Phantom series.7 The news that Hanna-Barbera was about to open a full production studio in Australia greatly compounded their frustration. In Australia, the imminent opening of a foreign studio was also worrisome to many. API and other local studios had been striving for a long time to set up a viable animation industry in Australia. By 1971, things were finally looking quite positive. Walt Hucker observed: ‘All the ingredients for a successful animation industry have been here for a long time but they have only just gelled.’8 But then this optimistic mood was all but dashed when it was announced that Hanna-Barbera was to set up shop in Sydney. From API’s point of view, they had welcomed Mr. Hanna into their studio, but they had also unwittingly let in a Trojan horse of competition. Subsequently, Walt Hucker attempted to block the arrival of the Hanna-Barbera studio. Eric Porter, who also saw the threat that HannaBarbera posed, joined in the calls for government intervention. Hucker and Porter held a meeting with a local Senator, who admitted that nothing could be done ‘under the present system’ but that ‘perhaps the Government could impose a very heavy tax on the American company.’9 Encouraged by this prospect, both Hucker and Porter then travelled to Canberra for a meeting with the Federal Minister for the Arts, Peter Howson. Although the Minister offered his sympathy, nothing concrete eventuated from this meeting. On the other hand, not everyone feared the arrival of Hanna-Barbera; certainly not most of the Australian animators. Bill Hanna had garnered



a very positive reputation among the local animation community while he was embedded at the API studio. And although many newspaper articles accurately expressed the fears of the local studio directors, these articles also inadvertently expressed the hopes of many local animators: Hanna-Barbera Productions Pty. Ltd. is a multi-million dollar company with large distribution outlets available to it. The company would be able to offer to Australian animators a substantial increase on their present salaries. It is possible that the large Hanna-Barbera company could acquire the total work force of Australian animators and this could mean the end of the Australian animation film industry.10

For the local studio management, the key point from this article was, the end of the Australian animation industry. However, to the local ­animator, the indisputable key points would have been interpreted to be: higher wages and jobs for everyone. Eventually, API managed, through the courts, to get a temporary injunction placed on the new Hanna-Barbera studio, which they hoped would lead to a further ‘12 to 18 months breathing space to ­enable them to consolidate their positions.’11 The actual court case lasted several weeks. In the meantime, both Bill Hanna and the Australian studio heads were frequently in both the local and international press. US Variety magazine reported: Bill Hanna, sitting in his new office in the inner Sydney suburb of St. Leonards, told Variety that on legal advice he was unable to discuss the structure of the subsidiary company or his future plans until the court case had been disposed of. He did say that in future, he expected to spend much of his time in Australia. However, he has already advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald for application from animators, layout artists, assistant animators, background artists, Xerox technicians, camera women and cartoon painters.12

Unfortunately for both Hucker and Porter, the judge ruled in favour of Mr. Hanna. It seems that, even though Bill Hanna had successfully lured away the best local animators, he had done so legally—most of API’s employees were employed on a casual basis and were therefore essentially free agents.13 Hanna-Barbera was found not to have broken any laws, but their move to Sydney unquestionably caused a significant disruption to the local animation industry which, although apparently booming in



1972, had been operating on fairly thin margins. With Hanna-Barbera’s large foreign capital reserves, it would be virtually impossible for a small company, bound solely to the local economy, to compete. Hanna-Barbera wasted no time in scooping up the cream of the animation industry talent. Bill Hanna also exploited many of the useful contacts that API had previously established. For example, in the first months of Hanna-Barbera Australia, he recruited Australian musician and composer John Sangster (who had composed the score for a number of feature-length animated specials for API) to compose the music for several of his shows. Sangster recalls his initial meeting with Bill Hanna: Over luncheon, the first day we met, Bill asked me whether musicians in Australia were eligible for residual royalties from film music they’d played on. It was his one and only query. I answered him that no they weren’t, but that a few of the studio musos were agitating their union to this end. ‘How long do you reckon before that happens?’ As truthfully as I could I explained to him the speed at which the Australian Professional Musicians Union works. He said, ‘OK, then we’ll go ahead.’ Later on over coffee I asked Bill, ‘What would you have done if I’d said yes?’ In reply he pulled out of his pocket a long list of countries, beginning with Guatemala. Seems the main reason he’d come out here was that the American studio musos, along with the American animators, had priced themselves out of the game, on the basis of residuals.14

Clearly, Hanna-Barbera’s move to Sydney, although encouraged by a ­significant pool of talented animators, was motivated primarily by a desire to significantly cut production costs. In an interesting twist, just three months after the conclusion of the court case, Eric Porter accepted a commission from Hanna-Barbera to produce an animated series based on the detective Charlie Chan called, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. The initial contract was worth a reported $400,000. The following year, Porter signed another deal with Hanna-Barbera to produce the first season of the superhero themed, Super Friends. Although it might seem surprising that Porter would have accepted these contracts (after attempting to block Hanna-Barbera’s arrival), his own studio was suffering greatly from the heavy losses resulting from the Marco Polo feature film: the arrangement with HannaBarbera would ensure the continuation of his animation studio for at least a couple more years. One magazine article viewed this in a positive light, noting: ‘When Hanna-Barbera Productions first set up in Australia



many people expressed the fear that the Australian animation industry would be pushed out. This fear now seems unfounded.’15 However, at this point in time, Hanna-Barbera Australia was still very much in its infancy, and considerable growth and expansion would soon take place.

Building the Studio Bill Hanna was very hands-on in his involvement in the setting up of the Australian studio. He recalls: Setting up our first major production facility there proved to be an entirely novel adventure. The core staff we recruited was a group of about sixty young people who were as congenial a gathering of folks you’d ever want to meet. They were a fun bunch of kids, and Vi and I had good times hosting a series of in-house picnics and get-togethers during the weeks we all spent working together to set up their studio. Despite their youth, all of these people were experienced in animation production – respective of their abilities, of course – and the initial organization of the studio was a fairly seamless operation. By [late 1972], we were up to speed and production was underway.16

In general, Hanna-Barbera did pay better than the Australian studios and also provided more modern and better working conditions. One animation director noted that before Hanna-Barbera moved into town, many of the local studios were comparable to sweatshops, ‘But that changed with Hanna-Barbera: air-conditioning was improved; we were given drawing classes; it became altogether more professional.’17 But, rather than earning a weekly salary as before, most animators at Hanna-Barbera were paid by the foot. So, those that worked hard (and learned to use plenty of short cuts) could earn a very substantial salary. Gairden Cooke reminisces: That was the heyday for earning capacity! Everybody will tell you that. We were earning so much money we hardly knew what to do with it! Blokes said, ‘I’m making more money than the Prime Minister!’18

But this ‘heyday’ was short-lived, admitted Cooke, ‘When you think back, it didn’t last that long.’ One complicating issue was that HannaBarbera Australia was geared primarily towards the seasonal demands of the American television market. In 1977, the estimate was that ‘For eight



months of the year Hanna-Barbera [Australia] employs one hundred and forty people to rush material through for the peak US production period; this drops to twenty workers between January and April.’19 For those first few years that Bill Hanna lived in Sydney, he was described as being very personable and fostering a very egalitarian working environment (which was said to be quite different to his Los Angeles studio). He continued, for example routinely to take his staff out to lunch (groups of 20 or more at a time), and he would happily drop in on employees who lived in shared flats and cook them up one of his famous chilli dinners. This comradery with the Australian animators extended even to the Los Angeles facility; if anyone from the Australian studio were to drop in, Bill Hanna would make time for them.20 On one occasion an animator from Australia, being in Los Angeles, decided to drop in (without an appointment) to the Hanna-Barbera studios. He went up to the receptionist and said, ‘G’day, I’m here to see Bill.’ The receptionist stiffened and replied, ‘You mean Mr. Hanna!’ ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s the bloke, Bill Hanna.’ The receptionist was in the process of turning him away, but just then Mr. Hanna happened to walk by; he immediately and warmly greeted the animator. Then, to everyone’s disbelief, took him out to lunch.21

Expansion The studio began by producing the animated series, Wait till Your Father Gets Home, and was soon making Scooby Doo and many other established Hanna-Barbera shows. In these early years, the work was, in the opinion of some, ‘really churned out’ regardless of quality.22 Zoran Janjic remembers how Bill Hanna was usually quite happy with their work; but in contrast, ‘Joe Barbera wasn’t so fond of us. I met him a couple of times. I went over there, and he said “Oh, yeah, yeah, you’re from Australia; you’re delivering us tripe!”—or something like that.’23 But as the studio matured its output attained a higher level of quality, and for nearly a decade they were producing a substantial portion of the company’s total animation output. At this time, all of the animation produced in the Sydney studio was contracted work from the main American studio. In an interview many years later, Zoran Janjic noted that one of the things that had convinced him to join Hanna-Barbera was the assurance that the studio would also be able to produce original Australian generated series and specials.



In the first several years many different ideas were pitched to the parent company, both by himself and by other directors; but in the end not one of these proposals ever saw the light of day. This was a big disappointment to Zoran and was one of the reasons why he left the studio in the mid-1970s to start up his own animation company, ZAP Animation.24 Around this same time (in 1974) the Australian publishing group, Paul Hamlyn, purchased a 51% share of Hanna-Barbera Australia. The deal was spearheaded by Paul Hamlyn executive, Neil Balnaves, who saw it as an excellent opportunity to capitalise on the Hanna-Barbera licensing potential. This acquisition, in a sense, ‘Australianised’ the studio. Soon, books and other items were produced locally, based on just about every Hanna-Barbera property. Balnaves pointed out, ‘it always felt good when you had books, or you had videotapes, or dolls, or games with a character base.’ However, he conceded that ‘it was never a big money spinner; we only owned the rights in Australasia and our local market was only twelve to fourteen million people.’25 As Hanna-Barbera Australia was now, at least in part, an ‘Australian’ company, the studio also moved into local television advertising production. In 1975, a Commercials Division was formed. Everything ­ was produced at the Sydney studio: ‘the original storyboards and voice recording, through the whole animation process, up to the video transfer.’26 As with other studios in Australia, this proved to be very lucrative. The Division was initially headed by Robbert Smit, along with Dianne Colman as the lead animator. They produced a wide variety of advertisem*nts, but most of the time the client would want to use a Hanna-Barbera character—such as Yogi Bear ice creams. ‘Major accounts handled included Westons (the biscuit people); Scotties (the tissues people); AGL, NRMA, Streets, Pauls, Arnotts and many others.’27

International Impediments By the late 1970s, Hanna-Barbera had also set up sizeable studios in Brazil, Spain, Taiwan and South Korea, creating a worldwide network of animation studios. This allowed for Hanna-Barbera to greatly expand its output of animation; but at the same time, it was noticeably decreasing its production schedule at its Los Angeles studio. This, understandably, upset the American animation union further. Things came to a head in



1979 with a large Hollywood strike involving ‘More than 800 members of the Motion Picture Cartoonists Guild walked out yesterday in ­protest at work being taken overseas.’28 However, the Australian press was not overly sympathetic to the American animators, describing their plight somewhat patronisingly Australian artists are being blamed for a strike in America. Hollywood artists claim the Australians are doing work which rightfully belongs to Americans. They’re demanding that cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone and the Pink Panther come to life on their drawing-boards.29

Bill Hanna describes the unrest, also from a rather understated perspective: From the viewpoint of management, it should be realized that none of us ever intended or believed that expanding our operations abroad would deprive our own people here in the U.S. of a livelihood. Business was flourishing at that time here, and there was more than enough work for everyone, not only at Hanna-Barbera but within the entire cartoon industry itself […] On the other side of the coin and for that matter the ocean, we had been receiving for years overtures from numerous foreign animation studios who were crying for work, as well as offering attractive costs. It seemed a fair and effective alternative.30

Of course, his concluding comment about ‘foreign animation studios who were crying for work’ was, in fact, a request to take on subcontracted work so that the struggling local studios could maintain continuity of employment for their staff. It was clearly not a cry for Hanna-Barbera (or any other foreign studio) to move in, take away their employees and ultimately become their competition. There were other challenges that Hanna-Barbera faced through being such a large company with studios worldwide. The Australian studio needed to produce a minimum of two episodes per week to be profitable. Thus, approximately every two days the Los Angeles studio would send over a packet of storyboards with audio tapes of the character dialogue, to which the animators would listen, working out the lip-synching of the characters. By this time, the work on a single series might be divided up among several studio locations. Bill Hanna used to have this nightmare where shows would go missing. If Sydney were making the key animation on certain shows, for which the



layouts were being done in Brazil, the storyboards being done in Spain; the show being conceived in L.A., you would have the show being fabricated in five or six countries.31

And, on occasion, things would get lost in transport, grinding the whole series to a halt. ‘You’d have bits of shows all round the world, which you could not complete!’32 Zoran Janjic remembers on several occasions ‘going on my motorbike with my editor on the back, holding two cases of film.’ Upon arriving at the airport, they would then have to convince the customs officer that they were doing ‘nothing illegal’ but that the reels absolutely had to go on the next plane.33 The cultural differences between America and Australia were relatively small, but subtle variances would become apparent from time to time. One such instance occurred in the production of a baseball themed Flintstones special. Not being familiar with predominately American sport of baseball, the Australians animated the characters running around the baseball diamond in a clockwise direction (rather than the correct counterclockwise path). It had seemed a logical thing to do since that was the direction that the horses would run around the local Australian racetracks. But to correct this error, many of the scenes had to be completely reanimated.34 Being a large studio staffed mostly by young people, a number of animator hijinks also took place. Margaret Parkes recalls one incident where, while working on the production of the Bernstein Bears series, a background artist mischievously painted some underwear on the floor of the bears’ bathroom. It was returned from America, with a stern note saying, ‘remove the bra!’35 Another more serious incident was described by Neil Balnaves regarding the production of the All-New Popeye Hour series (1978). It seems that a number of the animators surreptitiously inserted periodic nude drawings of the character, Olive Oyl, which were only noticeable when viewed at a very slow speed. Thus, the various ‘offending’ scenes were repeatedly aired on American television, the prank only discovered when someone at the television network viewed one of the episodes on a moviola. To their disbelief, they saw ‘running across the screen every eighth drawing, or so, a naked Olive Oyl.’ A furore ensued and ‘the network screamed!’ Balnaves, who was manager of the Australian studio, was then forced to review, virtually frame-by-frame, nearly seven hours of footage. Offending images were found in virtually every episode; finally it all had to be discarded!36



A Changing Landscape As mentioned earlier, Hanna-Barbera’s Australian studio went through several different ownership arrangements. When first opened in 1972, the Australian studio was set up as a subsidiary of the American studio (at that time owned by Taft Broadcasting, but managed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera). In late 1974, Paul Hamlyn Publishing purchased a 51% share of the Australian studio, which they sold in 1978 to James Hardie Industries (historically, Australia’s largest producer of asbestos products) who were keen to diversify their holdings. However, one of the most interesting developments occurred in 1984, when Hanna-Barbera Australia set up a small studio in Los Angeles that was independent of (and would prove to be in competition with) the American parent company. This new studio was given the very Australian name of Southern Star Productions (referencing the prominent star constellation which is most visible from Australia). As a further symbolic move, the studio was set up in the office space located on the floor directly above Olivia Newton-John’s boutique retail outlet, Koala Blue. This facility was primarily a development studio that would devise original projects, then to be produced at the Sydney studio. The finished products were wholly owned by the Australian Hanna-Barbera division and were sold directly to American television networks, circumventing the parent Hanna-Barbera Company. It was a curious arrangement, but it allowed for the Australian studio to maintain a healthier financial position and to provide relatively stable employment for its staff. This became increasingly important as the parent company over the next few years began to shift more of its work to the lower cost Asian studios. One of the first animated projects that Southern Star/Hanna-Barbera Australia produced was a series based on the Bernstein Bears (1985). The local press detailed the significance of this production: The Hanna-Barbera studio [in Sydney], produces principally for Saturday morning television in the US. Most of the work it does is sub-contracted, that is, work passed on from the parent company in the US. But recently Hanna-Barbera in Australia has taken a history-making step by developing its own cartoon series for the American market. It’s Bernstein Bears, based on books by Stan and Jan Bernstein, a husband-and-wife team who have been writing and drawing books about bears for 20 years. Thirteen half-hour episodes have been sold to the CBS network. The target audience is four-to-seven year olds and it will go to air in September.



The production costs of Bernstein Bears are astronomical. The Australian side will cost more than $100,000 to make each half-hour episode. Still, it is a coup for Salter. ‘This really is an extraordinary thing for us’ he says. ‘We own it, we developed it, we did all the original work. ‘I’m convinced that the long-term health of the studio down here depends on us actually owning a series. What’s good for us is to keep doing the sub-contracting but also to have our own ideas. We have gone out on a limb to the tune of $500,000 in setting up a development studio of our own in Los Angeles. We did that about nine months ago and it has taken a bit of careful nurturing but it’s paid off, and now we’ve got this series.’37

The next major show that the studio developed and produced independently was a two-season run of the animated series, Teen Wolf (1986–87), which was based on the live action Michael J. Fox movie of the same name (1985). Around this time (1985), Australia’s Wonderland theme park (partially funded by the Australian Hanna-Barbera studio’s half-owner, James Hardie Industries) was opened in Sydney. This large theme park prominently featured Hanna-Barbera Land, which was described as ‘a colourful cartoon village which features Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone and many other favourite cartoon characters.’38 It included such Hanna-Barbera themed rides as: Dino’s Derby, Fred Flintstone’s Splashdown, Magilla Gorilla’s Flotilla-Operation and The Beasties Rollercoaster. Unfortunately for the Australian studio, the American studio had discovered by now that there were much cheaper places in the world to produce animation. This led to an expansion into South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. Thus, Hanna-Barbera Australia began receiving less work from America and, as a result, the parent company began to contemplate divesting the Sydney studio altogether. Simultaneously, the Australian owner, James Hardie industries was being forced to pay compensations to the families of those who had died from asbestos poisoning; it too was seeking to shed its investment in Hanna-Barbera. Thus, in 1986, Neil Balnaves led a MBO (management buyout) and purchased both the American (Taft Broadcasting) and the Australian (James Hardie) portions of the company—which also included the Southern Star studio in Los Angeles, and all the merchandising and distribution rights of the Hanna-Barbera catalogue for Australasia.39 Soon after this transfer, however, there was a further shift in the sales and marketing of television animation in America. Almost overnight,



the networks significantly reduced the amount that they were willing to pay for an animated show. This forced the producers to recoup their investments through licensing and toy sales instead of network sales, which left the Hanna-Barbera Sydney studio and its approximately 120 employees in a very precarious position. Balnaves recalls, ‘So out of desperation I did a deal to sell the company to Disney, who came down and put up a reasonable offer for the business.’40 However, at the last minute Disney was prepared to offer only a fraction of the previously discussed amount. Knowing that he had little choice, Balnaves was forced to accept. I took the view that, whatever I can do to save my employees’ work and keep the creative, intellectual thing alive, we owe that to the industry, and I just couldn’t face closing it. Plus, there was a lot of desks, equipment, computers and cameras. I thought if I could sell the whole thing, lock, stock and barrel, as a going concern, to Disney, I’d save everyone’s jobs.41

So, in a sense, Hanna-Barbera Australia was transformed into Walt Disney Australia. The new Disney studio flourished and would soon become one of the most significant of the Disney animation studios (see Chapter 10). After transfering the studio to Disney, Balnaves and his business partners still retained ownership of the Los Angeles Southern Star studio and, most significantly, they still owned the Australian and Asian rights to the Hanna-Barbera catalogue (including licensing rights). Neil Balnaves then relocated the small Southern Star office from Los Angeles to Sydney, and the newly formed Southern Star studio successfully set about producing animation and live-action programming for more than two decades (see Chapter 10).

Conclusion Over the years, the Hanna-Barbera Australia studio created hundreds of hours of animation. They produced dozens of television series ranging from Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo to Wait Till Your Father Comes Home, many hundreds of animated advertisem*nts, a large number of animated title sequences, as well as numerous feature-length animated specials. During this time, they trained hundreds of Australian animators, many of whom then went on, either to work overseas or for other studios in



Australia (bringing their newly learned expertise with them)—some even set up their own studios. ‘They gradually became fingers that went out into the animation industry.’42 Although the studio officially closed in 1988, Hanna-Barbera continued for several years to have work produced in Australia on a freelance-contract basis with various small local studios. When Hanna-Barbera set up a studio in the Philippines, it was initially run by a contingent of Australian animators and directors. In 1989, Margaret Parkes relocated to the new studio in Manilla to work as a director. She recalls: The Hanna-Barbera Studio in the Philippines had nine hundred employees. You’d never seen anything like it in your life – it was just massive! We worked on a lot of productions, Johnny Quest, Adams Family, Yogi Bear, Flintstones Christmas and Easter specials, Paddington Bear.43

Parkes stayed at the Manilla studio for only a few years, but a number of other Australians remained for over a decade. Bill Hanna’s presence in Sydney is remembered fondly by nearly all who worked with him which, as the years progressed, reached an almost legendary status: He made such an impression down here because it was very rare that a person of that calibre and reputation had ever actually taken the art department, thirty inkers and painters, out to dinner. He would flood restaurants, take the whole paint department out, might be fifty or sixty people. He was lovely with these people. I think it broke everyone’s heart when he moved on and did exactly the same thing with the Taiwanese. They adopted him, and he fell in love with all of them too.44

Unquestionably, Hanna-Barbera provided work for hundreds of Australians in the animation industry—at an above average wage (relative to local wages), and in doing so he also provided a training ground for many who would have never had an opportunity to work in animation. In fact, Hanna-Barbera provided work for many thousands of animators across the world; but as the studios would shift to progressively lower cost markets, they also, in a sense, took away work from thousands of animators. In the Australian experience, as the studios relocated from Sydney to Taiwan and Manilla, the Australians found themselves in much the same situation that the American animators had faced a decade before—wishing that ‘Fred Flintstone would come to life on their drawing boards.’45




1.  Dianne Colman interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 May 2004. 2. Bill Hanna and Tom Ito, A Cast of Friends (New York: Da Capo Press, 2000), 198. 3.  ‘Cartoon Characters March into a Gold-plated Future,’ The Sunday Telegraph Sydney, 18 July 1971, 74. 4. Zoran Janjic interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 19 January 2005. 5. Margaret Parkes interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 April 2004. 6. Hanna, A Cast of Friends, 198. 7. ‘Australian Animation Industry Fears American Company,’ Film Weekly, 3 April 1972. 8. ‘Cartoon Characters,’ The Sunday Telegraph, 74. 9. ‘Australian Animation Industry Fears,’ Film Weekly. 10. Ibid. 11.  ‘Australian Animation Firms Fear Hanna-Barbera Will Crush Them,’ Variety, 9 May 1972, 44. 12. Ibid. 13. Janjic, 2005. 14. John Sangster, Seeing the Rafters: The Life and Times of an Australian Jazz Musician (Melbourne: Penguin, 1988), 181. 15. ‘Eric Porter Gains Hanna-Barbera Contract,’ Film Weekly, 4 September 1972. 16. Hanna, A Cast of Friends, 198. 17. Robbert Smit interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 12 January 2005. 18. Gairden Cooke interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 January 2005. 19. Humphrey McQueen, Australia’s Media Monopolies (Melbourne: Widescope, 1977), 155. 20. Neil Balnaves interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 21. Cooke, 2005. 22. Colman, 2004. 23. Janjic, 2005. 24. Craig Monahan, Animated, 1989. 25. Balnaves, 2007. 26. Colman, 2004. 27. Ibid.



28. ‘Cartoon Row No Laughing Matter,’ The Australian, 16 August 1979. 29. Ibid. 30. Hanna, A Cast of Friends, 201. 31. Balnaves, 2007. 32. Ibid. 33. Janjic, 2005. 34. Balnaves, 2007. 35. Parkes, 2004. 36. Balnaves, 2007. 37. Bronwyn Watson ‘Animation Moves a Winner—Sydney Animators Have Cracked the US Market with a Homegrown Product,’ The Advertiser, 9 August 1985. 38. Australia Wonderland promotional brochure (Sydney, 1985). 39. Balnaves, 2007. 40. Ibid. 41. Ibid. 42. Smit, 2005. 43. Parkes, 2004. 44. Balnaves, 2007. 45. ‘Cartoon Row No Laughing Matter,’ The Australian.

Bibliography ‘Animation Moves a Winner—Sydney Animators Have Cracked the Us Market with a Homegrown Product.’ The Advertiser, 9 August 1985. ‘Australian Animation Firms Fear Hanna-Barbera Will Crush Them.’ Variety, 9 May 1972. ‘Australian Animation Industry Fears American Company.’ Film Weekly, 3 April 1972. ‘Australia Wonderland (Promotional Brochure).’ Sydney, 1985. Balnaves, Neil. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (14 February 2007). ‘Cartoon Characters March into a Gold-Plated Future.’ The Sunday Telegraph, 18 July 1971. ‘Cartoon Row No Laughing Matter.’ The Australian, 16 August 1979. Colman, Dianne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (5 May 2004). Cooke, Gairden. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (24 January 2005). ‘Eric Porter Gains Hanna-Barbera Contract.’ Film Weekly, 4 September 1972. Hanna, Bill, and Tom Ito. A Cast of Friends. New York: Da Capo Press, 2000. Janjic, Zoran. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (19 January 2005). McQueen, Humphrey. Australia’s Media Monopolies. Melbourne: Widescope, 1977. Monahan, Craig. ‘Animated.’ 1989.



Parkes, Margaret. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (24 April 2004). Sangster, John. Seeing the Rafters: The Life and Times of an Australian Jazz Musician. Melbourne: Penguin, 1988. Smit, Robbert. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (12 January 2005).


An Industry Matures

In recent decades, there has occurred a significant growth in worldwide animation production. In parallel, Australia’s animation industry has also achieved a noticeable level of maturity. There have been a number of successful animation studios operating in both Sydney and Melbourne, as well as several smaller studios in other major cities. Television commercials and contract work from overseas studios continued to be a staple for many of these, but domestically produced television series and feature-length animated films also started to become more frequent.

Burbank Films Burbank Films was one of the more prolific animation studios in Australia throughout the 1980s, producing dozens of feature-length animated films. Similar in structure to Air Programs International (API), Burbank’s primary output was directed towards overseas markets. But due to Burbank’s exclusive distribution contract, local networks wishing to screen Burbank films were required to purchase them from the British distributor, Richard Price Television. Burbank was founded by Tom Stacey, who had been associated with the Australian film industry for many years. He had been General Manager of Supreme Films; also Executive Officer of the Australian Government’s, Film Development Corporation. In 1974 he joined API, serving as Director in charge of all new projects. He left API in 1976 to found his own company, the Film Funding and Management © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




Company, which provided ‘advisory services and financial guidance to film producers.’1 A few years later, in 1981, he created an offshoot animation production studio which he called Burbank Films, the name derived from the suburb in which the American Walt Disney Animation Studio was located—Burbank, California. The studio was able to tap into the new tax concessions rendering investments in local film productions fully tax deductible. Tim BrookeHunt, Burbank’s General Manager, stated ‘We are looking for something which would have adequate Australian appeal to justify the tax concessions, while being of interest to international buyers.’2 It acquired the premises of the former Supreme Studios in Paddington, Sydney, where Stacey had previously worked, and commenced animation production. Initially, it produced some animated television commercials and short animated documentary sequences. But within just a few months the studio secured a long-term distribution contract and began producing 72-minute animated television specials of classic Charles Dickens novels such as: Oliver Twist (1982), David Copperfield (1982), Great Expectations (1983) A Tale of Two Cities (1983), Pickwick Papers (1984), The old Curiosity Shop (1984) Nicholas Nickleby (1984) and A Christmas Carol (1984). One of the studio heads suggested, only partly in jest, that this contract might in part have been secured as a result of their vaguely Disneyesque name of ‘Burbank Animation.’ In 1984, they released four, hour-long adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories, which were also very successful, achieving a worldwide distribution. A further twenty-six 50-minute long films were produced between 1985 and 1989, including: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Tom Sawyer, The Three Muskateers, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Black Arrow, The Corsican Brothers and The Last of the Mohicans. As their production schedule increased, they began to outgrow their Paddington premises and set up a second studio in Dee Why, a suburb of northern Sydney. This served also as a training facility for new animation inbetweeners and cel painters. Even so, they relied on a large workforce of freelancers who would pick up assignments to work on from home, animating, inbetweening and, particularly, cel painting—the painters would be given ‘little jars of paint, to take home.’3 It was a remarkable undertaking and in a 1985 newspaper article, Barbara Hooks noted: ‘The notion of Australian-made animated film adaptations of nineteenth century English classic novels going over a



treat with Zambian and Icelandic television audiences, is so delightful that it sets the imagination reeling.’4 In all, the films were distributed to over 30 countries. As with API, Burbank employed only local voice talent, musicians, scriptwriters—although it would be very rare to hear an ‘Australian accent’ as they would normally employ what is referred to as ‘a mid-Atlantic accent, which is somewhere between the States and England.’5 Otherwise they would use ‘character voices’ based on the character (one with a German accent, or an American from the Deep South). In 1984, in a somewhat radical move, Burbank opened up a studio in Manila, Philippines. Initially, this studio caused concern to local Sydney animators fearing job losses. However, there continued to be so much work that, even although some of the sequences were shipped off to the Manilla studio, the workforce continued to grow in Sydney. It is claimed that Burbank was the first foreign-owned animation studio to do animation subcontracting in the Philippines. In fact, studio director Tom Stacey has asserted that his company essentially started the animation industry in Manila (including training a large number of people). This base of skilled animators was later utilised by Hanna-Barbera, Disney and many other American studios.6 The Manilla facility also became a production service for other studios around the world. Initially, they offered ink and paint services. Burbank Animation Incorporated’s service in Manila offers a fast and efficient animation, painting and tracing service. Clients forwarding animation drawings for photocopying, tracing or painting will be given a guaranteed return date by Burbank. The quality of all work is of world standard as used in all Burbank Films’ own productions. The entire Manila operation is under the control of experienced Australian creative technicians.7

Later the studio began offering a full range of professional services: storyboards, animation, animation layouts, animation inbetweening, animation backgrounds, photography, editing and sound mixing. Although the Manilla studio would produce portions of the Classic Films that originated from the Sydney studios, it grew to become primarily a service studio for the global animation industry. By 1986, they had secured a massive contract to produce animation for Marvel Productions and began a number of series for them. One of these was Defenders of the Earth (1986–1987) (a co-production between Marvel



and King Features) that starred such characters as Mandrake the Magician, The Flash and The Phantom; another series was My Little Pony (1986–1987). Because of the large number of such contracts coming in (primarily from Marvel), the Manilla studio expanded to some 500 employees. But the following years would prove to be tumultuous ones for Burbank. In 1988, Marvel was bought out by a larger American firm, New World Pictures. New World, hoping to create its own animation production division, then approached Burbank Films seeking to purchase its Manila studio; but Burbank declined to sell. As a result, New World/Marvel cancelled all of their production contracts with Burbank, leaving the studio in a very difficult predicament, faced suddenly with the operating costs of a massive studio in Manilla and two large studios in Sydney—but with very little incoming revenues. Although they still had some contracts remaining to produce their animated classics films, the rising Australian dollar was also beginning adversely to affect these production costs. Furthermore, in 1988, Hanna-Barbera set up its own studio in Manilla and began transferring more of its Australian and American work to Asia. Burbank then found itself also competing with Hanna-Barbera for foreign subcontracts, not only in Australia, but also in Manilla. Given its financial struggles, Burbank was very pleased when Walt Disney approached the Sydney studio, requesting it to produce an episode of its successful Duck Tales television series. Welcoming the contract (and probably hoping it would lead to further contracts), the studio was very amiable to the Disney representatives. But although it appeared initially that Disney was testing the waters for a long-term contract with Burbank, in fact they were also testing the waters of the wider Australian animation industry, with the ultimate intention of setting up their own studio in Sydney. In retrospect, it would appear to have been a similar tactic that Hanna-Barbera had previously used with API. Burbank then tried to sell the Manilla studio, but could not find a buyer. Financially stretched, they were forced to close it down, and then, in 1989, were forced to liquidate the entire Australian company. But Burbank, it would seem, still had some life in it—even if in name only. David Field, a veteran of the Australian film industry, was employed by the liquidators to supervise the sale of Burbank Films’ assets. Soon after doing so, he was approached by the new owners of Burbank’s animation catalogue, wanting to know how they could acquire additional



animated films. Recognising a promising opportunity, Field decided to purchase the name of ‘Burbank’ from the liquidator and to resurrect the animation studio. The company, now called Burbank Animation Studio, officially commenced in 1991. This particular incarnation of Burbank employed a very different business model and production process to the previous company. Rather than actually setting up a studio, Field decided to organise it as a ‘cottage industry.’ He hired Roz Phillips (producer from the earlier Burbank) and Rod Lee (production manager from the earlier Burbank) to contract a small team of five or six people to devise the stories, design the characters and handle all the other phases of pre-production; they then employed freelancers (most of whom had worked for the previous Burbank studio) for the production work. In this way, they would have a very low overhead and very small capital outlay.8 Rod Lee, the production manager of both the old and new Burbank studios, recalled how, although the new studio was more efficient, it was a totally different environment. You can’t compare the atmosphere around the original studio – with a hundred and twenty people – to that of four or five people sitting in an office waiting for piece-work to come in, waiting for the cottage industry to bring it into you. Of course, it was always exciting when you finished a film, or it was well received, or whatever. But the true excitement in it was actually working with the people.9

After working this way for a year or so, David Field decided to further shift the studio’s approach; rather than overseeing a collection of freelancers, they contracted with the newly formed Sydney studio, Unlimited Energee (later known as Energee Entertainment), to produce their animated films. Energee had recently set up the first all-digital ink and paint facility in Australia; they would employ the animators, scan in the drawings and digitally paint them utilising their own proprietary software. This collaboration lasted for two years before, to further reduce costs, the studio began to subcontract to an animation service studio in China. The pre-production remained in Australia, as did the post-production processes of editing, music and sound design. In total, the new Burbank Animation Studio made thirty-three 50-minute long animated features, many of them made from pre-sales for overseas clients. Burbank would often provide a list of films that they



were prepared to make, allowing the client to select a film from the list, and also made a number of what were referred to as ‘mirror films’ for an American company called Anchor Bay, which was based in Detroit, in other words, we did Moulan, we did a Pocahontas, we did a Hercules – which, in essence, were spin-offs from the Disney films. And as they were all in the public domain, there was no problem in us doing a Pocahontas and also Disney doing a Pocahontas; an Anastasia done by Fox, and then we did an Anastasia. And they were just mirror films, only ours were fifty minutes, and theirs, of course, was sometimes seventy-five. They were produced basically at the same time - when out came Anastasia, our Anastasia was out on video.10

Additional ‘mirror films’ produced by Burbank included: The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Beauty and the Beast, Mu Lan and Tarzan. Other 50-minute long animated films included: New Adventures of William Tell, Three Little Pigs, White Fang, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Goldilocks & the Three Bears, Sinbad and The Prisoner of Zenda. This second iteration of Burbank Animation Studio operated officially from 1991 to 2004, at which point the company ceased to make any further productions, although it remained active a few more years, engaged primarily in re-editing and repackaging their back catalogue of animated films.

Energee Entertainment Energee Entertainment (originally called Unlimited Energee) was founded by the Travers siblings—John, Gerry and Carmel—in Sydney in 1989. This new animation studio also became Australia’s first all-digital ink and paint facility. Developing new technology also became an integral part of the company’s business plan and, in association with other research institutions, they developed proprietary digital ink and paint software: the Computer Enhanced Classical Animation Production System (CECAPS), and later ‘ePaint.’ One of its first major projects was to subcontract to produce approximately ten (50-minute) animated features for Burbank Animation Studio. These included Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1991), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1992), The New Adventures of Robin Hood (1992) and Puss in Boots (1993).



Although it went on to produce several original projects for television, its first major success was the animated series Crocadoo (1996–1998) which aired on Australian television and sold to a number of markets overseas. It was a 2D animated series utilising 3D-produced digital backgrounds. It had a strong environmental message in which the main characters (two crocodiles named Jazz and Brian) are forced to do battle with ‘Rufus B. Hardacre, the ruthless property developer who is only interested in getting the crocs out of Crocadoo so that he can build a new tourist resort.’11 The studio also produced the moderately successful Digswell Dog Show (1998) for the Australian Channel Ten Network. By the mid-1990s, Energee Entertainment was actively seeking to produce a quality animated feature film for cinema release. They had been attempting to secure the rights to the iconic Australian children’s story, The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay (1879–1969). The famous author/artist had written the book in 1917 as part of a bet with his publisher, arguing that children would be more interested in reading a book about food than one about fairies. The resulting book was delightfully illustrated with an assortment of original characters, most of them Australian animals, as well as one magic pudding—an anthropomorphic sweet dessert that, no matter how much of it was eaten, would always regenerate itself. The estate of the Norman Lindsay was quite protective of the property having turned down many other studios over the years, both local and international (including even Walt Disney). However, after several years of persistence, Energee did finally secure the rights—promising the Lindsay estate that it would not alter the original character designs. Helen Gland, Norman Lindsay’s granddaughter, insisted ‘It had to be an Australian company. We didn’t want it ending up looking like Winnie the Pooh. We had to keep the essential Australianness and I think we were right to wait.’12 As the studio commenced pre-production, it became apparent that it was going to be difficult to develop this rather quirky and nonsensical book into a feature film. Since the book was a very iconic part of most Australians’ childhood, it would become a difficult challenge to somehow ‘retain its archaic bush idiom while making the story comprehensible to an international audience.’13 The script went through countless rewrites—which continued even into the early stages of production.



In the final film, the character designs did remain very close to the original Norman Lindsay forms. However, Lindsay’s characteristic sketchy line work had to be abandoned and replaced with crisp, closed line work (see Fig. 10.1) in order to allow for the studio’s proprietary, semi-automated, digital painting process. Although the story was strongly criticised for its conservative approach, the character of the Magic Pudding does maintain his original irreverent and cantankerous nature, as is also visible in Fig. 10.1. The backgrounds used throughout the film were also faithful representations of the Australian bush (the flora, fauna and quality of light) which were intended to replicate those found around the area that the artist Norman Lindsay originally lived and worked (Fig. 10.1). The Magic Pudding had both a film director (Karl Zwicky) and an animation director (Robbert Smit). It featured some very established Australian voice talent: Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Jack

Fig. 10.1  Frame grab from The Magic Pudding (2000)



Thompson, Toni Collette as well as the British actor, John Cleese (as the Pudding). All of the pre-production work was handled in Australia: storyboarding, scripting, character design, layout, timing, key animation scenes and character expressions; yet the majority of the animation was handled overseas in the Philippines, the completed drawings sent back to Australia where they were scanned in and digitally coloured. Digital animation effects and compositing were also completed in Sydney. The Magic Pudding had an estimated budget of $12 million (Australian dollars) making it one of the most expensive Australian animated films of the time (although still a fraction of the budget of a Disney feature of that era). The film’s animation supervisor, Margaret Parkes, recalls that ‘for the money we did have, I was very proud of it.’14 However, when the Magic Pudding was released in December 2000, it faced very stiff competition at the box office. The studio had dedicated only a very modest budget to the film’s marketing and promotion: it did very poorly. The film was critiqued mostly for its adaptation of the classic book, and because it had resorted to a very clichéd narrative structure. Ultimately, it transformed a very edgy and unconventional book into a rather traditional tale of a young koala searching for his lost parents. One reviewer noted: Despite an impressive line-up of talent, The Magic Pudding is somehow less than the sum of its parts. And it sorely lacks the dry, the laconic and essentially Australian humour of the original story.15

Some years later, animation director Robbert Smit summarised: In my view, The Magic Pudding had very high technical qualities and it was on par to a lot of the mainstream feature films in terms of music score, in dialogue, in characters, in animation, and in its look. But it lacked the story content, and that’s where it petered out.16

Soon after completing The Magic Pudding feature, but just prior to its cinema release, the German-owned, RTV Family Entertainment AG acquired 68% of the studio. In the wake of this partial takeover, Energee Entertainment attempted to balance between working on



productions supplied by the German company and content that originated in Australia. Two of the shows that originated from RTV were the well-known German series of The Peppercorns and Fix and Foxi. Although previous episodes of these series had been made in Europe (and originated as German-language productions), the episodes produced by Energee were produced in English. All of the pre-production work was completed in Australia, including the script, the dialogue recordings of Australian actors, storyboards, layouts and backgrounds. The episodes were then animated in China, being returned to Australia for digital colouring and compositing. After final editing, the finished episodes would be sent to Germany, where they would be dubbed into German and other European languages for sale to the European television market. At this time, 1999–2000, there were also two successful Australianoriginated series in production: 26 half-hours of the series, Gloria’s House (created by Jo Bogue), were made; also Wicked!, based on the popular books by Paul Jennings. Gloria’s House, set in inner Sydney, Paddington with its terraced houses, had a very atmospheric feel to it; ‘If you were Australian, you knew it was Australian,’ recalls one of the series timing artists, Cam Ford.17 Both of these shows had strong success both domestically and overseas. Several other series were simultaneously in development, including a spin-off series of The Magic Pudding feature, called Albert’s. In 2002, RTV acquired the remaining shares in the company. But by this time, Energee was facing a difficult financial situation (still suffering from the poor results of The Magic Pudding); furthermore, the parent company, RTV, also began suffering as a result of the poor performance of some of its other investments. Energee Entertainment Australia finally closed its doors in late 2002.

Southern Star With the closure of Hanna-Barbera in the late 1980s, Southern Star (which had been operating as a separate entity within Hanna-Barbera Australia) became an independent production company. The company began to produce both live-action and animated television series. One of the more successful of its early animated shows from 1990 was Peter Pan and the Pirates, loosely based on the original J. M. Barrie story and sold to Fox Television. As a marketing strategy, the studio made a point of



noting that each half-hour episode comprised more than 18,000 drawings—elevating it above much of the standard ‘Saturday morning’ fare. Two other successful shows from the 1990s included: The Adventures of Sam (13 × 30 mins, 1996–1997) and The Toothbrush Family (39 × 5 mins 1996–1997). The Adventures of Sam, set in the nineteenth century, recounted the adventures of a 14-year-old orphan boy who had escaped from the penal colony of old Sydney. He joins the crew of a merchant sailing ship and, along with his Magpie sidekick, ‘Swoop,’ he has many an adventure. The Toothbrush Family was a reboot of the original 1974 Toothbrush Family series created by Marcia Hatfield (who also created Eddie’s Alphabet for Sydney-based Ajax Films in 1967). In 1997, Southern Star acquired a small production studio, Mr. Big (which had been set up by Dean Taylor in 1989, who had previously been in charge of the layout department at Hanna-Barbera Australia). Mr. Big had, in a sense, benefitted and came into existence because of the closure of Hanna-Barbera in that they were able to pick up a large amount of subcontracted work from the American Hanna-Barbera studio. Primarily they provided a layout service, feeding the Hanna-Barbera animation studios in South Korea and the Philippines. In the early 2000s, Southern Star produced the popular series: Tracy McBean (2001–2006), The Kangaroo Creek Gang (26 × 12 mins, 2001– 2002) and The Adventures of Bottle Top Bill (26 × 15 mins, 2003–2004). The common production model became for the pre-production to be handled in Australia, with the bulk of the animation being produced overseas. However, animation ultimately became a very small portion of the studio’s output; it’s focusing instead on live-action drama (Blue Heelers) and reality television programming (Big Brother Australia), which proved to be far more lucrative than animation. After numerous takeovers and mergers between 2005 and 2010, Southern Star was rebranded Endemol Australia.

Cinemagic Veteran Australian animator Cam Ford, who was one of the two animation directors of Marco Polo Junior, set up his own animation studio, Cinemagic Animated Films, in 1976 (just after Eric Porter’s studio ceased to produce animation). It was, by choice, a small studio, chiefly operated by Cam and his wife, Diana Ford—who had met at Artransa in 1963, and had later worked on such productions as the British animated feature film, The Yellow Submarine (1968). Over a span of almost thirty



years (until 2002), the studio produced more than 500 television commercials, documentaries, movie titles and subcontracted television work, producing films for a wide range of overseas clients, including: America, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Indonesia, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, and New Zealand. Cam and Diana recalled: We shot all our own films with an enormous Australian-made 35 mm camera stand that weighed about two tons, which we also hired out to other people. We shot virtually the entire Footrot Flats animated feature film on our camera in our home studio. Jenny Ochse, our camera operator, would shoot commercials for us, as well as films for other people on our camera. We shot a film for Steven Spielberg; he had a television series called Amazing Stories which was mostly live action; but there was one episode, which was animated in America, called Family Dog. It was sent out here to be inked and painted and we won the contract to shoot it. Most of the footage for Raymond Lea’s ambitious, but as-yet-unreleased, animated feature, The Magic Book, was also shot on our camera.

Cinemagic also subcontracted work from many local Australian studios, including such clients as Hanna-Barbera, Energee Entertainment, Burbank, Brilliant Digital Ideas and Yoram Gross, to handle animation, storyboards, directing and timing on a number of productions.

Jollification Jollification was the name of the studio founded by legendary animator, Anne Jolliffe, noted as being the first female animator in Australia. She began animating in the early 1950s when employed at the CSIRO film unit to produce educational animated films such as Mitosis: How Cells Divide and Multiply (c.1953) and was later hired by Fanfare Films in Melbourne; Jolliffe went on to become a key animator on the feature, Grendel Grendel Grendel as well as working on a number of international productions (see Chapter 5 and Chapter 8). Jolliffe formed her studio, Jollification, in 1980. As with most Australian animation studios, Jollification began by producing television commercials. However, she never really enjoyed making television adverts and noted in one interview: I prefer not to make commercials because they take your life’s blood. The theory among my friends is that you make commercials to finance your own films, but I’m afraid that doesn’t work. Once you start down that



path you get used to the lifestyle and the money and have to continue. You need a big and expensive front office and staff and a lot of oomph to go out and get that sort of work and deal with people who are on a different plane from yourself. I’m very bad at that especially if I disagree (as I usually do) with the end product.18

Much of the studio’s focus was on the production of series and short films, her studio being best known for the Bunyip series (1986–1987), starring a female version of the legendary monster. ‘No-one had ever thought of a female bunyip before’ and even though she was a monster, she ‘was kind and good and helped other Australian animals along.’19 Jolliffe had originally published the Bunyip story as an ongoing comic strip in the Melbourne-based newspaper, The Argus. She designed the series and drew some of the animation; but it was primarily animated by Mark Trounce. The series was drawn on paper with felt pens (coloured Pentone pens). ‘By drawing and colouring with felt pens on paper, instead of celluloid, and putting foregrounds above the animation to give the scene depth, we cut production costs dramatically. It looks very fresh and cheerful.’20 The 20-episode series was first sold to the BBC and was only after international success picked up by the Australian ABC network. The studio also produced an animated television special, a 30-minute film called The Maitland & Morpeth String Quartet, which was broadcast on both the UK Channel 4 and the ABC. Her studio went on to produce the opening title sequence for the ABC series Lift Off, producing a number of short animated films for the series. In addition, Jolliffe worked with the Aboriginal Nations animation studio assisting between 1993 and 1996 in the production of ten different five-minute films for The Dreaming series.

Paul Williams and Fable Films Paul Williams was born in Queensland then moved to Melbourne as a child. He began experimenting with animation in the 1970s and created the ten-minute short film, That’s Progress (1976), which featured a character named Mr. I.M. Progress, a W.C. Fields type character (replete with bulbous red nose, cigar and distinctive vocal delivery). This character was revisited for the feature-length animated film, The Island of Nevawuz (1978). However, in this film the wealthy businessman character’s name was changed to J.B. Trumphorn who takes over an island,



destroying the pristine environment in the process so as to set up his multitude of business empires including: Trump Metal, Trump Oil and Trump Burgers. Around this time Williams set up the studio, Fable Film Productions located in Melbourne and produced three more feature films: The Black Planet (Paul Williams 1982), The Phantom Treehouse (Paul Williams 1984) and The Steam Driven Adventures of River Boat Bill (Paul Williams 1986). This last was based on the popular Australian children’s novel of the same name, written by Cliff Green and first published in 1979. The films were made with extremely modest budgets, but featured surprisingly strong design and animation; they were screened on television, with the exception of The Black Planet, which also had a brief cinema run. Some of the key animators that worked for the studio included, Paul Williams, Steven French, Maggie Geddes, Ross Gathercole and Gus McLaren. Paul Williams later created several animated segments for the television series Kaboodle and then worked on the Silver Brumby animated television series as a co-animation director and later as a writer on the New Adventures of Ocean Girl animated series.

Media World Media World began as a live-action studio in 1982 with offices in Melbourne and Perth. It produced the very successful live-action feature film, The Silver Brumby (1992), based on the Australian book series by Elyne Mitchell. Following the success of the feature, in 1994 Media World formed an animation division called Animation Works, which went on to produce an animated series based on the live-action feature. The 39 half-hour animated series, The Silver Brumby, was successful both on local television and on international markets. Based on its successful live-action series, Ocean Girl, the studio then developed an animated series, The New Adventures of Ocean Girl (2000–2001). It then ventured into more adult territory with the series, Dogstar (2006) which was set in intergalactic space. The studio also entered into an official co-production with Canada’s Nelvana studio to produce the adult animation series of John Callahan’s QUADS! (2001–2002).



Viskatoons In the mid-1980s, Peter Viska founded an animation studio in Melbourne. Viska had come from a cartoonist and illustration background and, wishing to move into the animation industry, had enrolled in an animation course at Swinburne University. Soon after completing this, he opened his own animation studio. With a tongue in cheek nod to Disney, he named the studio, Mickey Duck Animation—but after a few years renamed the studio with the slightly more serious moniker of Viskatoons. The studio, in addition to television advertisem*nts, began producing animation for television—such as: The Greatest Tune on Earth, The Hedge & Mr Snip, Lift Off and Kaboodle. Viskatoons first big success came in the form of an animated series called Lil Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers (1997–1998). Viska originally conceived the idea for the series as one that would take place in America and star a young Elvis Presley; but securing the rights from the Presley estate would prove difficult. Additionally, in order to attract government funding, it became clear that it would need to reflect a more Australian theme. The ACTF was looking for a distinctly Australian series at the time and so Elvis became Li’l Elvis with red hair and he was found in a guitar case in a roadhouse in the middle of Australia. His mum is a dyed-in-thewool Elvis fanatic and his dad is an Elvis impersonator. One of his friends plays the didgeridoo – so they play ‘didgabilly’ music together instead of rockabilly.21

The series was directed by Robbert Smit (with assistant direction by Andi Spark). It was supported by the ACTF and was also a co-production with France and Germany (Ravensburger, who would later acquire Energee Entertainment). More recently, the studio has produced such series as the 52 × 11 minutes series Jar Dwellers SOS (2012–2013) for Network Ten and ABC3; and other series such as the sketch comedy, Suspect Moustache (2016).

Aboriginal Nations Commencing in 1992, Aboriginal Nations (originally called Laughing Zebra) was a studio that produced indigenous Australian stories in animated form and was operated primarily by indigenous staff. By the



late 1990s, the studio was becoming one of the most highly regarded indigenous animation studios, not only in Australia, but in the world. Representatives from other countries, as well as UNICEF, began to look to Aboriginal Nations as a successful model to emulate. Aboriginal Nations was not the first studio in Australia to produce indigenous stories and visual themes. In 1956, Harry Reid (a strongly political artist/film-maker, who would later move to Cuba to train animators there) produced the animated short film, Land of Australia: Aboriginal Art. Later, Yoram Gross incorporated sequences that were strongly inspired by indigenous art and stories in his animated feature, Dot and the Kangaroo (1977). Significantly, API was commissioned in 1978 by the Aboriginal Arts Board to produce a series which would ‘give Aborigines and Europeans a better understanding of the Aboriginal Dreamtime culture.’ The most significant of these was Dreamtime, This Time, Dreamtime: The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia (1978) which was primarily comprised of 2500 paintings by indigenous children. What set the productions of Aboriginal Nations apart was it’s being signified as an indigenous studio with a very strong charter: with the objective to employ and train Aboriginal artists as animators to produce a series of Dreaming stories selected from different Aboriginal communities across Australia. The stories were sourced from many communities, and permission to tell them and animate them obtained from community Elders & community Councils. During this process, Aboriginal Nations developed a cultural protocol to ensure that the copyright for each story was identified and retained by the communities providing the stories.22

In all, 78 Animated Films were made (most with an accompanying live-action documentary in which the animated films would be introduced and contextualised). These included: Min-Na-Wee, which tells the story of how the crocodile came to be, and Kondili (The Whale), which tells how the Ramindjeri people first plotted to acquire fire from the whale-man, Kondili.23 A number of animators from the Sydney animation industry, such as veteran animator, Gairden Cooke, provided training in drawing and animation. In the initial years of the studio, the occasional sequence would be subcontracted to other (non-indigenous) studios; but during the first five years, nearly 60 indigenous animators were educated in the craft.24



PAW Media Another important collective of indigenous animators and film-­makers can be found at Pintupi Anmatjere Warlpiri (PAW) Media and Communications, which is headquartered in the remote town of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory of Australia. PAW Media began producing the occasional animated film in the late 1980s, but in more recent years, it has begun to produce a steady stream of animated works by a number of different animators and incorporating a number of different styles and techniques. Two of the most notable recent productions include the stop-motion animated short, Jack and Jones (Jason Japalijarri Woods 2012) and the stop-motion series, Bush Mechanics Animated (Jason Japalijarri Woods and Jonathan Daw 2014) which is an animated version of PAW Media’s earlier live-action television series, Bush Mechanics (David Batty 2001).25 The animated series takes a humorous look at some of the innovative ways that one might attempt to repair a broken-down car if stranded in the remote outback with little or no resources.

Ray Lea Animation Raymond Leach commenced working in the early 1950s (at the age of 16) for Eric Porter. In 1957, he joined Rowl Greenhalgh’s studio, then in 1960 set up his own studio, Ray Leach Animation (later changed to Ray Lea Animation). John Hill and Ron Campbell, along with Ray Lea, were the key animators; Cecily Lea became the studio’s primary producer/director. As with most studios, it began by producing animated television advertisem*nts, but soon also began subcontracting work for overseas studios. One of its first commissions was The Lone Ranger television series, produced by Herb Klynn and Jules Engel for Format Films in Los Angeles. The studio also worked on the sub-subcontracted series of Cool McCool and The Beatles and produced animated segments for documentaries and other television productions. During the down times between commissioned projects, the studio would devote its resources to working on The Magic Book, a feature film originated by Ray Lea. The feature, in a similar vein to Disney’s ‘package films,’ comprised five shorter films, Mayor Bon Bon’s Band, Puss in Boots, Aladdin, Ulrich the Great, and Rowl and the Up Top Mole. Each of these showcased a distinctly different animation style and visual design.



Unfortunately, the film was never quite completed. The studio was sold in 1983, becoming Dragonslayer Animation, which continued to produce animated television commercials for a number of years out of the same studio facilities.

Film Graphics David Deneen commenced in animation in 1961 working for Ray Lea Animation, and a few years later formed his own studio, Film Graphics. Deneen proved to be a very original designer who sought to achieve decidedly innovative designs in his commercial work. Most notably, Film Graphics produced Bruce Petty’s Academy Award winning animated short, Leisure (Petty 1976). Petty devised and directed the fourteen-minute film, principally animated by John Burge, David Deneen and Peter Luschwitz. It was Suzanne Baker, the producer, who accepted the award at the Academy Ceremonies in Los Angeles. (see following chapter for more on Bruce Petty). Having won the award, the studio was bombarded with commercial work and for the next few years produced 50–60 animated commercials annually.26 In addition to striving for innovative designs, Film Graphics also sought to produce innovative uses of technology and, in the early 1980s, formed an offshoot company, Motion Graphics, which primarily utilised computer graphics to produce animated logos for television networks and programmes.

XY Zap Productions After leaving Hanna-Barbera, Zoran Janjic (who had been animation director of the Australian studio) set up his own production company, XY Zap Productions. Zanic describes its origins: I had registered ZAP as a company sometime in the seventies, but then I agreed to work with Hanna Barbera, so I just let it rest until they sold out to the Hamlyn Group. Then I re-established ZAP, built it up, and have run it for thirty-three years. I had plenty of friends in the advertising industry, writers and art directors that I had worked with, so once I opened my own studio they brought me work.

Although primarily producing animated television commercials, one of the studio’s earlier productions was a 15-minute traditionally animated



film, Tale of One City, made for The Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and underwritten by Film Australia. The film was directed by Zoran Janjic, animated by John Burge, Greg Ingram and Gerald Wylie. The film creatively illustrates the history of urban planning and development. The studio was also one of the first in Australia to embrace computer animation. ZAP’s first computer, ‘Digital Harry,’ was one of the first three computers in Australia. A second, a ‘Lexi,’ comprised ‘a whole roomful, with special air-conditioning under the floor, and huge units that had to be temperature controlled. It had enormous memory storage and it was fast,’ recalled Janjic.27 ZAP developed computer graphics very early in Australia, the only studio able to handle ‘high end’ computer graphics at the time. ‘We had some geniuses working with us. We even did architectural computer graphics for other people,’ further recalled Janjic.28 In May 1984, The Australian newspaper reported that ZAP ‘could now boast equipment as advanced as, and even more advanced than anything in the Hollywood studios, producing very competitive imagery.’29 Among ZAP’s commissions were the design of a number of logos, including that for the Channel Seven news opening, an ABC News opener and a ‘flying around the world’ Channel Nine logo.

Walt Disney Animation Australia Walt Disney Studios opened in Australia in 1989 and remained open for nearly two decades before closing in 2006. It was Disney’s longest running overseas animation studio. Although a long time in the planning, Disney’s move into Australia came about through the acquisition of the Australian Hanna-Barbera studio (see earlier chapter), and some seventy-five of the Hanna-Barbera employees transitioned across to the new Disney studio. However, the Disney approach to animation was very different from that of Hanna-Barbera and required a substantial degree of new training and revitalised thinking. Initially, the studio was set up to produce television series, but it began producing direct to video feature-length sequels to classic Disney films, producing several theatrical releases in its final years. Disney implemented a number of changes when it took over the old Hanna-Barbera studios. One of these, disappointing a number of the old Hanna-Barbera staff, was to throw out every remnant of Hanna-Barbera productions. This included all of the old production materials: artwork,



drawings, model sheets, cels—as well as a vast library of reference materials. ‘They had a big skip out the back’ recalls Margaret Parkes, ‘and they were just heaving stuff out the windows: the entire history of HannaBarbera. To my mind it was unforgivable.’30 Then a number of training specialists from Disney were sent out to train the ex-Hanna animators. Of course, the ethos between the two studios was completely different—they would tell the animators things like ‘imagine the branches on the tree which are around the other side that you can’t see’—which, at least at the time, seemed rather inconsequential to many of the ex-Hanna-Barbera animators.31 The expectations were also significantly higher: ‘You had to work your guts out for your thirty seconds a week.’32 But in the end, the animators became more confident and more proud of the increasing quality of their work. The timing of Disney’s was totally different to that of Hanna-Barbera, where everything was soft: Disney’s wanted sharp, hard, and a lot more finesse. […] We were used to doing high turnover, a hundred foot a week [at HB]. In America, they were doing about ten foot a week, and it was immaculate. They showed us this, and told us this is what they wanted us to do. We all sat there with our mouths open not knowing how to begin; we had to start from scratch and change a lot of our approaches to how we animated.33

Gairden Cooke, who had had a long history of animating at various studios in Sydney, soon became the studio’s first full-time animation director. He recalls that, at the time, television animation was a new concept for Disney, thus the main studio was still trying to figure out what they wanted and how to approach things. Initially, ‘there was a bit of back and forth, where they had to tell us what they wanted, naturally – they were paying the bills. But soon a partnership grew up.’34 And as the studio matured, they were given more feature film work and more sophisticated projects. The Disney Australia Studio became the most successful and most highly acclaimed of all of the overseas Disney studios; but this was not entirely due to Disney’s imposed regime. ‘The key to that success is Hanna-Barbera’ suggested Parkes. ‘Hanna-Barbera has the tightest system, very regulated, very organised. They knew how to put through production efficiently’ and it was this efficiency that permeated the new studio and certainly helped, early on, to make it a success.35 Compared



to the other studios, the ‘Sydney always delivered on schedule, and they’d produce really nice work.’36 The studio’s first project was Winnie the Pooh and the Wishing Star (1989). This was followed by a number of other television shows, including: Gummie Bears, Duck Tales, Bonkers, One Hundred and One Dalmations and Aladdin. Soon the studio was also producing a number of feature-length animated films—many of these direct-to-video sequels of classic features; but some were actually released as theatrical features, such as the very successful Peter Pan: Return to Neverland (2002). A partial listing of feature-length productions that were made substantially at the Sydney studio included: DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990), Aladdin: Return of Jafar (1994), Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998), The Little Mermaid 2, Return to the Sea (2000), An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000), Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001), Peter Pan: Return to Neverland (2002), The Jungle Book 2 (2003), Lion King 1 1⁄2 (2004), Tarzan II (2005), Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005), Brother Bear 2 (2006) and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007). At its peak, there were well over 200 people employed at the Sydney studio. As the studio matured, so did the quality, and so did the rigour that would be applied to new applicants. ‘They would put an advertisem*nt in the newspaper; and they would get two or three thousand applicants, and choose three! So, the standard of draughtsmanship was astounding.’37 Despite following the Disney production method, the Sydney studio began to develop a number of quite distinctive approaches. For example, they began to use a great deal more live-action references, as with Peter Pan: Return to Neverland, in which they first shot every scene in live action with professional actors, after which the animators were instructed to emulate the actors’ performances exactly—sometimes down to each minute change in facial expression. Although this practice was becoming more common at the other Disney studios, it seemed to be particularly prevalent in Sydney. Some felt that this was becoming too ridged a working method, and that the animators were becoming ‘technicians’ rather than artists. If the actors wore a certain expression, you would have to capture that expression. This took away a lot of the creativity of being an animator, of



having that freedom of the art to express yourself that you had in the early days of Hanna-Barbera, where they’d hand you the sheets and you’d go away and use your own imagination.38

Regardless of this perception, the studio continued to produce some of the highest quality and most creative animation of that era. Upon its close in 2006, Sydney was the last Disney studio to produce traditional hand-drawn 2D animation (a practice that had even been discontinued in their Los Angeles studio). When Disney did finally shut its doors, Australia had a large workforce of highly skilled 2D animators. Unfortunately, there were by then few productions in Australia (and in many parts of the world for that matter) that required such classical-drawn animation skills. But many of these highly skilled and talented animators found work in other studios, and many adapted their skills to the growing dominance of 3D and other forms of digital animation. Footrot Flats Although Footrot Flats: A Dog’s Tale (1987) is regarded as a New Zealand animated feature film, it was actually animated entirely in Sydney, its animation director the Australian animator/director, Robbert Smit. The film was based on the comic strip and characters created by New Zealand cartoonist, Murray Ball. The funding came from a New Zealand publisher that syndicated the Footrot Flats comic strip. But realising that New Zealand did not have the necessary industry, they knew that production would have to involve Australia. Murray Ball had originally hoped that they could set up a studio in Wellington, but have it primarily staffed by Australian animators.39 In the end, they were forced to set up a studio in Sydney, with only a small production management office in Wellington. This was the era of the fax machine, and so the production was managed primarily via fax and telephone. Robbert Smit, who was based in Sydney, was the film’s animation director, while Murray Ball (based in Wellington) was the film’s director. It was a one-off production—that is, they set up a company, Magpie Productions, and an animation studio solely for the purpose of making the film, following which it was all closed down after production ended. Upon securing the financing for the project, the studio immediately began hiring and soon grew to over 150 production staff. Most of the



staff came from Hanna-Barbera—which initially caused some disruptions to Hanna-Barbera’s production schedule.40 The film proved to be a challenging operation. Although there was a healthy pool of talented animators, a number of less-experienced people were also given opportunities. Most were freelancers who would work from home, going in to collect the work, returning it when completed. Smit related a couple of humorous anecdotes about managing some of the freelance staff. One animator, given a substantial number of scenes to take home, was never heard from again; no matter how they tried, they could not find him and finally resorted to hiring a private investigator to track him down and to collect the (mostly unfinished) work.41 Another freelancer was employed to ‘clean’ a large quantity of painted cels—to carefully remove any fingerprints, grime or dust with alcohol so that they would be ready for camera. A few days later, the freelancer brought back the parcel of cels, was paid his fee and departed. Later, when Smit opened the package, his jaw dropped—the cels had indeed been cleaned—the painted drawings had been scrubbed off, leaving a stack of sparkling clean, but entirely blank cels. Clearly this freelancer, being a recent immigrant to Australia, assumed that he was being asked to wipe clean the cels so that the sheets of acetate could be reused, which was the common practice at that time in his home country (and a practice that Eric Porter had also used in the 1930s and 40s in Australia).42 Ultimately, the film did well—it was different enough to any other films released at that time and, to Australian and New Zealand audiences, it had a very high public awareness. ‘So it had a guaranteed result. If we were close to the market with the comic strip, people would go and see it and talk about it.’43 And according to animation director Robbert Smit, ‘People still, after all these years, say to me “Gee, we loved that film; we want to see it again!”’44

Other Productions There were a great number of other studios operating in Australia during this era. Many of these were relatively small ‘boutique’ animation studios that would increase in size should larger projects be commissioned. In Adelaide, beginning in 1985, Michael Cusack and Richard Chataway set up the stop-motion animation studio, Anifex. The studio produced a large number of stop-motion short films and long-running television advertisem*nt campaigns, including: Home Hardware stores



and Schmakos’ brand dog treats. Around the same time, in 1987, Glen Hunwick founded Glen Art Productions in Melbourne, which also focused on the production of stop-motion animated commercials.45 In the late 1980s, The Funny Farm studio was founded by animator, Maggie Geddes, who had previously worked on Alex Stitt’s Grendel, Grendel, Grendel (as lead ink and paint artist) and on Abra Cadabra (as a key animator). One production that The Funny Farm produced was the short animated film, An Opera House for Bungaroo, (Geddes 1990), which was produced for the Australian Tax Office and funded by Film Australia. The studio was involved in several television series: Get Ace (52 × 12 minutes, 2012–2013), Pixel Pinkie (52 × 12 minutes, 2007– 2009) and Altair in Starland (26 × 12 minutes, 2001). Also in the 1980s, Flying Colours Animation was founded by Greg McAlpine, who had previously worked as an independent animator. Under the newly founded studio, he would go on to produce a number of innovatively designed television commercials—often employing more artistically driven independent animators. Animation director, Peter Luschwitz, founded Flicks Animation studio in 1979. Commencing in the production of animated advertisem*nts, the studio soon set its sights on more ambitious projects. It began production on two different animated feature films—one based on Kenneth Cook’s novella, Play Little Victims and the other based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and titled, The Inferno. Although substantial progress was made on the latter film, neither were completed. Freerange Animation is a small studio that produced a wide array of animated short films, documentaries and the much-praised series, Leunig Animated. Leunig was a series of 50 × 1 minutes stop-motion shorts, each based on an individual newspaper comic by the award-winning cartoonist Michael Leunig. Andrew Horne was the series’ animation director; it was produced by Bryan Brown (of New Town Films) and Deborah Szapiro (of Freerange Animation). The series was narrated by Sam Neill and aired repeatedly on Australia’s SBS television network. Fudge Puppy Animation was a studio founded by animators Eddie Mort, Stuart Cunningham and Phoebe Newell. It produced a number of series for Nickelodeon Australia, including: Balinese Slapping Fish (1998), Very Aggressive Vegetables (1998), Snout (1999) and The Adventures of Hot Chunks (1999). In the year 2000, Eddie Mort, one of the directors of Fudge Puppy, as well as animator Lili Chin formed a new studio, Fwak Animation in Sydney. In a similar strategy, the new studio produced a number of animated series primarily for the Nickelodeon



network. Its most successful series was Mucha Lucha (2002–2005) based on the theme of Mexican professional wrestling. The series was created by Mort and Chin and produced for the Cartoon Network. However in 2004, midway through production, the studio relocated from Sydney to Los Angeles. Catflap Animation produced a number of projects and went on to embrace wholly digital production methods including the 1998–1999 series, Petals, which aired on Australian ABC television. In Queensland, The Shapies was a short-lived 3D television series made by Light Knights Productions of Brisbane. This series is regarded as being one of the first all 3D television series produced in Australia and was directed by veteran animator/director Robbert Smit. Blue Rocket, an animation studio based in Hobart, Tasmania, produced the animated series Hoota and Snoz (2000) as well as Dog and Cat News (2002). BES (Bogan Entertainment Solutions) was founded in 2007 by Bruce Kane and Maurice Argiro. It produced a number of animated series including, Exchange Student Zero, Monster Beach and Kitty is Not a Cat (2018) which screened in numerous international markets. In 2011, Studio Moshi produced the independent feature film, Little Johnny The Movie, directed by Ralph Moser. It features the rather crude comedy material of Australian stand-up comedian Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson and is voiced with strong Australian accents and vernacular. Presented in a mockumentary style, this 2D animated feature uncovers the origin of the generation-old phenomenon of ‘Little Johnny’ jokes. Later, the studio entered into a co-production with Canada’s Nelvana Entertainment to produce the television series, The Day My Butt Went Psycho (2014–2015) based on the irreverent best-selling children’s book series by Australian author, Andy Griffiths. It has also produced, in association with Frederator Studios, the animated series, Rocket Dog, created by Mel Roach. Ettamogah was the name of the fictional outback pub in the popular newspaper comic of the same name by Ken Maynard. The comic later spawned a real-life pub and later still a chain of themed restaurants. Then, in a move to promote its restaurants, the company started a small animation studio, Ettamogah Entertainment in Melbourne. Soon the animation studio began producing animated series for television. These included, the quintessentially Australian series Wakkaville (26 × 24 minutes, 2009) and Li’L Larikkins (26 × 24 minutes, 2012). 12 Field Animation Studio, also based in Melbourne, produced a number of series and subcontracted animation for several others (both Australian and international). Sticky Pictures produced a number of animated



television series (often as co-productions) including: Dennis the Menace and Gnasher (2009–2013), Pirate Express (2015) and The Dukes of Broxstonia (2010–2013). An interesting example of an Australian-financed feature film that became an entirely offshore production was FernGully: The Last Rainforest (Bill Kroyer 1992). The film, which presented a decidedly environmental message, was set within the Australian rainforest. It featured an array of magical characters that were forced to fight to save their forest homes from loggers and polluters. Due to the fact that production occurred overseas, one writer noted that: Bill Kroyer’s product is a marvellous film, but a $20 million production budget was lost to the local industry because the talent and studio facilities were, arguably, not available. Most of Australia’s most talented classical animators are under contract to Walt Disney TV, Australia.46

A sequel, FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue, was released in 1997, but was produced without Australian involvement. Another notable feature animated film production was the stop-motion animated feature $9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal 2008) which was an Australian/Israeli co-production. Staring the vocal talents of Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush, the film tells the humorous story of a young man’s search for the meaning of life.

Animated Games Alongside the traditional animation industry, Australia has also enjoyed a significant video games industry—in which, of course, animation has been an important (if not essential) component. There have been a number of very successful and high-profile studios in Australia. Beginning in the late 1970s, Beam Software (founded by Naomi Besen and Alfred Milgrom) produced such early games as: The Hobbit (1982), The Way of the Exploding Fist (1986). In 1999, the studio became known as Krome Studios and went on to produce such popular titles as, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (2002) and The Legend of Spyro (2006). The highly prolific developer, SSG began in the 1980s with its popular games Reach for the Stars (1983), Battlefront (1986) and Fire King (1989). More recently, Pandemic Studios, founded in 1998, became well known for its games: Full Spectrum Warrior (2004) and Star Wars—Battlefront (2004); while Team Bondi, founded in Sydney in 2003, produced the



critically acclaimed game L.A. Noire (2011) which eventually sold over 5 ­million copies. After a significant decade of expansion in the early 2000s, the industry has receded significantly with a number of studios closing. However, a number of smaller boutique and independent developers have, in recent years, experienced increasing successes.

Animal Logic Of the new breed of digital animation and effects studios, Animal Logic, founded in 1991 in Sydney by Chris Godfrey and Zareh Nalbandian, is undoubtedly the longest running and the most prolific. Over the decades, it has produced countless advertisem*nts, title sequences, visual effects sequences for major Hollywood and domestic live-action films, as well as a number of full-length animated features. Its rise in prominence, while beginning slowly, soon began progressing at a rapid pace. Although the animated elements of the Australian produced live-action film Babe (1995) were primarily created by the American company, Rhythm and Hues, the animated opening credit sequence was made by Animal Logic. The studio went on to create a substantial portion of the animated and visual effects elements for the sequel, Babe, Pig in the City (1998). Some of the other earlier visual effects films that the studio worked on were The Matrix (1999), Moulin Rouge (2001) and The Lord of the Rings (2001). Success with these films led to contracts to provide visual effects and animated elements for countless other international and domestically produced blockbuster films. Animal Logic has produced numerous animated sequences for television series. One unique production was the real-time 3D animated host for the exceptional television talk show, David Tench Tonight (2006– 2007). The series featured real-life Australian and international celebrities who would be interviewed in real time by the 3D animated talk show host, David Tench. In 2002, the studio began work on its first all-animated feature film, Happy Feet (George Miller) which was released in 2006. The film employed a combination of motion-capture and key-frame animation— applying motion-captured performances of human actors to the penguin characters. The musical feature stared such voice actors as: Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Nicole Kidman, Anthony LaPaglia, Magda Szubanski, Steve Irwin and Robin Williams. The film was very successful and went on to win the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2007.



More recently the studio produced the animated feature film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Zack Snyder 2010), which featured very strong Australian accents in all of its voice acting performances. The studio had enormous success with the animated features: The Lego Movie (2014), The Lego Batman Movie (2017), and the hybrid animation/live-action feature, Peter Rabbit (Will Gluck 2018). Furthermore, Animal Logic has a large number of animated features and effects films in its production pipeline. To keep up with its production demands, the studio has also opened production houses in Los Angeles and Vancouver.

Further Productions In a similar vein to Animal Logic’s approach, a number of other digital animation and effects studios have flourished in recent years. Iloura (now Method Pictures), based in Melbourne, is another long-running studio that has produced a vast amount of animation and visual effects for both Hollywood and domestic productions. Ambience Entertainment, founded in Sydney in 1989, produced most of the 3D elements that were incorporated into The Magic Pudding (2000) feature, and has produced a number of television series, including the successful Erky Perky (2006–). LUMA pictures operates a number of studios around the world and has operated in Australia for several years, primarily doing effects shots for major Hollywood films. Ludo Studio, based in Brisbane, has developed a number of shortform animated series, including: Beached Az (2010) and The Sketchy Show (2015), as well as a number of other successful long-form animated series. The studio has attracted notoriety with its Emmy® Award winning series, Doodles (2016–), which is ‘an interactive comedy that takes drawings from the public and turns them into animated characters within real-world scenarios.’47 Mighty Nice is an animation and effects studio based in Sydney. Beside a wide range of television commercials, the studio has been involved in the production of Bottersnikes & Gumbles (2016–), based on the Australian children’s books by S.A. Wakefield and illustrated by Desmond Digby. Passion Pictures is an animation studio (with offices in Melbourne, London, New York and Paris) that produced the Academy Award winning short film, The Lost Thing (2010) by Australian author and illustrator, Shaun Tan (see following chapter). Many other animation studios, from small to mid-sized, have emerged



in recent years including: Monkeystack, Pixel Zoo, RKA Animation, Oh Yeah Wow, Liquid Animation, Jumbla, XYZ Studios, Planet 55, Jack Parry Animation, Armchair Productions, Yukfoo, Plastic Wax, Lycette Bros, Galaxy Pop, SLR Productions, Moving Ideas Animation, Rubber House, and Halo Pictures. Recent studios such as these (and the many others noted in this chapter) represent just a portion of those that have had an impact on the continued development of the Australian animation industry. Significantly, the Australian animation industry had matured a great deal in recent decades and, in parallel to this maturity, a great number of talented animators emerged. Many of these were trained on the job as studios increased in size. But another important factor during this time has been the number of universities and other institutions that began to offer courses, diplomas and degrees in animation. This led not only to a greater level of proficiency, but also a greater level of awareness and appreciation for the craft and for the artistry of animation.


1. Burbank FilmsPromotional Brochure (Sydney, c.1985). 2. Barbara Hooks, ‘Animated Dickens Goes to Zambia,’ The Age, 21 May 1985, p. 2. 3. Rod Lee interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 4. Barbara Hooks, ‘Animated Dickens Goes to Zambia,’ The Age, 21 May 1985, p. 2. 5. Rod Lee interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 6. Tom Stacey interviewed by Graham Shirley, National Film and Sound Archive, 1991. 7. Burbank Films Promotional Brochure (Sydney, c.1985). 8. David Field interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 9. Rod Lee interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 10. David Field interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 14 February 2007. 11. 12. Helen Gland quoted in ‘Puddin’ on the Magic,’ The Bulletin, 5 December 2000, p. 31. 13. Ibid. 14. Margaret Parkes interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 April 2004.



15. Vicky Roach, ‘Pudding Left Underdone,’ Daily Telegraph, 14 December 2000. 16. Robbert Smit interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 12 January 2005. 17. Cam Ford and Diana Ford interviewed by Lienors and Dan Torre, 8 July 2004. 18.  Anne Jolliffe interviewed by Marian Quigley, Women Do Animate (Melbourne: Insight Publications, 2005), 36. 19. Anne Jolliffe interviewed by Lienors and Dan Torre, 15 January 2005. 20.  Anne Jolliffe interviewed by Marian Quigley, Women Do Animate (Melbourne: Insight Publications, 2005), 36. 21. ‘PROFILE: Peter Viska, Quick on the Draw,’ Star Weekly, 16 December 2013. 22. Aboriginal Nations Australia, 23. Ibid. 24. L. Yallamas, ‘Dream Time for Queensland Animators,’ The Courier Mail, 28 May 1999. 25. For more see 26. Keith Bradbury, ‘Australian and New Zealand Animation,’ Animation in Asia and the Pacific (Indiana University Press, 2001), 212. 27. Zoran Janjic interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 19 January 2005. 28. Ibid. 29. The Australian, May 1984. 30. Margaret Parkes interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 April 2004. 31. Ibid. 32. Ibid. 33.  Dianne Colman interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 May 2004. 34. Gairden Cooke interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 January 2005. 35. Margaret Parkes interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 April 2004. 36. Ibid. 37. Gairden Cooke interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 24 January 2005. 38.  Dianne Colman interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 May 2004. 39. Lesley Stevens, Footrot Flats—The Dog’s Tale: The Making of the Movie (Auckland: Diogene, 1986), 54. 40. Ibid., 54.



41. Robbert Smit interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 12 January 2005. 42. Ibid. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid. 45.  Robert Stephenson, ‘No Stopping Australian Stop-Motion,’ Render: Journal of Creative Australian Animation, no. 1 (2015), 51. 46. John Eyley, ‘Developing Animation (Australia): The Nature of Industry and Its Relationship to Training,’ Animation: The Teachers’ Perspective (Urbino: Italy, 1992). 47. Stephen Chinnery, ‘The Creative Core that is Ludo Studio,’ No Walls. Accessed January 30, 2018.

Bibliography ‘Aboriginal Nations Australia.’ ‘Burbank Films (Promotional Brochure).’ Sydney, 1985. ‘Profile: Peter Viska, Quick on the Draw.’ Star Weekly, 16 December 2013. ‘Puddin’ on the Magic.’ The Bulletin, 5 December 2000. The Australian, 9 May 1984. Bradbury, Keith. ‘Australian and New Zealand Animation.’ In Animation in Asia and the Pacific, edited by A. John. Lent: Indiana University Press, 2001. Chinnery, Stephen. ‘The Creative Core That Is Ludo Studio.’ No Walls, 2018. Colman, Dianne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (5 May 2004). Cooke, Gairden. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (24 January 2005). Eyley, John. ‘Developing Animation (Australia): The Nature of Industry and Its Relationship to Training.’ Paper presented at the Animation: The Teachers’ Perspective, Urbino, Italy, 1992. Field, David. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (14 February 2007). Ford, Cam Ford and Diana. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (8 July 2004). Hooks, Barbara. ‘Animated Dickens Goes to Zambia.’ The Age, 21 May 1985. Janjic, Zoran. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (19 January 2005). Jolliffe, Anne. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (15 January 2005). Lee, Rod. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (14 February 2007). Parkes, Margaret. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (24 April 2004). Paterson, Karen. ‘Crocadoo Entertains with Energee.’ Animation World Network 1, no. 6 (1996). PAW-Media. Quigley, Marian. Women Do Animate. Melbourne: Insight Publications, 2005. Roach, Vicky. ‘Pudding Left Underdone.’ Daily Telegraph, 14 December 2000. Smit, Robbert. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (12 January 2005).



Stacey, Tom. By Graham Shirley. National Film and Sound Archives (1991). Stephenson, Robert. ‘No Stopping Australian Stop-Motion.’ Render: Journal of Creative Australian Animation 1, no. 1 (2015). Stevens, Lesley. Footrot Flats—the Dog’s Tale: The Making of the Movie. Wellington: Magpie Productions, 1986. Yallamas, L. ‘Dream Time for Queensland Animators.’ The Courier Mail, 28 May 1999.


Independently Animated

It is only in recent decades that Australia has begun to produce a ­significant amount of independent animation—animation made primarily by artist/animators, and outside the commercial studio system. One of the first independent Australian animators was artist Will Dyson, who experimented with animation in the 1920s with what he referred to as ‘moving sculptures’ (see Chapter 4). Other early independent animators came to the Australian scene in the late 1940s and early 1950s when a wave of European immigrants arrived in Australia, bringing their skills and knowledge with them. A few of these new Australians (such as Dusan Marek and Gunter Illichmann) began to produce animation both commercially and as independent artists (see Chapter 5). In more recent decades, there have been several factors that have helped facilitate the establishment of a thriving culture of independent animation in Australia. An initial catalyst was the establishment of early experimental film-making collectives in both Sydney and Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s. These groups were able to demonstrate that it was possible to make animated films with little or no resources. The 1970s saw the establishment of government funding bodies ­willing to support independent animation projects. In addition, a handful of universities began to offer courses in animation that advocated creative approaches—spearheaded most notably by Swinburne University in Melbourne (led by John Bird and later David Atkinson). Simultaneously, the animation industry in Australia was beginning to mature—and some of these highly skilled animators began to make work independently. © The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,




Australia’s first animation festival, organised by Alex Stitt, took place in 1976. This prominently showcased locally produced independent animations (with David Atkinson’s animated short Move winning an award). In 1979, the Australian Film Institute added the category of Best Animated Short Film to its annual award ceremony—which would invariably highlight independent animation. Since then, there have been many hundreds (if not thousands) of animators who have worked independently in Australia. While space ­limits a comprehensive discussion of this flurry of activity, despite the many omissions this chapter provides a glimpse of the scope, creative richness and diversity of Australian independent animation.

Bruce Petty Bruce Petty (born in 1929) grew up on his family’s orchard on the outskirts of Melbourne. He studied art and design at RMIT University, then in 1952, commenced an internship at the Owen Brothers’ animation studio. The first film that he directed and principally animated was a road-safety film for the State Government of Victoria called, Careful Koala (1953). He followed this with other short animated films including: A Dairyland Romance (1954). Feeling restless, and with a suitcase full of drawings, Petty ­ travelled to London in about 1955, then to New York. During this time, he successfully published his cartoons in some of the top magazines. He ­ was employed briefly by Punch in London, then by the New Yorker. He returned to Australia in 1960 to begin a long career as a political cartoonist with various Sydney- and Melbourne-based newspapers. During this time, Petty began to develop a very loose, sketchy style that was in stark contrast to the precise drawing style of animation that he had employed in the 1950s while working at the Owen Brothers’ studio (see Chapter 4). Wishing to pursue animation again, he set up an old Bolex film camera at home and in 1968 completed his first independently animated film, Hearts and Minds. It was an anti-war film that comprised both live-action footage that he had filmed while in Vietnam, and animated versions of his drawings. In describing his new looser-animation style, Petty noted that it came about from working as a newspaper cartoonist: ‘I draw quickly – have to because newspapers want things today, and I’m too impatient to do it with precision, the inbetweening and all that.’1



His next animated film, Australian History (1970), although more sophisticated in its animation style, also marked the beginning of his creative experimentation with the process of animation. I used to put a little trough on the desk under the camera, put water and coloured ink in it. It would do funny, weird, unknown things. I found various devices for avoiding opticals, which are expensive. I did the Second World War sequence in Australian History on that. And I made little mechanical devices, machines using a motor that would drag things across at the right speed, like a pan.2 In 1976, Petty teamed up with the Film Graphics studio to create the very successful 13-minute animation, Leisure. This film won the Academy Award for best animated short film for that year. In describing the process, Petty noted, ‘When we did “Leisure” we used Dave Deneen and his Film Graphics studio, who did a hotshot sort of version of what I was doing. I did the scribbly drawings that I’d always done. But he added a glassy layer.’3 Written and directed by Bruce Petty, the film was produced by Suzanne Baker (who as the film’s producer accepted the Oscar at the award ceremony). In his rather understated manner, Petty recalls, ‘The Oscar was just nice for a while; and I’m sure I got a few documentary jobs that I wanted, that I wouldn’t have got otherwise. Apart from that, the family was pleased.’4 Some of Petty’s other animated films included Karl Marx (1977), The Movers (1986) and The Mad Century (2000). In 2002, he created Human Contraptions, an animated series of ten, five-minute episodes. Each episode, through the metaphor of excessively complicated machinery and systems, explored different aspects of human society, including: Law, Brain, Global, Government, Education, Sex, Finance, Art, Media and Medicine. Written and animated by Bruce Petty, the series was narrated by Andrew Denton, and produced by Deborah Szapiro. The series also showcased Petty’s move into employing entirely digital animation processes, while still maintaining his original very loose drawing style. Nearly all of Petty’s animated films contain a strong political or social message, regarding which he surmised. Animation seems to me, that you can either do just jokes, which I think are terrific; or aesthetic things, just move paint around. But if I’ve got fifteen minutes, I’d want to do something more. I may as well use it saying something about how things are arranged politically and economically; so that’s what I do.5



A more recent production, Global Haywire (2007), is a feature-length documentary that combines live action and animation, focusing on a number of prominent and influential writers and intellectuals.

Experimental Independent Animation In the 1960s, a trend towards experimental film-making and experimental animation began to emerge. The two instigating forces were the Ubu Films group in Sydney and the Cantrills in Melbourne, both of which helped to foster vibrant communities of avant-garde film-makers and animators. These film-making collectives, often working with very little resources, would prove to be a stimulating contrast to the predominantly safe practices of the commercial industry.

Arthur and Corinne Cantrill Beginning in 1960, and over a span of more than 50 years, husband and wife team, Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, have made a vast number of experimental films, including several experimental animated films. This is, however, a distinction that the Cantrills never really believed was important and one that ‘becomes problematic, because experimental film-making often uses animation techniques, as they use all sorts of techniques and strategies for their ends because they are not limited to live-action, or this, or that.’6 The Cantrills also made several ‘single-frame films’ composed of ­single-frame exposures rather than continuous recordings; the most notable of these was, 4000 Frames, An Eye-Opener Film (3 minutes, 1970). Although this single frame-by-frame production process shares some ­common ground with traditional animation, the film-makers were actually striving for the opposite of an animated fluidity, endeavouring to create instead ‘a sense of discontinuity.’ Every frame was intended to have a very dissimilar image, which inevitably became challenging since there would be short bursts of apparently planned animation where the subsequent images would appear to have a determined (and animated) trajectory or evolution. The film-makers found it very difficult to find 4000 distinctly dissimilar images—particularly in the rather hom*ogenous surroundings in which they were living at the time. Arthur quipped during an interview, ‘I think that if we had been living in Sydney or Melbourne it would have been easier, but at that time Canberra was a very small suburban sort of place.’7



They also produced several films, particularly some of their earlier ones, which featured collage and cut-out animation; for example Zoo (30 minutes, 1962) contains a 10-minute sequence of animation; Dream (4 minutes, 1966) and Moving Statics (28 minutes, 1969) are also partly animated. Their son, Ivor Cantrill, has also made several independent animated films. But perhaps the Cantrills’ greatest contribution to Australian independent animation has been through their experimental film jour­ nal, Cantrills Filmnotes (1971–2000), and the weekly film screenings that they have organised consistently over the decades. The journal regularly highlighted independent and experimental animators (both Australian and international); and their film screenings also showcased a wide range of both Australian and internationally produced experimental animated films. Particularly in the earlier years, these animations, providing inspiration to local animators, would otherwise have been unscreened in Australia.

Ubu Films Ubu Films was a group of film-makers formed in Sydney in 1965, comprising Albie Thoms, David Perry, Aggie Read and John Clark. David Perry, a painter and photographer, had been experimenting with animation for a number of years. His animated short, Swansong in Birdland (1964), had screened at the Sydney Film Festival and attracted the attention of film-maker, Albie Thoms, who was in the midst of producing the Theatre of Cruelty, comprising both stage performances and the screening of short films. Thoms needed some help in producing animated elements to be included in the performances. Their first collaboration was on The Spurt of Blood, a surrealist drama with a number of animated elements that Perry had drawn, along with sequences of stop-motion animation of found objects. Another film that was included in the performances was … it Droppeth as the Gentle Rain. Thoms described this film as ‘a satire on a complaisant society ignoring the perils of [nuclear] fallout’ which appeared to him to be ‘particularly relevant to the times, when the prospect of atomic warfare daily threatened our lives.’8 As a metaphor for the horrors of nuclear fallout, there was a scene in which excrement was to rain down upon the city. Not wanting to film this literally, the film-makers (who included Bruce Beresford) had the idea simply to take a piece of steel wool and scratch it over the live-action film print. When played through the projector, the resulting scratch marks created the impression of a torrential, dirty-brown



rainstorm.9 However, perhaps as a testament to the visual power of such symbolic animated graphics, the film was quickly banned by the censorship board on grounds of obscenity. This event marked the beginnings of the film-makers’ troubles with Australia’s extremely strict censorship board, but it also anticipated the group’s later enthusiastic pursuit of the handmade animation technique. Out of their Theatre of Cruelty shows, and in order to make something more lasting, Albie Thoms and David Perry teamed up with fellow film-makers, Aggie Read and John Clark, to form the group Ubu Films. Over the next several years, Ubu Films made a huge number of experimental films (both live action and animated) at a time when film-making in Australia appeared to have stagnated. Their non-conventional approach had a significant impact on the status quo. Beginning in 1966, the group became increasingly interested in handmade animated films—films, that is, that were animated by drawing or scratching directly on the film stock. Although these were screened at their conventional film screenings, they also formed part of the light shows that they would put on at concerts and other events as an income earner. Enthused by the accessibility of handmade animated films, in 1967 the group published a ‘Hand- Made Films Manifesto’ which was widely distributed: 1. Let no one say anymore that they can’t raise enough money to make a film—any film scrap can be turned into a handmade film at no cost. 2. Let photography be no longer essential to film-making—handmade films are made without a camera. 3. Let literary considerations of plot and story no longer be essential to film-making—handmade films are abstract. 4. Let no more consideration be given to direction and editing— handmade films are created spontaneously. 5. Let no media be denied to handmade films—they can be scratched, scraped, drawn, inked, coloured, dyed, painted, pissed-on, black and white, or coloured, bitten, chewed, filed, rasped, punctured, ripped, burned, burred, bloodied, with any technique imaginable. 6. Let written and performed music be rejected by makers of handmade films—let handmade music be created directly onto the film by any technique of scratching or drawing, etc. imaginable.



7. Let no orthodoxy of handmade films be established—they may be projected alone, in groups, on top of each other, forward, backwards, slowly, quickly, in every possible way. 8. Let no standard of handmade films be created by critics—a film scratched inadvertently by a projector is equal to a film drawn explicitly by a genius. 9. Let handmade films not be projected in cinemas, but as environments, not to be absorbed intellectually, but by all senses. 10. Most of all, let handmade film-making be open to everyone, for handmade films must be popular art.10 Some of Ubu’s more notable animated films included: Puncture (David Perry 1967), Halftone (David Perry 1967), Moon Virility (Albie Thoms 1967), Bluto (Albie Thoms 1967, that also included an etched-in animated soundtrack), David Perry (Albie Thoms 1968), Transition (Aggy Read 1967) and Super Block High (Aggy Read 1967). The group also held a number of handmade film workshops in which film-makers would sit around big tables to work on their animated films—etching, scratching, cutting and drawing with marker pens directly on to film stock. Aggy Read designed a ‘Hand-made Film Kit’ in 1967, which they sold through Ubu. ‘It consisted of opaque filmstock, scratching implements, Textacolours and simple instructions on how to use them, along with an offer of assistance in getting the results printed and distributed.’11 They sold a large number of these kits. Receiving a number of films from the people who had used them, some of these would be shown at their film screenings. At this time, Ubu also screened a lot of Australian experimental animated films, including those by the Cantrills, Yoram Gross and Dusan Marek. As a collective, their final production was the feature-length film, Marinetti (Albie Thoms, 1969), which contained several handmade animation sequences. Although in 1970 the group officially disbanded, the film-makers continued to make films, both independently and collaboratively. Throughout its brief life, Ubu Films had suffered a lot of attention from the censorship board, which, despite having stood up to it, had caused them ‘a great deal of trouble.’12 Finally, in 1970, reforms were made to these excessively strict laws. Also in that year, the Experimental Film Fund was established, providing a much-needed boost to independent film-making and animation in Australia—although, ironically, the fund privileged strictly independent film-makers, excluding collectives such as Ubu Films.



Ensuing Experimental Animators Michael Lee began as a painter, later attending film school for a brief time. In the late 1960s, he was making experimental films that would often consist of both live-action and animated elements. His earliest films, Fundeath (10 minutes, 1969) and Black Fungus (20 minutes, 1971), featured cut-out or collage animation. Many of these earlier animated films employed references both to popular culture, and to strong religious imagery that reflected his changing views towards the subject. These themes were most apparent in such films as the feature-length The Mystical Rose (65 minutes, 1976), Turnaround (60 minutes, 1983), and Contemplation of the Cross (28 minutes, 1989). His later films, such as Razzle Dazzle Rhapsody (15 minutes, 1992) and Screen (5 minutes, 1994), were distinctly abstract and graphical. Working through ­pattern and rhythm, the more recent films intended to provide a sense of spiritual reflectivity. Most of these films were supported with film commission grants. Neil Taylor is a painter and sculptor who began making experimental animated films in the late 1970s, quickly becoming enamoured with ‘animation’s capacity to break the continuity of time into small sections and reconstitute it,’ which, ‘was like some form of nuclear physics of movement. If you go finely and deeply enough, you can reconstruct the world in a most elaborate way. At a philosophical level, I found that fascinating.’13 One of his more celebrated animated films, Short Lives (1989), was actually composed of numerous small sequences that he created over several years, drawn on small, adhesive notepads. Taylor stated that ‘this intimacy and informality were an important break with the standard paraphernalia and practices of the mainstream cartoon tradition.’14 He would frequently adopt a distinct approach for each of the sequences. For example, he might draw a series of dots on the first sheet and then continue to trace these all the way through the notepad: they would inevitably ‘develop their own migratory capacity and would, sort of, shimmer and wander off the page in various sorts of directions.’15 Another approach he employed was to draw from one image to the next purely from memory; thus, the initial carefully drawn image would deliberately degrade over time. Another series of experimental animations that Taylor made were: Roll Film (1990), Roll Film II (1996) and Roll Film III (1998). In these he would experiment drawing on a long roll of cash register paper. In some cases, he would ignore the frame lines,



making just a single long, continuous drawing upon the paper ‘keeping in mind always that I was going to shoot these rolls of paper, and inch them through underneath the animation bench and chop it up into single frames.’ Taylor then decided to incorporate this single-frame process back into the drawing stage. He invented a machine ‘which acts like a film transport mechanism; it pulls the paper through, holds it for a brief moment, and then advances on. And in that brief moment one makes a little gestural mark on the paper.’16 He would compile dozens of these rolls in order to make one complete film. Taylor taught animation for a number of years; currently, he is focusing much of his concentration on his sculptural artworks. Lynsey Martin has made a number of experimental films using the handmade technique of working directly on film stock. Two of his more notable films were both made in 1973: White Wash (4 minutes) and Inter-View (25 minutes). White Wash utilised clear colourless film leader that was simply sanded and etched to create a mesmerising and very subtle abstract animated effect. Inter-View utilised primarily found footage of which, with a very fine brush, he would paint over portions of each live-action frame. In this way, he would either highlight or obscure different aspects of the imagery. Because the paint was applied thickly, the ensuing animated textures of the brush marks became an equally important part of the imagery. Marcus Bergner began making experimental films in the late 1970s. By the early 1980s, he had begun handwriting, with black ink, directly on to the surface of his completed live-action films. One of the most interesting of these ‘handwritten films’ is, Handberg (12 minutes, 1985), which features live-action footage of book pages and of sketchbooks that contain intricate doodles and pseudo-mathematical equations. Using permanent marker pens, Bergner then wrote poetry on every frame of the film. The resulting quivering textual elements appear both to visually interact, and to comment linguistically upon the live-action backdrops.17 Dirk de Bruyn has been working consistently with animation and experimental film since the 1970s. His animated works have primarily involved abstract imagery—often working directly on to film stock. Many of de Bruyn’s early films consisted of his reworking and animating directly on to his pre-existing live-action footage—which he would treat as if it were found footage, responding intuitively to its imagery. In making these direct animated films, he has employed a wide range of techniques: scratching into the film; applying inks, bleach or dyes



to the stock; cutting or hole punching each frame; gluing shapes or applying Letraset text directly onto the film. In recent years, he has employed increasingly more digital techniques to achieve his animated imagery. His short film, 224, was nominated for an AFI award for best animated short film in 1987. Of his huge volume of completed works, some of his more notable films include: Migraine Particles (1984), Rote Movie (1994), Analog Stress (2004) and Re-Vue (2017). Many of these experimental animations have garnered critical praise at film festivals around the world. John Even Hughes (aka Hobart Hughes) has been working with animation since the late 1970s, after graduating with a fine arts degree. In the 1980s, he co-founded the Animation Co-Op in Sydney, which sought to facilitate independent animators working in their craft. Also at about this time, he formed the Even Orchestra, comprising: John Evan Hughes, Bruce Currie, Paul Livingston, Merredith Adams, Cynthia Mills, Hugh Wayland, Pru Hole and Helene Purcel. It was a performance group that incorporated projected film (usually animation), puppetry, music and stage actors. The animated components, considered to be both stand-alone animated films and components of the Even Orchestra performances, were usually made by John Evan Hughes and Bruce Currie. Two notable productions that came out of these shows were the cut-out animated films, The Iced-Hopes of Dr. Calastein (Hughes and Currie 1982) and Flank Breeder (Bruce Currie 1982), which won the AFI award for best animated short film in 1982 for Currie. Hughes also created the stop-motion animated film, Crust, which won the 1987 AFI award for best animated short film. In the 1990s, much of his effort was devoted to creating installation works that combined sculpture and animation. More recently, he has focused on creating environmental (or landscape) animations in which he might go out into the countryside and simply animate whatever he happens to find there.18 Most notable of these innovative experimental films are: The Wind Calls Your Name (2004), Removed (2005) and Shiver (2006).

A New Wave By the late 1970s, a growing number of independent animators had formally studied animation or a closely related area of art or filmmaking, at university, or had gained professional training in the



animation industry. Also, a record number of animators were receiving some form of support for their projects through the Australian funding bodies. As mentioned above, beginning in 1979, the Australian Film Institute began to promote animation through their annual award ceremony with the introduction of the Best Animated Short Film category. This annual, high-profile award seemed to encourage other independent animators to produce high-quality films. Later, in the 1990s, the public broadcaster, SBS television, would also begin to support and to directly commission independent animated films, helping to further raise the profile of many Australian animators, and of the public’s appreciation of animation. More recently such annual festivals as the Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF), founded and directed since 2001 by Malcolm Turner, has strongly championed independent Australian animation.

Antoinette Starkiewicz Antoinette Starkiewicz was born in Poland and migrated to Australia as a child. Initially, she trained as a dancer, later decided to pursue the visual arts, and later still studied at the London Film School. Her first animated film, Puttin’ on the Ritz (1974), a hand-drawn animation featuring an array of dancing figures, brought her a high degree of international acclaim, effectively establishing her as an independent animator. This success was followed by further dance-inspired animated shorts such as, High Fidelity (1976), and puss* Pumps Up (1979), the latter winning the AFI award for best animated short film in 1980. Her films, although varied in style, invariably present a dazzling and irreverent look at human nature, sexuality and art. In 1981, she made Koko Pops which, in ten minutes, succinctly and playfully describes the history of music. It was screened in cinemas across Australia as the opening short film for the hit Hollywood films, Victor/Victoria and Flashdance. Other animated films have included Pianoforte (1984), Zipper (1998) and Man (1999). A more recent film that combines digital 2D animation characters and settings, and incorporates live-action actors, is puss* through History (4 minutes, 2006). In this short film, the live-action characters are combined seamlessly within animated settings and interact with Disneyesque animated creatures and floral forms. It is a film that humorously inverts aspects of the biblical creation story—for example shifting the blame from the female ‘Eve’ to the male ‘Adam.’



Dennis Tupicoff Dennis Tupicoff began animating in the mid-1970s after graduating from the University of Queensland. He then enrolled in a performing arts course in Toowoomba (near Brisbane). There, using the school’s facilities, he largely taught himself how to animate and began production on a short animated film based on the song, Please Don’t Bury Me, by the singer John Prine. He completed the film the following year, 1976, with financial assistance from the Experimental Film and TV Fund. Wishing to further study animation, he enrolled in the newly founded animation programme at Swinburne University. Having graduated, he began making independent animated films. In 1983, his animated short, Dance of Death, won the AFI Award for best animated film that year. His next highly acclaimed film was The Darra Dogs (1993), which marked the beginning of his more personal animated films. This came as a result of my daughter’s asking me if she could have a dog. I realised that I had some pretty disturbing memories of dogs from when I was a child, so it was going to be a bit difficult for me to have dogs around. And that was really the genesis of this film called ‘The Darra Dogs,’ which consists of me in voice-over, talking about the different dogs that we had, and the incidents that happened with other dogs attacking me, and my witnessing the unfortunate demise of a few dogs. So, it was an animated film that was a documentary as well as an autobiography, in the sense that it was related by me and about my life.19

His Mother’s Voice (1996) is an animated film based on a recording of a live-radio broadcast. The original broadcast featured an interview with a mother who had recently lost her son in a tragic incident. It was a very emotional interview, and the mother’s grief was quite evident and palpable throughout her vocal delivery. Tupicoff used this powerful narration to inform his animated visualisation of the event. But what perhaps is most striking about this film is his choosing to animate the entire interview twice. The first iteration of the audio-track features a graphical retelling of the mother’s arrival at the scene, and her hope and fear as she waits for news of her son; the second visualises the mother being interviewed for the radio broadcast. This very effectively gave prominence, not only to the tragic event but, more importantly, to the mother’s ensuing grief over the loss of her son. Because of this rather non-conventional treatment of a real-life event through animation, His Mother’s Voice has



not only been screened many times internationally, but has been intricately discussed in numerous animation studies texts.20 In 2001, as part of the SBS television series, Home Movies, Tupicoff created the short film, Into the Dark. This also screened in numerous festivals around the world and garnered critical praise for its treatment of personal memory and striking atmospheric qualities. As Dennis Tuppicoff noted in his introduction to the film, ‘Animation is a potentially very powerful way of bringing our memories that we all carry in our heads onto the big screen.’21 In his recent films, Tupicoff has become a master at weaving multiple narratives and perspectives into a single cohesive animated work. Chainsaw (2007) represents a unique narrative that weaves together the disparate themes of bullfighting, adultery, tree felling, and Frank Sinatra, into a tightly-knit 24-minute animated film. His most recent animated film, A Photo of Me (2017), provides another look at Tupicoff’s childhood. This time it involves a family outing to a late-night movie at the cinema, weaving in live-action clips from the actual black-and-white Hollywood movie that Tupicoff had watched as a child (Fig. 11.1). Simultaneously, through animated flashbacks, the film describes the elaborate lengths to which his family had to go in order to get a younger,

Fig. 11.1  Frame grab from A Photo of Me (Dennis Tupicoff 2017)



toddler-aged, Tupicoff to pose for a photographic portrait. Tupicoff’s films consistently provide the viewer glimpses of Australian culture, iterated through personal memories; they tend to do so in an intelligent and thought-provoking manner.

Kathy Smith Kathy Smith began experimenting with animation while studying painting at the Sydney College of the Arts in the early 1980s. One of her early animated films, A Figure in Front of a Painting (1984), featured a very painterly style, while also interrogating the creative process of painting using animated figures that would interact in various ways with exhibited paintings. Her animated short, Ayers Rock Animation (1985), continued the use of her painterly style and incorporated a great deal of metamorphosis, deftly showcasing both a surreal narrative and the materiality and fluidity of oil paint. Her animated film, Change of Place (1985), which was nominated for an AFI award, depicted a shadowy figure running through both live-action footage and hand-drawn environments. This film, replete with metamorphosis, was very free-flowing, showcasing remarkable figurative transformations. Smith became very adept at utilising the power of the animated image, later surmising: ‘Animation is really the most superb art form for communicating and conveying universal philosophies.’22 Australian artists and authors, such as Sidney Nolan and Joan Lindsay, and their interpretations of the Australian landscape have also had an influence on Smith’s work—but Smith also adds, ‘I think anyone that’s grown up in the landscape in Australia cannot help but feel its influence.’23 Based on a true story, her animated film, Delirium (1988), explores the darker side of the Australian landscape. It tells of a group of people whose car had broken down in the outback of Australia’s Northern Territory. As the daytime temperature escalated, the group became increasingly delirious and began to wander off in different directions, eventually dying of dehydration. Smith saw animation as the perfect medium to depict this very intense experience and to show the power of the Australian landscape. ‘One thing you realise in the Australian environment is that it is very much in control of us and we are not in control of it.’24 This theme is exemplified as, using her very painterly approach, the figures and landscapes become extensively intertwined. The entire



film was animated roughly in pencil in just a few days: Smith then spent the next 6 months painting the nearly 3000 images in oil paint. Her next animated film, Living on the Comet (1993), explored ­nonlinear dreamscapes and was screened extensively in international festivals. Using over 6000 individually painted images, it took over three years to make. It comprises a series of four distinct but interconnected dreamlike sequences. Again, the demarcation between the human figures and the landscape becomes very fluid as, for example human figures transform into animal creatures, then become absorbed and lost in the landscape. By the early 2000s, Smith began incorporating a greater degree of digital components into her work. Indefinable Moods (2002) is a 3D computer-animated film that effectively maintains her painterly aesthetic and fluid treatment of the landscape. Forms can be seen to shift and change throughout; while figures can be seen, emerging and receding into the environment. Smith continues to make numerous films that foreground the landscape, including the recent 3D animated film, Slippages—Grace (2017).

Lee Whitmore An extremely proficient, self-taught animator, nearly all of Lee Whitmore’s films are autobiographical, focusing on small moments or events from her childhood. But each is, perhaps, equally about the process of memory and the recollection of those memories. Her animated film, Ned Wethered (1983), won the AFI award for best animated short. Entirely hand-drawn, primarily pencil on paper, it is a gentle autobiographical film about her childhood and a family friend named Ned Wethered. Whitmore was involved in animation projects throughout the 1990s. She made a 3-minute short animation for Lift Off, the ABC television series; she designed and animated six sequences in the independent feature film, Breathing Underwater (Susan Murphy Dermondy 1990). In 1997, she completed another hand-drawn animated short film, On a Full Moon. Her animated film, Ada (2000), utilised oil pastels. The film was about her childhood, and her glimpses of memories of the period in which her grandmother, Ada, came to live with the family. It won her further acclaim and was screened as part of the Home Movies series. In 2006, she completed an oil paint on glass film, The Safe House (25 minutes). Each scene is essentially a single oil painting created on a pane of glass; by smearing the existing paint, or by progressively applying additional paint to the image, Whitmore would gradually work and transform



Fig. 11.2  Frame grab from The Safe House (Lee Whitmore 2006)

the image. The evolving image was photographed at various moments in its progression. It is a true story about what became known as the Petrov Affair, Russian defectors who were given asylum in Australia in the mid1950s and stayed briefly in a ‘safe house’ next door to the Whitmore family. It is told from the point of view of a child—who was mostly kept in the dark about the whole event, only glimpsing news reports, mysterious people coming and going, and snippets of conversation: a compelling animated film that adds an intriguing piece to the historic narrative of a newsworthy event of the 1950s; and, like other Whitmore animations, it is also about making sense of vague memories (Fig. 11.2).

Lucinda Clutterbuck Born in Sydney, Lucinda Clutterbuck studied art in France from 1979– 1981, after which she returned to Australia and was hired at HannaBarbera Australia, working as an inbetweener. Later she worked as an animator at Yoram Gross studio, and on the animated feature, Footrot Flats. A few years after this, she rented space from Anne Jolliffe at her Jollification animation studio and began pursuing her own independent work. During this time, she began producing animated music video clips



for various up and coming Australian bands (INXS, Machinations, Kate Ceberano and The Black Sorrows)—several of these screened internationally on MTV. In the late 1980s, she began to concentrate more on her personal work and produced a short animated documentary about the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine) called, Tiga. The film stemmed from a series of interviews that she had conducted with people who had seen the last known surviving specimen in the zoo in the 1930s, and others that claimed to have seen more recently the (most probably) extinct animal in the wild. The film was very well received and led to the production of a whole series of short films called The Web (1993–1995), each of which would highlight a particular animal species. The series included such episodes as: Wolf, Rhino, Rattlesnake, Frog, Shark, Gorilla, Cheetah, Spider, Bandicoot, Seal, Falcon and finally hom*osapiens. The series was produced in what became well known as Clutterbuck’s style, a combination of drawn and rotoscoped animation that would be vibrantly rendered with coloured pencils, art pens and paint. A few of these episodes (Bandicoot, Seal and Falcon) were directed and animated by Sarah Watt. The series proved to be so popular overseas that the episodes were collected and released as a feature film, Les Contes des Animaux, in cinemas across France in 2003. In 2001, Clutterbuck created the animated short, Walnut and Honeysuckle for the SBS Home Movies.

Sarah Watt Sarah Watt (1958–2011) began in the fine arts (particularly painting) and later completed a postgraduate course in animation. Her animated short Small Treasures (15 minutes, 1996) won numerous awards; Way of the Birds (1999) screened in festivals around the world (including Annecy Animation Festival). Her short, Local Dive (2000), was broadcast on SBS as part of the Swimming Outside the Flags series, and Living with Happiness (2001) was broadcast on SBS as part of the Home Movies series—both films went on to win numerous awards. The film Living with Happiness (2001) effectively used animation as a way to visualise the main character’s overactive imagination and her tendency habitually to anticipate the worst possible outcome of every situation (being electrocuted by the toaster when making breakfast, being involved in a train crash while commuting, being attacked by sharks while swimming). Sarah Watt went on to direct the live-action feature



film, Look Both Ways (2005), which also included numerous sequences of animation. This feature proved to be a very touching and evocative film, particularly because of the manner in which the animated elements were used to portray the very troubled and melancholic thoughts of the main character.

Adam Elliot Adam Elliot is one of the more successful Australian independent animators in recent years. He began his career in independent stop-motion animation in the late 1990s when his student film, Uncle (1996), won the AFI award for best animated short film. This film was followed by two other AFI winning films, Cousin (1998) and Brother (1999), completing his ‘family’ trilogy of melancholy tinged, humorous animated portraits, which he refers to as ‘clayographies.’ Later he teamed up with producer, Melanie Coombs to create his next project, Harvie Krumpet (23 minutes, 2003), supported by the AFC (Australian Film Commission), and narrated by veteran Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush. Elliot has described Harvie Krumpet as being ‘a simple biography of an archetypal underdog.’25 The film had great success and was awarded the Academy Award for best animated short film in 2004 (Fig. 11.3). Elliot went on to make the stop-motion feature, Mary and Max (2009), a film composed in Elliot’s signature style of muted colour, exaggerated characters and rather rough-hewn and asymmetrical designs. It features a somewhat unconventional narrative about two pen pals—a young girl named Mary (Toni Collette) who resides in Australia and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a middle-aged man with Asperger’s syndrome who lives in New York. It is a surprisingly touching film that, given its unusual narrative, would have likely been much less effective in live action. By having such contrasting characters and contrasting locations—the Melbourne suburb of Mount Waverly vs. New York City—the film succeeds in deftly highlighting many aspects of Australian popular culture. The feature film was entirely animated in Melbourne by: Darren Burgess, Dik Jarman, Anthony Lawrence, John Lewis, Jason Lynch and Craig Ross. The film, though critically very well received, was somewhat less successful at the box office. Adam Elliot’s more recent short film, Ernie Biscuit (2015), also best described as a ‘clayography,’ takes place in Paris and recounts the life of a deaf taxidermist who is confronted by a dead pigeon that unexpectedly



Fig. 11.3  Image from Harvie Krumpet (Adam Elliot 2003)

shows up at his door. This film has also been critically acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including the AACTA award for best animated short film.

AFI/AACTA Awards The annual AFI (Australian Film Institute) awards have been integral in highlighting successful animated short films. The award winners during the 1980s included: Letter to a Friend (Sonia Hofmann 1979), puss* Pumps Up (Antoinette Starkiewicz 1980), The Animation Game (David Johnston 1981), Flank Breeder (Bruce Currie 1982), Dance of Death (Dennis Tupicoff 1983), Ned Wethered (Lee Whitmore 1984), Waltzing Matilda (Michael Cusack and Richard Chataway 1985), The Huge Adventures of Trevor, A Cat (John Taylor 1986), Crust (John E. Hughes 1987), Where the Forest Meets the Sea (Jeannie Baker 1988) and Still Flying (Robert Stephenson 1989). The 1990s featured the following winners: Picture Start (Jeremy Parker 1990), Union Street (Wendy Chandler 1990s), Shelf Life (Andrew Horne 1992), The Darra Dogs (Dennis Tupicoff 1993), Gorgeous (Kaz Cooke 1994), Small Treasures (Sarah Watt 1995), Blood on the Chandelier (Jeffrey Norris 1996), Uncle (Adam Elliot 1997), Vengeance (Wendy Chandler 1998) and Cousin (Adam Elliot 1999).



The first decade of the twenty-first century featured the following AFI winners: Brother (Adam Elliot 2000), Living With Happiness (Sarah Watt 2001), Shh… (Adam Robb 2002), Harvie Krumpet (Adam Elliot 2003), Birthday Boy (Sejong Park 2004), The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (Anthony Lucas 2005), Gargoyle (Michael Cusack 2006), The Girl Who Swallowed Bees (Paul McDermott 2007), Dog With Electric Collar (Steve Baker 2008), The Cat Piano (Eddie White and Ari Gibson 2009) and The Lost Thing (Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan 2010). More recently, the awards have been presented under the umbrella of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA). Winners of the best animated short film under this name have included: Nullarbor (Alister Lockhart, Patrick Sarell 2011), The Hunter (Marieka Walsh 2012), A Cautionary Tail (Simon Rippingale 2013), Grace Under Water (Anthony Lawrence 2014), Ernie Biscuit (Adam Elliot 2015), Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose (Brendan Fletcher and Del Kathryn Barton 2016) and Lost Property Office (Daniel Agdag 2017).

SBS Television SBS television has played an important role in supporting and highlighting independent animators in Australia. The government supported broadcaster has created such series of animated short films as: Swimming Outside the Flags (1999), Home Movies (2001) and World Tales (2004). The Home Movies series (2001), an initiative between the Australian Film Commission, SBS Independent, Film Victoria and the NSW Film and Television Office, has proved to be particularly influential. The series theme dictated that each of the films should represent a personal story. In doing so, the films managed to capture a snapshot of Australian life, often from the animator’s own childhood experiences of growing up in Australia. It was presented as a four-part, half-hour series; each episode would showcase three animated short films. And as an introduction, each animator was filmed briefly in an informal ‘home-movie’ styled documentary. Episode one consisted of: Hubcap (Nick Donkin), Dad’s Clock (Dik Jarman) and Walnut and Honeysuckle (Lucinda Clutterbuck). Episode two consisted of: Living with Happiness (Sarah Watt), Air (Tim Adlide) and Holding Your Breath (Anthony Lucas). Episode three consisted of: Looking for Horses (Anthony Lawrence), Pa (Neil Goodridge) and Ada (Lee Whitmore). Episode four consisted of: The Summer of’77



(Wendy Chandler), Unravelling (Ann Shenfield) and Into the Dark (Dennis Tupicoff). The Home Movies series screened on the SBS television network over four consecutive weeks. The SBS World Tales series (2004) was another significant series initiative that comprised twenty short animated films, each recounting traditional tales from around the world. The episodes included: Djinungs Koorngees (Michael Hughes) an indigenous Australian story from Wurundjeri Country; Urashima Taro (Donna Kendrigan) a traditional story from Japan; The Weaver and the Herder (Kyunghee Gwon) a traditional tale from Korea; The Royal tigress (Clare Davies) a traditional story from Cambodia; A Tiny Alliance (Sonia Kretschmar) a traditional story from India; Ming Bright (Sijun Zhou) a traditional story from China; The Twelve Months (Jonathan Nix) a traditional story from Russia; Stone Soup (Madeleine Griffith) a traditional story from Germany; Black School (Jeffrey Norris) a traditional Scottish Gaelic story; The Most Beautiful Chick (Wendy Tyrer) a traditional tale from Greece; Goha’s Donkey (Simon Rankin) a traditional story from the Middle East; The Bird King (Hamish Koci) a traditional story from Tunisia; The Traitor Friend (Ross Williams) a traditional story from Jordan; Marzooq the Lucky One (Simon Norton) a tale from Egypt; The Game Board (Kate Matthews) a traditional story from Ethiopia; Where Stories Come From (Lycette Bros.) a traditional story from South Africa; The Magic Drum (Lindsay Cox) an indigenous Canadian story; The Great Fox (Shaun Yue) a traditional story from Argentina; Maui Slows the Sun (Morgan Simpson) a traditional story from Polynesia; and Tam and Cam (Squarei) a traditional story from Vietnam.

Each tale is told both in English and in the language of the original story. The series was repeatedly aired on the SBS television network and was later released on DVD.

More Independent Animators In recent years, there has been an enormous upsurge of independent animation—many of the animators have come from university-level animation courses or industry, while others have emerged from related creative fields. Shaun Tan became the third Australian to win an Academy Award for best animated short film, The Lost Thing (2010), (following Bruce Petty in 1976 and Adam Eliott in 2003). Tan, a highly acclaimed author and illustrator, made his very successful foray into animation with the



adaptation of his best-selling children’s book, The Lost Thing, made into an animated short directed by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann. Anthony Lucas is a stop-motion animator who has made a number of films. One of his first was And the Lighthouse Made Three (Anthony Lucas). Later he made the short, Slim Pickings (1999), and he created the short film, Holding Your Breath (2001) for the Home Movies series on SBS television. His technique is primarily dimensional silhouette animation. He uses constructed puppets and models, but also a great deal of found materials, including: rocks, sticks and debris to create a surreal, yet gritty and textural world. His major leap to stardom was with his dimensional silhouette stop-motion film, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005), which was nominated for an Academy Award. Anthony Lawrence began making stop-motion animated films in the early 1980s. In 1989, he completed the 27 minute stop-motion animated film, Happy Hatchday to Plasmo, which he sold to the ABC. This then inspired the animated television series, Plasmo (1996), based on the characters. His next major film was Looking for Horses (2001), which was part of the SBS Home Movies series in which he teamed up with writer, Chrissie McMahon. The film was stunning in its use of atmosphere, texture and movement. He then worked as one of the key animators on the feature film, Mary and Max (Adam Eliott 2009). More recently, he has once again collaborated with writer, Chrissie McMahon, producing the short animated film, Grace Under Water (2014). Peter Nicholson is a well-known newspaper cartoonist who made his first substantial foray into animation when he created the 15 ­minute short animation, Thumpalong (1973). For the next few decades, Nicholson would focus on newspaper cartoons and the production of a political satire television series, Rubbery Figures (1987–1991), featuring live-action puppets. In the 2000s, he revisited animation with a series of political-themed short animations, which were made available on newspaper Internet sites. Ted Prior, an Australian children’s author, has written a series of over 25 books featuring his popular character named Grug, who is an anthropomorphised Burrawang (a small native palm-like tree). In 1979, with the financial support of the Australian Film Commission, Prior directed and animated the six-minute film, Grug, which portrayed the origin of this enduring character. Max Bannah, born in Brisbane, studied architecture in Australia and then film and animation in London. Upon returning to Australia, he set up an animation studio in Brisbane



in 1976 where he began producing animated commercials, short films and commissioned works. Employing primarily traditional drawn animation techniques, his numerous independent short films include: Violet and Brutal (1982), Bird Brain (1983), The Lone Sailor (1984), Cancer: Captain Bill Sails the ‘C’ (1985), the highly acclaimed, One Man’s Instrument (1990), and Winging It (1998). Bruce Currie, who was originally part of the Even Orchestra group co-animating with John Even Hughes, went on to make a number of animated films of his own. His 1982 cut-out animated film Flank Breeder won the AFI award for that year. Anatomy of a Businessman (1984) was nominated for an AFI award, and his later film Love Song (1998) also had success in many film festivals. Ann Shenfield began animating in the mid-1980s. Her early films used a variety of materials and techniques, including pencil, chalk, paint and sand. Her highly acclaimed film, A Saucer of Water for the Birds (1993), was animated with sand. Episodes in Disbelief (1999), a film composed of a series of evocative vignettes, was assisted by the Australian Film Commission. Her best known short film, Unravelling (2001), in which Susan Kim was Assistant Director, was commissioned as part of the Home Movies series. It features a wide combination of techniques, also involving three-dimensional paper/cardboard cut-out figures. Her most recent, after a long break from animating, When Crocodiles Weep, was completed in 2015. Susan Danta (aka Susan Kim) has created a number of award-winning animated films, including: Shadowplay (1999), Mother Tongue (2002) and The Bronze Mirror (2008). Each of these films conveys a strong sense of atmosphere and beautifully rendered imagery. Nick Hilligoss has worked primarily in stop-motion animation. He created a series of animated shorts called A Bunch of Fives (Nick Hilligoss 1998), compelling animated shorts that offered an alternative view on the natural world—namely from the animal’s perspective. Aired on the ABC, the episodes included: Turtle World, Cell Animation, Lower Orders, Banjo Frogs and Possum’s Rest. Another successful stop-motion animated short film L’Animateur (The Animator) (2007) features wonderfully weird creatures and, in a playful manner, highlights the process of animating. It was screened in animation festivals around the world, winning a number of awards. John Taylor created the comedic short, The Huge Adventures of Trevor, A Cat (1985) which won the AFI award for best animated short film and gained notoriety as it was screened r­ epeatedly as part of the in-flight entertainment on the national airline, Qantas.



It was followed by the sequel Trevor Island (1988); although ostensibly about an overweight cat, much of the focus of these films was upon the couple who owned the cat and their overuse of the pet-name ‘Darling’ in reference to each other. John Skibinski has had a long career in animation, making a number of short animated films, three of which have been nominated for AFI awards for best animated short film: Foxbat and the Mimi (1981), Foxbat and the Demon (1983), The Emu and the Sun (1989) and the more recent film, Lizard (2009). Skibinski also worked as an animator on the feature film, Abra Cadabra (Stitt 1983), and has assisted animating several of Dennis Tupicoff’s short films. Wendy Chandler has made a number of award-winning short ­animated films. Both Union Street (1990), a collage of cut-outs of photographic-derived imagery, and Vengeance (1997), won AFI awards for Best Animated Short Film. She also made a film for the Home Movies television series called, The Summer of’ 77 (2001). More recently, she has produced such animated films projects as Jose’s Story (2013). Chandler has also taught animation for a number of years. Jill Carter-Hansen has produced a number of animated films that combine a variety of techniques. The Messenger (1991) is a cut-out animation featuring mythical beasts and fantastical spaces. Songs of the Immigrant Bride (1996), also made from cut-outs, was supported by the Australia Film Commission, while her film Eclipse (1999) employed a very painterly approach. Sabrina Schmid has been animating since the mid-1980s. Her early films included Elephant Theatre (1985), which was nominated for an AFI award, and Once as if a Balloon (1989). Her more recent animated films have tended towards the experimental and the abstract, including: Evariations (2009), Abstracted Reflections (2011) and Abstract Iterations II (2016). Andrew Horne has created a number of stop-motion animated films, including Great Moments in Science (1995), and he was awarded the AFI Award for Best Animated Film for Shelf Life (1992). He was also the director of the 50 × 1 minute series, Leunig, based on the popular Leunig newspaper cartoons, and was broadcast on the Australian SBS television network (see Chapter 10). Nick Donkin created the educational animated film, Reaper Madness (1990), which was commissioned by the Centre for Education and Information on Drugs and Alcohol. He went on to create the animated short films, The Junky’s Christmas (1993), Raymond’s Mission (1997) and Hubcap (2001), which was as part of the Home Movies series. Michael Cusack who co-founded the



Adelaide animation studio, Anifex, also directed and animated a number of independent short films including the AFI awarding-wining stopmotion shorts: Waltzing Matilda (10 minutes, 1985) and Gargoyle (10 minutes, 2006). In addition, he has created many other critically acclaimed stop-motion films, including: The Book Keeper (1999), (R) evolution (10 minutes, 2001), Sleight of Hand (10 minutes, 2012) and After All (13 minutes, 2017). The People’s Republic of Animation is a studio based in South Australia. In addition to producing commercial works, they have also produced a number of successful short animated films including: Karaoke Nomad Squad (2003), Fritz Gets Rich (2005), Carnivore Reflux (2006) and I was a Teenage Butterfly (2007). Perhaps the group’s most acclaimed short film is The Cat Piano (Eddie White and Ari Gibson 2009) which won the AFI award for Best Animated Short Film. It is a darkly humorous and atmospheric animation about the continual disappearance of felines that are ultimately used to power a giant diabolical ‘cat piano.’ Daniel Agdag made the animated short Lost Property Office (2017) which not only won the AACTA award for best animated short film, but was also shortlisted for the Academy Award for best animated short film and has had strong success in the international animation festival circuit. The film was produced by Liz Kearney and received funding from Screen Australia. Jilli Rose has made a number of short animated films that tend to express themes of science and the natural world, including: Predator (2012), Sticky (2014) and Bright Spots (2016). The Lampshade Collective is a group of animators that was co-founded by Katrina Mathers and Patrick Sarell and also includes Daryl Munton and Merrin Jenson. The group has produced such award-winning animated short films as Nullarbor (2011) and The Gallant Captain (Katrina Mathers and Graeme Base, 2013) which is based on the children’s picture book of the same name by Graeme Base. Robert Stephenson’s short film Still Flying won the AFI award in 1989 for best animated short film, and his later film Lucky for Some was nominated for an AFI award in 2004. His most recent animated films include: Paris Lakes (2011) and Nightlife (2014). Jeremy Parker created the animated short, Picture Start, which won the 1990 AFI award for best animated short film. The animation humorously interrogates the materiality of film-making and viewer experience with a cartoon character that struggles with the (what was then) ubiquitous picture start countdown sequence of a movie. Paul Fletcher has made



dozens of experimental animated films, most of which often combine animation with video; most tend towards abstraction. Some of his more recent works include: City of Dust (2007), Cape Qualm (2009), Isle of Insectaesthesia (2010) and City Symphony Noise Poem (Paul Fletcher 2013). Maggie f*cke’s acclaimed animated film, Pleasure Domes (1987) screened at numerous international festivals including the Cannes Film Festival. Jane Shadbolt created the award winning stop-motion film, The Cartographer (2011). Peter Moyes won accolades with his animated film, Sunday (1993) and more recently has worked on a number of productions including the animated performance work, She’s Not There (2016). Korean born animator, Sejong Park, created his 3D short animated film, Birthday Boy, nominated for an Academy Award in 2005, while still a student at AFTRS (the Australian Film, Television and Radio School). The film dramatically and touchingly describes a young boy’s experiences in war-torn Korea. Jonathan Nix completed his first animated film, Hello, in 2003 while studying at RMIT University, which went on to win numerous awards. This success was followed by several other short films, including highly acclaimed The Missing Key (2011), intended as a sequel to Hello. Peter Cornwall created a short stop-motion film, Ward 13 (2003) which screened at numerous film festivals around the world and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. The success of this animated film catapulted Cornwall into the Hollywood film industry. S.L.A.G. (Southern Ladies Animation Group) is a collective of thirteen Australian women animators who have worked on a variety of projects. The group’s most intriguing production was the stop-motion animated documentary, It’s Like That (2003), which screened around the world, including at Sundance. It is based on an ABC radio broadcast of a phone conversation with some child detainees at an Australian Immigration Detention Centre. The speakers are depicted as small, cute, knitted baby-bird sculptured dolls. Although the cute visuals seem to illustrate appropriately the innocent-sounding voices of the speakers, in this instance, knowing the speakers to be imprisoned children, one is unequivocally led to question the system that holds them. The group has consisted of the following animators: Louise Craddock, Susan Earl, Sally Gross, Emma Kelly, Kate Matthews, Nicole McKinnon, Elizabeth McLennan, Sharon Parker, Sophie Raymond, Dell Stewart, Yuki Wada, Diana Ward and Justine Wallace. Steve Baker has produced a number of award-winning films including: An Imaginary Life (2007), Dog with an Electric Collar (2008),



which won the AFI Award for best animated short film, and his recent popular short, The Video Dating Tape of Desmondo Ray, Aged 33 & 3/4 (2014). Mikey Hill has created several short animated films, primarily hand-drawn: Norbert (2007), The Not-So-Great Eugene Green (2009), and, most recently, the internationally acclaimed The Orchestra (2015). John Lewis and Janette Goodey made the short stop-motion film, The Story of Percival Pilts which is set to a rhyming poem about a character that lives out his entire life on stilts. Both Goodey and Lewis had made several animated shorts previously; John Lewis had also been an animator on Adam Elliot’s feature, Mary and Max (2009). Darcy Prendergast has directed a large number of highly innovative and original films and he is also one of the founders of Oh Yeah Wow, a studio/collective comprised of a number of other talented independent animators and film-makers that are involved in both commercial and independent projects. Prendergast has also directed such animated music video films as Lucky (2009) and Rippled (2012) for All India Radio, and Easy Way Out (2013) for Gotye. Sal Cooper has also produced a number of animated short films, including: Song for a Comb (2009) and The Carnival (2015). Felix Colgrave has created such intricately animated surreal films as The Elephant’s Garden (2013), and Double King (2017). Paul Howell has produced many animated short films over the past several decades, including his acclaimed recent short, Husk (2014). Howell is also known for his co-development (along with Ross Garner) in 1999 of the widely used stop-motion animation software, Stop Motion Pro. In tandem with the rise in production of independent animation in the 1990s in the form of short animated films, there also was a rise in the exhibition of mixed media and nonlinear animated works—often foregrounding what was at that time the cusp of the digital revolution in terms of animated film-making. Some worked across these two realms. Leon Cmielewski’s animated short, Writer’s Block (1995), was nominated for an AFI award; he also produced a number of animated multimedia and interactive works throughout the 1990s. Perhaps one of the higher profile animators working in this area was John McCormack who produced a number of algorithmic 3D animated installation works such as: Turbulence (1991–1995), Future Garden (1998–2003) Universal Zoologies (John McCormack, 1996–2001). His work screened both nationally and internationally. Other prominent technology focused artist/animators have included: Noel Richards, John Tonkin, Sally Pryor (who created the 3D



computer-animated film Dream House in 1984, which was probably the first Australian 3D film to exhibit around the world and gain serious international attention), Andrew Quinn, and many others.

Animated Conclusions The development of independent animation in Australia is, of course, an era of the history of Australian animation that is still being played out— and it is anticipated that in subsequent writings many of the currently burgeoning animators will also be highlighted and contextualised within the greater historical context. Overall, while the foregoing has surveyed the history of Australian animation from its earliest beginnings to recent decades, providing a brief overview of the culture of independent animation in Australia, animation continues to be produced in Australia, perhaps to a greater degree than ever before. Undoubtedly, the subject of Australian animation is a historical narrative that is becoming increasingly complex. There are now more international collaborations, complicating the delineation as to what constitutes an Australian animation. Furthermore, due to changing technologies, there is also less demarcation of what comprises an animated production as animated elements are found in visual effects sequences, video games, mobile devices, billboards and video projections. When considered against this changing animation landscape, there has been a dizzying array of animation produced in Australia in recent years. The future of Australian animation will undoubtedly follow closely the future of global animation. There will continue to be a huge array of independent animators, studios will continue to rise and fall, and international collaborations will continue to become increasingly complex. Some productions will seek to tap into an ‘Australian culture’ while others will be consciously devoid of any specific cultural identification. However, it is evident that Australian animation will continue to attract increasing attention from industry, audiences and importantly from historical and critical analysis.


1. Bruce Pettyinterview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 5 July 2004. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.



5. Ibid. 6.  Arthur Cantrill and Corinne Cantrill interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 28 August 2004. 7. Ibid. 8. Albie Thoms, My Generation (Sydney: Media 21 Publishing, 2012), 93. 9. Albie Thoms interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 18 January 2005 10. Peter Mudie, Ubu Films Sydney Underground Movies, 1965–1970 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1997), 77. 11. Albie Thoms, My Generation (Sydney: Media 21 Publishing, 2012). 12. Albie Thoms interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 18 January 2005. 13. Neil Taylor interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 2 September 2004. 14. ‘Neil Taylor,’ Cantrills Filmnotes, no. 63, 64 (December 1990), 15. 15. Neil Taylor interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 2 September 2004. 16. Ibid. 17. ‘Marcus Bergner,’ Cantrills Filmnotes, no. 49, 50 (April 1986), 18. 18.  For more on John Even Hughes recent landscape animations see for example: Torre, Dan. Animation—Process, Cognition and Actuality. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. 19. Dennis Tupicoff interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 2 May 2004. 20.  For more on Tupicoff’s His Mothers Voice, see for example: Torre, Animation, 2017. 21. Quoted in, SBS Home Movies series (2001). 22. Kathy Smith interview with Dan Torre and Lienors Torre, 3 August 2004. 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid. 25. Adam Elliot, Harvie Krumpet Press Kit (Melbourne, 2003).

Bibliography ‘Marcus Bergner.’ Cantrills Filmnotes, 49, 50, April 1986. Cantrill, Arthur. ‘Neil Taylor.’ Cantrills Filmnotes, 63, 64, December 1990. Cantrill, Arthur, and Corinne Cantrill. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (28 August 2004). Dear, Amanda. ‘Dennis Tupicoff.’ In Home Movies, 2001. Melodrama-Pictures. ‘Harvie Krumpet.’ News release, 2003. Mudie, Peter. Ubu Films Sydney Underground Movies, 1965–1970. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1997. Petty, Bruce. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (5 July 2004). Smith, Kathy. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (3 August 2004). Taylor, Neil. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (2 September 2004).



Thoms, Albie. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (18 January 2005). ———. My Generation. Sydney: Media 21 Publishing, 2012. Torre, Dan. Animation—Process, Cognition and Actuality. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. Tupicoff, Dennis. By Dan Torre and Lienors Torre (2 May 2004).


A Abbot and Costello (animated series) (1967), 96, 162 Aboriginal animators, 194 themes, 194 Aboriginal Arts Board, 194 Aboriginal Nations studio, 191, 193 Abra Cadabra (1983), 155, 234 abstract animation, 219 Abstracted Reflections (2011), 234 Abstract Iterations II (2016), 234 Accents American, 3, 181 Australian, 3, 71, 181, 203, 206 British, 3, 71 character, 181 mid-Atlantic, 3, 181 ACME registration system, 85 Ada (2000), 225 Adam and Eve (1962), 75 Adams, Merredith, 220 Adams, Phillip, 149, 151

adaptations book to animation, 150, 187, 232 comic to animation, 94 live-action to animation, 192, 195 Adlide, Tim, 230 Adolf in Plunderland (1940), 65 Adventures of Blinky Bill, The (1993), 145 Adventures of Bottle Top Bill, The (2003–04), 189 Adventures of Hot Chunks, The (1999), 202 Adventures of Sam, The (1996–97), 189 advertising cinema, 2, 10, 25, 26, 60, 81 print, 20, 23, 27, 72 television, 76, 79, 81, 102, 193, 195, 201 Aeroplane Jelly (1942), 66 After All (2017), 235 Agdag, Daniel, 230, 235 Air Cartoons (radio program), 27 Air Programs Australia (APA), 88, 89, 104

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 D. Torre and L. Torre, Australian Animation,


242  Index Air Programs International (API), 3, 79, 88, 89, 91–93, 99, 104, 108, 120–122, 132, 162–166, 179, 181, 182, 194 Ajax Films, 100, 189 Aladdin (animated series, Disney), 121 Aladdin and His Magic Lamp (1970), 122 Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), 199 Aladdin-Return of Jafar (1994), 199 Albert’s (proposed animated series), 188 Al et al. studio, 148, 150 Alhambra Theatre, 9 Alice in Wonderland (animated), 180 All India Radio, 237 All-New Popeye Hour series (1978), 171 Ally Sloper, 32 Altair in Starland (2001), 202 Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, The (1972), 96, 166 Amazing Stories (series), 190 Ambience Entertainment, 206 Analog Stress (2004), 220 Anatomy of a Businessman (1984), 233 Anchor Bay, 184 Anderson, J.L., 18 Anderson, Will, 34 And the Lighthouse Made Three, 232 Anifex, 201, 235 Anim-ads, 76, 101 Animal Logic, 205, 206 animation animated documentary, 46, 84, 99, 180, 227, 236 computer, 130, 197 experimental, 101, 114, 214, 218, 220, 236 inbetweening, 180, 181, 212

independent, 4, 71, 72, 97, 101, 133, 202, 211, 212, 214, 215, 220, 221, 228, 230, 231, 233, 237, 238 materials, 15, 65, 109, 232 timing, 85, 187, 190 animation camera, 14, 23, 74, 100, 147, 213 3D system, 156–157 aerial-image camera, 111, 141 camera operator, 8, 18, 190, 213 Animation Co-Op (Sydney), 220 Animation Game, The (1980), 229 Animation International, Inc., 107, 111, 126 animation techniques cel animation, 55, 63, 64, 94 cut-out animation, 14–16, 26, 75, 76, 101, 215, 234 paint on glass, 225 stop-motion animation, 8, 15, 55, 60, 64, 102, 136, 201, 215, 228, 233, 237 Are You Positive? (1957), 46, 84 Ariel Productions, 110 Armchair Productions, 207 Around the World in 80 Days (animated film), 91 Around the World in 80 Days (animated series), 92 Around the World with Dot (aka Dot and Santa Claus) (1981), 141 Art Alive (2003–2005), 145 Arthur! And the Square Knights of the Round Table (1966), 89 Artransa Studio, 99 Ashton, Julian, 10 Asia, 2, 110, 182, 208 Atkinson, David, 148, 151, 211, 212 Augestin, Cliff, 47 Australia felix, 35, 36


Australia Film Development Corporation, 92 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA), 229, 230, 235 Australian accent, 3, 71, 181 animals, 3, 57, 58, 62, 64, 74, 141–143, 145, 185, 191 animation, 1–4, 38, 41, 53, 54, 58, 80, 82, 92, 97, 108, 112, 114, 120, 133, 138, 139, 147, 161, 163, 165, 167, 175, 176, 182, 189, 190, 192, 194, 200, 203, 206, 209, 211, 215, 221, 224, 232, 238 isolation, 1, 53 landscape, 4, 57, 135, 139, 172, 224, 238 vernacular, 3, 38, 145, 203 Australian Animated Cartoons (studio), 60, 62, 65, 80 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television network, 81, 203, 225 Australian Film Commission, 139, 228, 230, 232, 233 Australian Film Institute (AFI), 220–222, 224, 225, 228, 229, 233–235, 237 Australian History (1970), 57, 213 Australian Tax Office, 202 ‘Australian Walt Disney’, 3, 4, 53, 58, 87 Australia’s Wonderland theme park, 173 awards AACTA, 229 Academy Award, 4, 161, 196, 205, 206, 213, 228, 231, 232, 235, 236 AFI, 220, 224, 225, 228 Emmy, 206 Ayers Rock Animation (1985), 224


B Babe (1995), 205 Babe, Pig in the City (1998), 205 Baby Felix, 48 Baker, Jeannie, 229 Baker, Steve, 230, 236 Baker, Suzanne, 196, 213 Balinese Slapping Fish (1998), 202 Ball, Murray, 200 Balnaves, Neil, 169, 171, 173, 174, 176, 177 Balty, Jean, 97 Bannah, Max, 232 Barbera, Joe, 161, 163, 168, 172 Barker, David, 17, 18, 26, 28 Barrackville Breakfast Cocoa (c1920), 26 Barre, Raoul, 14, 34, 41 Barry, Stuart, 91 Bartle, Ray, 91 Barton, Ellsworth, 47 Barton, Kathryn, 230 Baseball, 171 Base, Graeme, 235 Batchelor, Joy, 58, 59 Batman, 87, 126, 206 Battlefront (video game 1986), 204 Bauer, Eli, 110 BBC, 191 Beached Az (2010), 206 Beam Software, 204 Beatles, The (animated series), 86, 98, 195 Beauty and the Beast (animated film), 184 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), 199 Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), 121 Beetle Bailey (animated series), 86 Bennett, A.E., 82, 83 Beowulf, 150

244  Index Beresford, Bruce, 215 Bergner, Marcus, 219, 239 Bernstein Bears (animated series), 171, 172 Bertie the Aeroplane, 66 Besen, Naomi, 204 Betty Boop, 32, 47 Big Brother Australia (live-action series), 189 Big Sound, The (radio series), 88 Billy and Tilly Bluegum, 58 Billy and Tilly in Harem Scarem (1934), 58 Bimbo’s Auto (1954), 67, 68 Bimbo’s Clock (unreleased animated film), 68 Binding, Graham, 142 Bird Brain (1983), 233 Bird, John, 137, 211 Bird King, The (2004), 231 Birthday Boy (2004), 230 Black Arrow (animated film), 91, 180 Black Fungus (1971), 218 Black Planet, The (1982), 192 Black School (2004), 231 Black Sorrows, The, 227 Blackton, J. Stuart, 15 Blanc, Mel, 113 Blinky Bill the Movie (2015), 145 Blinky Bill: The Mischievous Koala (1992), 144 Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Balloon Adventure (2004), 145 Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Excursion (1995), 145 Blood on the Chandelier (1995), 229 Blue Heelers (live-action series), 189 Blue Rocket, 203 Bluto (1967), 217 Bogan Entertainment Solutions (BES), 203

Bogle, Jack, 42 Bogue, Jo, 188 Bold King Cole (1936), 45 Bonkers (animated series), 199 Book Keeper, The (1999), 235 Bottersnikes & Gumbles (2016-), 206 Brian Henderson’s Bandstand (series), 137 Bright Spots (2016), 235 Brilliant Digital Ideas, 190 Brodax, Al, 86 Bronze Mirror, The (2008), 233 Brooke-Hunt, Tim, 180 Brother (1999), 228 Brother Bear 2 (2006), 199 Brown, Bryan, 202 Browning, Mike, 155 Bubica, Zora, 89 Bulletin, The, 32, 132, 207 Bunch of Fives, A (1998), 233 Bunyip (1986-87), 142, 191 Burbank Animation Studio, 183, 184 Burbank Films, 179–182, 207 Burge, John, 91, 196, 197 Burgess, Darren, 228 Burstall, Tim, 75 Bush Mechanics (live-action series 2001), 195 Bush Mechanics Animated (2014), 195 C Cambridge Films, 74 Camel Boy, The (1984), 144 Campbell, Ron, 89, 195 Cancer: Captain Bill Sails the ‘C’ (1985), 233 Cantrill, Arthur, 214, 239 Cantrill, Corinne, 214, 239 Cantrill, Ivor, 215 Cantrills Filmnotes, 215, 239 Cape Qualm (2009), 236 Captain Comet of the Space Rangers (animated series), 94, 125


Careful Koala (1952), 71 Carnival, The (2015), 237 Carnivore Reflux (2006), 235 Carr, Gerald, 37, 49 Carter-Hansen, Jill, 234 Cartoon Filmads, 2, 14, 15, 18–21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 56, 60, 64 cartoonist newspaper cartoonist, 41, 58, 212, 232 political cartoons, 212 Cartoons of the Moment (1915–16), 13 Castle Jackson advertising agency, 97 Catflap Animation, 203 Cat Piano, The (2009), 230, 235 Catts-Patterson, 26, 27 Cause, Bill, 34 Cautionary Tail, A (2012), 230 CBS (American television network), 48, 91 Ceberano, Kate, 227 Chainsaw (2007), 223 Challenge of Flight, The (1962), 89 Challenge of the Sea, The (1962), 89 Chandler, Wendy, 229, 231, 234 Change of Place (1985), 224 Channel Nine Network, 96, 99, 197 Channel Seven Network, 197 Channel Ten Network, 185 Chansons sans Paroles (1958), 136 Chaplin, Charlie, 37, 43, 44 Charlie (or Charley) animated series, 37 Charlie at the Beach (1919), 37 Charlie on the Farm (1919), 37 Chataway, Richard, 201, 229 Chin, Lili, 202 Christiani, Quirino, 15 Christmas Carol, A (1984), 180 Cinderella (1950), 54 Cinderella (animated film), 184


Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007), 199 Cinemagic, 189, 190 Cinesound, 59 City of Dust (2007), 236 City Symphony Noise Poem (2013), 236 Clardy, George D., 34 Clark, John, 215, 216 clayographies, 228 Clements, Stan, 60, 64 Clutterbuck, Lucinda, 226, 230 Cmielewski, Leon, 237 Cobwebs on a Parachute (1967), 76 Colgrave, Felix, 237 Collette, Toni, 187, 228 Colman, Dianne, 104, 161, 169, 176, 208 colour comics, 20 film, 20, 74, 81 hand-tinting, 20 comic strip, 27, 32, 34, 35, 40, 44, 45, 55, 57, 86, 94, 97, 149, 191, 200, 201 Commonwealth Film Laboratories, 62 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), 97, 190 Computer Enhanced Classical Animation Production System (CECAPS), 184 Connelly, Dennis, 53, 58, 59 Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A (animated film), 92 Conreid, Hans, 113 Contemplation of the Cross (1989), 218 Cooke, Gairden, 91, 158, 167, 176, 194, 198, 208 Cooke, Kaz, 229 Cook, Kenneth, 202 Cool McCool (animated series), 87, 88, 195

246  Index Cooper, Sal, 237 Copland, Bill, 94 Cornwall, Peter, 236 Corsican Brothers, The (animated film), 180 Count of Monte Cristo, The (animated film), 93 Court of Old King Cole, The (1939), 69 Cousin (1998), 228 Cowan, Paul, 158 Cox, Lindsay, 231 Craven, Howard, 65 Crocadoo (1996-98), 185 Crust (1986), 220, 229 Cuba, 194 Cunningham, Stuart, 202 Cureton, Pat, 111 Currie, Bruce, 220, 229, 233 Cusack, Michael, 201, 229, 230, 234 cut-out animation, 14–16, 26, 75, 76, 101, 215, 234 D Dad’s Clock (2001), 230 Dairyland Romance, A (1953), 71 Dance of Death (1983), 222, 229 Daniell, Fred, 27, 80 Danta, Susan (aka Susan Kim), 233 Darra Dogs, The (1993), 222, 229 David Copperfield (1982), 180 David Perry (animated film) (1968), 217 David Tench Tonight (2006-07), 205 Davies, Clare, 231 Daw, Jonathan, 195 Dawson, Janine, 158 Day My Butt Went Psycho, The (201415), 203 DC, 126 de Bruyn, Dirk, 219 Defenders of the Earth (1986-87), 181

Delirium (1988), 224 Deneen, David, 196 Denison, R.E., 80 Dennis the Menace and Gnasher (2009-13), 204 Denton, Andrew, 213 DePatie-Freleng, 111 Digby, Desmond, 206 Digswell Dog Show (1998), 185 Disney, Walt, 2–4, 32, 40, 53, 54, 58, 59, 64, 67, 72, 74, 77, 78, 117, 126, 140, 174, 182, 185, 197, 204. See also separate entries for individual film titles as competition, 121 Australian studio, 3, 4, 174, 197–200 characters, 64 influence, 54 non-Australian studios, 54 Djinungs Koorngees (2004), 231 Dog and Cat News (2002), 203 Dogstar (2006), 192 Dog with an Electric Collar (2008), 236 Donkin, Nick, 230, 234 Doodles (2016–), 206 Dot and Keeto (1985), 142 Dot and the Bunny (1983), 141 Dot and the Kangaroo (1977), 138 Dot and the Koala (1984), 142 Dot and the Smugglers (aka Dot and the Bunyip) (1987), 142 Dot Goes to Hollywood (1987), 143 Dot in Space (1994), 143 Double King (2017), 237 Dragonslayer Animation, 196 Dream (1966), 215 Dream House (1984), 238 Dreaming, The (animated series), 191


Dreamtime, This Time, Dreamtime: The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia (1978), 194 Dreamworks Animation, 48 Driffield, Lance, 14 Driscoll, Wally, 97 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 180 Duck Tales (animated series), 182 DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990), 199 Dukes of Broxstonia, The (2010-13), 204 Dyson, Will, 54, 55, 77, 211 E Earle, Eyvinde, 114 Easy Way Out (2013), 237 Eclipse (1999), 234 Eddie’s Alphabet, 100, 104 Edwards, George, 62 8 Nursery Rhymes (1960), 75 Elephant Theatre (1985), 234 Elephant’s Garden, The (2013), 237 Elliot, Adam, 228–230, 237, 239 EM.TV, 145 Emu and the Sun, The (1989), 234 Endemol Australia, 189 Enders, Frank, 47 Energee Entertainment, 183–185, 187, 188, 190, 193 Engel, Jules, 195 England, 2, 13, 21, 32, 60, 83, 87, 89, 90, 181 ePaint, 184 Epic (aka Epic:Days of the Dinosaur) (1983), 144 Episodes in Disbelief (1999), 233 Eric Porter Productions, 53, 60, 65, 87, 93, 96, 107–110, 120, 129, 131, 162 Erky Perky (2006-), 206 Ernie Biscuit (2015), 228, 230


Ettamogah, 203 Europe, 2, 53, 65, 89, 91, 103, 188 Even Orchestra, 220, 233 Ewart, John, 91 experimental animation, 101, 114, 214 experimental film, 136, 138, 211, 214–220, 222 Experimental Film and TV Fund, 222 Extremely Goofy Movie, An (2000), 199 F Fable Films, 191 Family Dog, 190 Fanfare Films, 79, 80, 91, 96, 98, 100, 148, 190 Farnham, John, 155 Feline Follies (1919), 35, 37 Felix, Peter, 35, 36 Felix the Cat, 31, 32, 35–36, 42–43, 45, 47–50, 85. See also separate entries for individual film titles animated, 31 character design, 48 comics, 38, 42 dispute over creatorship, 35, 42 Felix The Cat Creations, 45, 85 Felix the Cat Productions, Inc., 47 merchandising, 44, 48 negotiations with Artransa, 46 ownership of, 48 popularity, 43, 48 Felix the Cat (animate series 1958– 59), 45–47 Felix the Cat: The Movie (1991), 49 FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), 204 FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue (1997), 204 Field, David, 182, 183, 207

248  Index Fields, W.C., 191 Figure in Front of a Painting, A (1984), 224 Filloy, Arthur, 158 Filmads. See Cartoon Filmads Film Australia, 197, 202 Film Development Corporation, 95, 179 Film Graphics, 196, 213 Film Victoria, 230 Fine Arts Productions, 96 Fire King (video game 1989), 204 First Animated Step, The (1976), 138 First Christmas, The (animated film), 92 Fisherman’s Holiday (1952), 75 Fix and Foxi (animated series), 188 Flank Breeder (1982), 220, 229, 233 Fleischer, Max, 32, 63 Fleischer Brothers (Studio), 18 Fletcher, Brendan, 230 Fletcher, Paul, 235, 236 Flicks Animation studio, 202 flip-books, 74 Flipper and Lopaka (animated series), 135 Flying Bark productions, 145 Flying Colours Animation, 202 Following Father’s Footsteps (radio series), 62 f*cke, Maggie, 236 Footrot Flats: A Dog’s Tale (1987), 200 Ford, Cam, 82, 84, 86, 88, 99, 103, 111, 112, 114, 133, 188, 189, 208 Ford, Diana, 103, 189, 208 Ford, Harrison, 14 Format Films, 195 4000 Frames, An Eye-Opener Film (1970), 214 Fox, Michael J., 173 Foxbat and the Demon (1983), 234 Foxbat and the Mimi (1981), 234

Fox Movietone, 27 Freberg, Stan, 96 Freddo the Frog (animated series 1962), 91, 98 Frederator Studios, 203 Fred Flintstone, 161, 170, 173, 175 Freerange Animation, 202 French, Steven, 192 Fritz Gets Rich (2005), 235 Fudge Puppy Animation, 202 Full Spectrum Warrior (video game 2004), 204 Fundeath (1969), 218 Funny Farm, The, 202 Fwak Animation, 202 G Gadfly, The (magazine), 32 Galaxy Pop, 207 Gallant Captain, The (2013), 235 Game Board, The (2004), 231 Garcia, Luis, 158 Gardiner, Peter, 111, 114 Gargoyle (2006), 230, 235 Garland, Judy, 113 Garling, Russ, 27 Garner, Ross, 237 Gathercole, Ross, 158, 192 Geddes, Maggie, 151, 158, 192, 202 General Mills, 91, 120 Gentella, John, 47 Gentlemen of Titipu (animated film), 93 George’s Fine Furs (1910), 10 Geranetti, George, 47 Get Ace (2012-13), 202 Ghost Train (painting), 57 Gibson, Ari, 230, 235 Gibson, Grace, 83 Gibbins, Helen, 154 Gilgamesh (animated film), 93 Gillett, Burt, 41, 44, 45


Girl Who Swallowed Bees, The (Pau McDermott 2006), 230 Gland, Helen, 185, 207 Glen Art Productions, 202 Global Haywire (2007), 214 Gloria’s House (animated series), 188 Godfrey, Bob, 99 Godfrey, Chris, 205 Goha’s Donkey (2004), 231 Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1991), 184 Golsby, Kevin, 94, 113 Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1974), 96 Goodey, Janette, 237 Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, The (1936), 44 Gordon, Hayes, 155 Gorgeous (1993), 229 Gotye, 237 Grabner, Gerry, 84 Grace Under Water (2014), 230, 232 Graham, Eddy, 91 Gram, Leif, 91 Graphik Animation Studio, 87 Great (1976), 99 Great Expectations (1983), 180 Great Fox, The (2004), 231 Great-Idea Jerry (comic strip), 34 Great Moments in Science (1995), 234 Green, Cliff, 192 Greenhalgh, Rowl, 80, 100, 195 Grendel Grendel Grendel (1981), 150, 153, 154 Griffith, Madeleine, 231 Griffiths, Andy, 203 Gross, Yoram, 4, 135, 137, 138, 140, 143, 145, 146, 190, 194, 217, 226 Grossman, Rube, 47 Grug (1979), 232


Gummie Bears (animated series), 199 Gwon, Kyunghee, 231 H Halftone (1967), 217 Hall, Ken, 59 Halo Pictures, 207 Handberg (1985), 219 hand-made films Hand-made Film Kit, 217 Hand-made Film Manifesto, 216 Hanna-Barbera Australian studio, 3, 164, 165, 167, 168, 170, 172, 173, 190, 196 characters, 3, 113, 169, 170, 173 court case, 165, 166 employment, 170, 172 overseas studios, 3 series, 93, 96, 109, 113, 162, 164, 166–168, 170, 172, 174, 182, 188, 189, 197, 227 Hanna, Bill, 161–168, 170, 172, 175, 176 Hansel & Gretel (animated film), 184 Happy Feet (2006), 4 Harry Julius Advertising Service, 27 Hartley, Ray, 94 Harvie Krumpet (2003), 228, 230, 239 Hatfield, Marcia, 100, 104, 189 Hava Nagila (1959), 136 Hay, Phyllis, 97 Hearts and Minds (1968), 212 Heidi (animated film), 92 Hellard, Frank, 97, 99, 104, 148, 151, 152, 158, 159 Hello (2003), 236 Hernadi, Tibor, 48 Herschells Films Pty. Ltd., 55 Higgins, Ernest, 60 Higgins, Ross, 94, 132 High Fidelity (1976), 221

250  Index Hill, John, 195 Hill, Mikey, 237 Hilligoss, Nick, 233 His Mother’s Voice (1996), 222 Hobbit, The (video game 1982), 204 Hobbs, Leigh, 145 Hoffman, Philip Seymour, 228 Hofmann, Sonia, 229 Holding Your Breath (2001), 230, 232 Hole, Pru, 220 Home Movies (SBS series) (2001), 223, 225, 227, 230–234, 239 Hoota and Snoz (2000), 203 Hoppity Goes to Town (aka Mr. Bug Goes to Town) (1941), 121 Horne, Andrew, 202, 229, 234 How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (1918), 37 Howdy Doody, 68 Howell, Paul, 237 Howson, Peter, 164 Hubcap (2001), 230, 234 Hucker, Walt, 88, 164, 165 Hucker, Wendy, 88, 104 Huckleberry Finn (animated film), 92 Huge Adventures of Trevor, A Cat, The (1985), 229, 233 Hughes, John Even, 220, 233, 239 Hughes, Michael, 231 Human Contraptions (2002), 213 Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (animated film), 184 Hunter, The (2011), 230 Hunwick, Glen, 202 Husk (2014), 237 I Iannucci and Tulk, 109, 130, 133 Iced-Hopes of Dr. Calastein, The (1982), 220 Illichmann, Gunter, 74, 78, 211

Iloura studio, 206 Imaginary Life, An (2007), 236 Immigrant Bride (1996), 234 inbetweening, 180, 181, 212 Indasia Soap, 25 Indefinable Moods (2002), 225 Industrial Design Council of Australia, The, 149 industrial films, 15, 19 Inferno, The (animated film), 202 Ingram, Greg, 197 ink and paint colour, 62 digital, 183, 184 line quality, 152–153 In Melbourne Tonight (television series), 96 international co-production sub-contracting, 103, 109, 163 International Television Services Pty. Ltd, 80 Inter-View (1973), 219 Into the Dark (2001), 223, 231 INXS, 227 Irwin, Steve, 205 Island of Nevawuz, The (1978), 191 Isle of Insectaesthesia (2010), 236 …it Droppeth as the Gentle Rain (1965), 215 It Happens all the Time (radio program), 88 It’s Like That (2003), 236 I was a Teenage Butterfly (2007), 235 Iwerks, Ub, 32 J J & C Animation, 89 Jack and Jones (2012), 195 Jack Parry Animation, 207 Jackson, Graeme, 158 James, Bill, 65


James Hardie Industries, 172, 173 Janjic, Zoran, 89, 93, 104, 163, 164, 168, 171, 176, 196, 197, 208 Jar Dwellers SOS (2012-13), 193 Jarman, Dik, 228, 230 Jenson, Merrin, 235 Jigsaw Factory, The, 148 Jingle Bells (1957), 81 Joe Barbera, 161, 163, 168, 172 John Callahan’s QUADS! (20012002), 192 Johnston, David, 229 John Wilson Productions (JWP), 96 Jolliffe, Anne, 97–99, 104, 151, 158, 190, 208, 226 Jollification, 190, 226 Joop Geesink’s Studio, 102 Joseph the Dreamer (1961), 137 Jose’s Story (2013), 234 Journey Back to OZ (1972), 113, 121, 122 Journey to the Centre of the Earth (animated film), 92 Julius, Harry, 1, 3, 5, 8–10, 13, 17, 18, 27–29, 32, 34, 41, 49, 56, 60, 75, 101 Jumbla, 207 Jungle Book 2, The (2003), 199 Junky’s Christmas, The (1993), 234 K Kaboodle (animated/live-action series), 192, 193 Kagran Corporation, 68 Kane, Bob, 87, 126 Kangaroo Creek Gang, The (2001-02), 189 Karaoke Nomad Squad (2003), 235 Karl Marx (1977), 213 Kearney, Liz, 235 Keaton, Buster, 43


Kendrigan, Donna, 231 Kidman, Nicole, 205 Kidnapped (animated film), 92 Kim, Susan (aka Susan Danta), 233 King Billy’s First Car (c1934), 57 King Features, 86, 87, 182 Klynn, Herb, 195 Knapp, Robert, 93, 94 Koci, Hamish, 231 Koko Pops (1981), 221 Kouzel, Alfred, 110 Krazy Kat, 86 Kretschmar, Sonia, 231 Krome Studios, 204 L L’Animateur (The Animator) (2007), 233 L.A. Noire (video game 2011), 205 labour free-lance, 47, 72, 74, 87, 99, 148, 175, 180, 183, 201 immigrant animators, 72 overseas animators, 111, 174 residuals, 166 salaries, 97, 165 strikes, 55, 170 working conditions, 167 Lady and the Tramp (1955), 54, 117 Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001), 199 Laing, Alec, 8, 10, 14, 28, 32, 34, 42, 49 Lake, Albert E., 18, 21 Lake, J.A., 18 La Milo (Pansy Montague), 8 La Milo Films, 9, 10 Lampshade Collective, The, 235 Land of Australia: Aboriginal Art, 194

252  Index landscape animation, 239 LaPaglia, Anthony, 205 Last of the Mohicans, The, 180 Lawrence, Anthony, 228, 230, 232 Lea, Cecily, 195 Lea, Ray (aka Raymond Leach), 195, 196 Leach, Raymond (aka Raymond Lea), 87, 195 Lee, Michael, 218 Lee, Rod, 183, 207 Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The (animated film), 92 Legend of Spyro, The (video game 2006), 204 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010), 206 Lego Batman Movie, The (2017), 206 Lego Movie, The (2014), 206 Leisure (1976), 196, 213 Letter to a Friend (1978), 229 Leunig, Michael, 202 Leunig Animated (2004), 202 Lewis, John, 228, 237 Lewis Machine Gun (animated film), 69 Life, Be In It (advertising campaign), 149 Lift Off (animated/live-action series), 191, 193, 225 Light Knights Productions, 203 lightning sketch animated lightning sketch, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 28 Light of the Darkness (1952), 75 Lil Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers (1997-98), 193 Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005), 199 Lindsay, Joan, 224 Lindsay, Norman, 185, 186 Lion King 1 1⁄2 (2004), 199

Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, The (1998), 199 Liquid Animation, 207 Litchfield, Geoff, 14 Little Convict, The (aka Toby and the Koala Bear) (1979), 143 Little Johnny The Movie (2011), 203 Little Mermaid, The (animated film), 184 Little Mermaid 2, Return to the Sea, The (2000), 199 live-action filmmaking, 66, 76, 139, 205, 215, 219, 227 Living on the Comet (1993), 225 Livingston, Paul, 220 Living with Happiness (2001), 227, 230 Lizard (2009), 234 Li’L Larikkins (2012), 203 Local Dive (2000), 227 Lockhart, Alister, 230 Lone Ranger, The (animated series), 88, 195 Lone Sailor, The (1984), 233 Look Both Ways (2005), 228 Looking for Horses (2001), 230, 232 Lord of the Rings, The (2001), 205 Lost Property Office (2017), 230, 235 Lost Thing, The (2010), 206, 230, 231 Love Song (1998), 233 Lowel, Nigel, 94 Lucas, Anthony, 230, 232 Lucky (2009), 237 Lucky for Some (2004), 235 Ludo Studio, 206, 209 LUMA Pictures, 206 Luschwitz, Peter, 91, 196, 202 Lycette Bros., 207, 231 Lynch, Jason, 228 M Machinations, 227 Mackinnon, Don, 91


MacRae, Charles, 158 MacRobertson’s chocolates, 98 Mad Century, The (2000), 213 Maegraith, Kerwin, 35, 43, 48–50 Magic Book, The (unreleased animated film), 190, 195 Magic Drum, The (2004), 231 magic lantern, 9 Magic Pudding, The (animated film) (2000), 2, 188, 206 Magic Pudding, The (book), 185–188 Magic Riddle, The (1991), 144 Magic Trumpet, The (1962), 75, 76 Magpie Productions, 200 Maitland & Morpeth String Quartet, The (animated series), 191 Mal-com, 62, 77 Malcolm, George, 62 Man (1999), 221 Management buyout (MBO), 173 Manila (Philippines), 181 Marco (Rankin-Bass 1976), 108, 122 Marco Polo Junior vs The Red Dragon (1972), 4, 96, 107, 119, 123–125 Marco Polo Return to Xanadu (2001), 107, 108, 128, 131 Marek, Dusan, 75, 76, 101, 211, 217 Marinetti (1969), 217 Martin, John, 94, 158 Martin, Lynsey, 219 Marvel Productions, 181 Mary and Max (2009), 228, 232, 237 Marzooq the Lucky One (2004), 231 Master Tom, 35, 37 Mathers, Katrina, 235 Matrix, The (1999), 205 Mattell Toys, 95 Matthews, Connie, 97 Matthews, Kate, 231, 236 Matthews, Pat, 97, 98 Maui Slows the Sun (2004), 231 Maynard, Ken, 203


McAdam, Paul, 93 McAlpine, Greg, 202 McClure newspaper syndicate, 34 McCormack, John, 237 McLaren, Gus, 87, 91, 97–99, 104, 148, 151, 158, 192 McLaren, Norman, 114 McMahon, Chrissie, 232 McMahon, Melinda, 118 Media World, 192 Meglic, Igor, 128 Meillon, John, 88, 91 Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF), 221 Menzies, Robert, 75 merchandising, 44, 48, 64, 118, 119, 144, 173 Merk, Ron, 128, 129, 133 Messenger, The (1991), 234 Messmer, Otto, 31, 34–36, 39, 44, 45, 47–49 Method Pictures, 206 MGM, 161 Mickey Duck Animation, 193 Mickey Mouse, 32, 43, 54, 58, 59, 64, 67, 77 Mickey Mouse Club, The (series), 94, 125 Mighty Hercules, The (animated series), 47 Mighty Nice, 206 Migraine Particles (1984), 220 Mikado, The (animated film), 93 Milgrom, Alfred, 204 Miller, Sydney, 14 Milligan, Spike, 139 Mills, Cynthia, 220 Mills, Reginald, 121 Minelli, Liza, 113 Ming Bright (2004), 231 mirror films, 184 Missing Key, The (2011), 236 Mitchell, Elyne, 192

254  Index Mitosis: How Cells Divide and Multiply (c1953), 190 Moby-Dick (animated film), 91 Modern Times (1936), 43, 44 Moldoff, Sheldon, 107–109, 115, 122, 124, 126–133 Mol, Volk, 155 Monkeystack, 207 Montague, Pansy. See La Milo Moon Virility (1967), 217 Morse, Ronald, 65 Mort, Eddie, 202 Moser, Ralph, 203 Most Beautiful Chick, The (2004), 231 Mother Tongue (2002), 233 Motion Graphics (studio), 196 Motion Picture Cartoonists Guild, 170 Moulin Rouge (2001), 205 Move (1976), 212 Movers, The (1986), 213 Moving Ideas Animation, 207 Moving Statics (1969), 215 Moyes, Peter, 236 Mr Big (studio), 189 Mr Gink (comic strip), 27 MTV, 227 Mucha Lucha (2002-05), 203 Muffati, Steve, 47 Mu Lan (animated film), 184 Munton, Daryl, 235 Mutt and Jeff (animated series), 10, 14 My Little Pony (1986-87), 182 Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, The (2005), 230, 232 Mystical Rose, The (1976), 218 N Nalbandian, Zareh, 205 National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA), 78, 101, 103, 131 Natwick, Grim, 32, 47

NBC (American network), 92 Ned Wethered (1983), 225, 229 Neill, Sam, 202 Nelvana animation studio, 192 ‘nephew Sullivan’ (Pat Sullivan, nephew of elder Pat Sullivan), 44–47 Neptune Nonsense (1936), 45 New Adventures of Ocean Girl, The (2000-2001), 192 New Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1992), 184 New Adventures of William Tell (animated film), 184 Newell, Phoebe, 202 New Town Films, 202 New World Pictures, 182 New York, 1, 4, 9, 10, 14, 28, 31–33, 35, 44–46, 49, 68, 83, 85, 86, 110, 112, 141, 176, 206, 212, 228 New Yorker magazine, 212 New Zealand, 13, 28, 83, 89, 100, 190, 200, 201, 208 Nicholas Nickleby (1984), 180 Nicholson, Peter, 232 Nickelodeon Australia, 202 Nightlife (2014), 235 Nightmare aka The Magician (1956), 75 $9.99 (2008), 204 Nix, Jonathan, 231, 236 Nolan, Bill, 41 Nolan, Sidney, 224 Norbert (2007), 237 Norris, Jeffrey, 229, 231 Norton, Simon, 231 Not-So-Great Eugene Green, The (2009), 237 NSW Film and Television Office, 230 Nullarbor (2011), 230, 235


O Ochse, Jenny, 190 O’Connor, Ken, 54, 77 Oh Yeah Wow, 207, 237 Old Curiosity Shop, The (1984), 180 Old Mill, The (1937), 69 Old Pop Perkins (comic strip), 34 Old Tom (2001–2002), 135, 145 Old Tree, The (1938), 68 Old Woman Who Bought a Pig, The (1961), 75 Olive Oyl, 171 Oliver Twist (1982), 180 On a Full Moon (1997), 225 Once as if a Balloon (1989), 234 One Designer, Two Designer (1978), 149 One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961), 152 One Man’s Instrument (1990), 233 Opera House for Bungaroo, An (1990), 202 Orchestra, The (2015), 237 Oriolo, Don, 48 Oriolo, Joe, 45–48, 85 Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose (2016), 230 O’Sullivan, Patrick. See Pat Sullivan O’Sullivan, William, 32, 43, 45 Our Kitten (1955), 74, 78 Ovenden, Dick, 55–57, 60, 69 Overland Whippet, The (c1926), 26 Over the Rhine with Charlie (1918), 37 Owen, Harrie, 68, 78 Owen, Will, 68, 78 Owen Brothers, 54, 68, 69, 71, 72, 212 P Pa (2001), 230 Pandemic Studios, 204


Paramount Magazine, 36 Paris Lakes (2011), 235 Park, Sejong, 230, 236 Parker, Dana, 41 Parker, Jeremy, 229, 235 Parkes, Margaret, 163, 171, 175, 176, 187, 198, 207, 208 Pas de Deux (1967), 114 Passion Pictures, 206 patents, 14, 15–18, 63 Pathé Films, 8 Pat Sullivan Studios, 31, 32, 41 Paul Hamlyn Publishing, 118, 169, 172, 196 PAW Media, 195 Pedley, Ethel, 138, 139 People’s Republic of Animation, The, 235 Peppercorns, The (animated series), 188 Percy Perplexed (1931), 56 Perkins, Gwyn, 158 Perrin, Yvonne, 114, 118 Perry, David, 215–217 Peter Pan: Return to Neverland (2002), 199 Peter Pan (animated film), 113, 180 Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990), 188 Peter Rabbit (2018), 206 Petty, Bruce, 71, 78, 102, 196, 212, 213, 231, 238 Peverill, Ralph, 97, 98, 148, 151, 158 Phantom Treehouse, The (1984), 192 Phillips, Roz, 183 Photo of Me, A (2017), 223 Pianoforte (1984), 221 Pickwick Papers (1984), 180 Picture Start (1989), 229, 235 Pied Piper of Hamlin, The (traditional tale), 155 Pike, Geoff, 84, 87

256  Index Pinocchio (1940), 54 Pirate Express (2015), 204 Pixel Pinkie (2007-09), 202 Pixel Zoo, 207 Planet 55, 207 Plasmo (1996), 232 Plastic Wax, 207 Play Little Victims (unreleased animated film), 202 Please Don’t Bury Me (1976), 222 Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998), 199 Poindexter, Emmet, 45, 48 Politicians, The (1970), 138 Popeye The Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves (1937), 63 Popular Misconceptions (animated series), 89 Porter, Eric, 53, 59, 60, 62, 63, 65, 66, 68, 77, 79, 81, 83–85, 87, 93, 96, 100, 103, 107–115, 120–122, 124–127, 129–132, 139, 162, 164, 166, 176, 189, 195, 201 Predator (2012), 235 Premore/Solo Cup Company, 122 Prendergast, Darcy, 237 Presley, Elvis, 193 Prince and the Pauper, The (animated film), 91, 120 Prine, John, 222 Prior, Ted, 232 Prisoner of Zenda, The (animated film), 184 Pryor, Sally, 237 Puffing Billy, 57, 69, 77 Punch magazine, 212 Puncture (1967), 217 Purcel, Helene, 220 Puss in Boots (1993), 184, 195 puss* Pumps Up (1979), 221, 229 puss* through History (2006), 221 Puttin’ on the Ritz (1974), 221

Q Quin, Terry, 118 Quinn, Andrew, 238 R Rabbit Stew (1954), 67 radio, 27, 50, 62, 65, 79, 82, 83, 88, 91, 96, 103, 222, 236 Radio Transcription Company of America, 83 Rankin-Bass, 108, 122 Rankin, Simon, 231 Raoul Barre’s Animated Cartoons studio, 10, 34 Rasmussen, Harry, 158 Ravensburger, 193 Ray, Gerry, 86 Ray, Vivien, 91 Raymond Lea Animation, 87 Raymond’s Mission (1997), 234 Razzle Dazzle Rhapsody (1992), 218 Reach for the Stars (video game 1983), 204 Read, Aggie, 215, 216 Reading Writing Hotline, The, 150 Reaper Madness (1990), 234 Red Red Dragon, The, 108, 122, 125, 126 Red Riding Hood (c1940), 62, 77 Rees, Lloyd, 14, 28 Reid, Harry, 194 Reilly, Virgil, 8, 10 Removed (2005), 220 (R)evolution (2001), 235 Re-Vue (2017), 220 Rhythm and Hues, 205 Richard Price Television, 179 Richards, Noel, 237 Rippingale, Simon, 230 Rippled (2012), 237 Rip Van Winkle (animated film), 92 RKA Animation, 207


RKO, 45 RMIT University, 147, 212, 236 Roach, Mel, 203 Robb, Adam, 230 Robin Hood (animated film), 92 Robinson, Steve, 158 Robinson Crusoe (animated film), 92 Robyns, William A., 21 Rocket Dog (animated series), 203 Rocket Robin Hood and His Merry Spacemen (animated series), 88 Roll Film (1990), 218 Roll Film II (1996), 218 Roll Film III (1998), 218 Roper, Kevin, 91 Rose, Jilli, 235 Rosenthal, Tatia, 204 Ross, Craig, 228 Rote Movie (1994), 220 rotograph, 18 rotoscope, 18, 26, 79, 227 Round the World with Billy Bear (comic strip), 57 Royal tigress, The (2004), 231 RTV Family Entertainment AG, 187 Rubber House, 207 Rubbery Figures (1987–1991), 232 Ruhemann, Andrew, 230, 232 Ruhfle, George, 47 Rush, Geoffrey, 186, 204, 228 Rydell, Bobby, 113, 124 S Safe House, The (2006), 225 Sambo and His Funny Noises (comic strip), 34 Sammie Johnsin (animated series), 34 Sangster, John, 166, 176 Sarah: The Seventh Match (aka Sarah and the Squirrel) (1982), 143 Sarell, Patrick, 230, 235 Sargent, Stephen, 137


Satori, 141 Saucer of Water for the Birds, A (1993), 233 Sawyers, Dick, 97, 99 Saxton, Charles, 34 SBS Independent, 230 SBS Television, 202, 221, 223, 230–232, 234 Scheffer, John, 102, 103 Schmid, Sabrina, 234 Screen (1994), 218 Screen Australia, 235 Sellex-ware, 62, 63, 77 Sesame Street, 94, 125 Sesin, Serge, 72, 74 Shadbolt, Jane, 236 Shadowplay (1999), 233 Shapies, The, 203 Sharpe, Graham, 87, 104 Shelf Life (1992), 229, 234 Shenfield, Ann, 231, 233 Shh… (2001), 230 Ship a Sailin, A (1961), 75 Shiver (2006), 220 Short Lives (1989), 218 Silver Brumby, The (1992), 192 Silver Brumby (animated series), 192 Simon and Garfunkel, 113 Simpson, Morgan, 231 Sinbad (animated film), 92, 184 Sketchy Show, The (2015), 206 Skibinski, John, 158, 234 Skippy: Adventures in Bushtown (animated series), 145 Sleeping Beauty (1959), 114, 152 Sleight of Hand (2012), 235 Slim Pickings (1999), 232 Slip! Slop! Slap!, 149 Slippages—Grace (2017), 225 SLR Productions, 207 Small Treasures (1996), 227, 229 Smit, Robbert, 169, 176, 186, 187, 193, 200, 201, 203, 208, 209

258  Index Smith, Kathy, 224, 239 Smith and Julius, 12, 14, 15, 20, 23, 27 Smythe, Ernest, 34 Snoopy Come Home (1972), 123 Snout (1999), 202 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), 63 Song for a Comb (2009), 237 Son Is Born, A (1949), 66 sound editing, 135, 181, 183 music, 43, 86, 88, 135, 183 voices, 43, 236 Southern Ladies Animation Group (S.L.A.G.), 236 Southern Star Productions, 172–174, 188–189 Spaceman Number One (1956), 75 Spark, Andi, 193 Sparrow, Arthur, 14 Spencer, Norm, 96 Spielberg, Steven, 190 Spurt of Blood, The (film), 215 Squander Bug, The (c1945), 69 Squarei, 231 Stacey, Tom, 179, 181, 207 Stang, Arnold, 113 Stark, W.E., 34 Starkiewicz, Antoinette, 221, 229 Star Wars - Battlefront (video game 2004), 204 Steam Driven Adventures of River Boat Bill, The (1986), 192 Stephenson, Robert, 209, 229, 235 stereoptical process, 63 Sticky (2014), 235 Sticky Pictures, 203 Still Flying (1988), 229, 235 Stitt, Alexander (aka Alex Stitt), 4, 97, 99, 147, 159, 202, 212 Stone Soup (2004), 231

Stop-motion animation, 8, 15, 55, 60, 64, 102, 136, 201, 215, 228, 233, 237 Stop Motion Pro (software), 237 storyboards, 2, 20, 82, 86, 92, 97, 101, 149, 169–171, 181, 188, 190 Story of Percival Pilts, The (2015), 237 Studio Moshi, 203 Sullivan, Moira, 91 Sullivan, Pat, 3, 9, 31, 32, 34–36, 41–45, 47–50, 58, 85 Summer of ‘77, The (2001), 230, 234 Sunstroke Territory (animated film), 94 Super Block High (1967), 217 Superfriends (1973), 96 Superman, 126, 147 Supreme Studios, 180 Suspect Moustache (2016), 193 Swansong in Birdland (1964), 215 Swimming Outside the Flags (SBS series) (1999), 227, 230 Swinburne University, 111, 193, 211, 222 Swiss Family Robinson, The (animated film), 91 Sydney Film Festival, 138, 215 Sydney Opera House orchestra, 92 Szapiro, Deborah, 202, 213 Szubanski, Magda, 205 T Tabaluga (1994–2004), 145 Taft Broadcasting Company, 162 Tail of Thomas Kat, The (1917), 36, 49 Talbott, Paul, 45 Tale of One City (animated film), 197 Tale of Two Cities, A (1983), 180 Tales of Beatrix Potter, The (film), 121, 122


Tam and Cam (2004), 231 Tan, Shaun, 206, 230–232 Tarax Show, The (live-action series), 98 Tarzan (animated film), 143, 184 Tarzan II (2005), 199 Tasker, Douglas, 150 Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine), 227 Taylor, Dean, 189 Taylor, John, 229, 233 Taylor, Neil, 218, 239 teaching animation, 97, 111, 221 Team Bondi, 204 Teen Wolf (live-action movie) (1985), 173 Teen Wolf (animated series) (1986-87), 173 television American, 79, 81, 91, 93, 94, 120, 158, 167, 171, 172 Australian, 2–4, 53, 54, 80, 85, 89, 92, 95, 108, 120, 121, 125, 127, 135, 138, 139, 145, 147, 174, 180, 181, 185, 190–192, 197, 202–205, 234, 236 introduction of, 4, 68, 82, 84, 89, 147 Terra Australis (unreleased animated film), 142 That’s Progress (1976), 191 Theatre of Cruelty (stage show), 215, 216 Thoms, Albie, 215–217, 239 Three Little Pigs, The (1933), 44 Three Little Pigs (animated film), 184 Three Muskateers, The (animated film), 180 Thumpalong (1973), 232 Tiga (1989), 227 timing, 75, 85, 163, 187, 188, 190, 198


Tiny Alliance, A (2004), 231 title sequences, 72, 147, 174, 205 Tom Sawyer (animated film), 180 To Nefertiti (1971), 138 Tonkin, John, 237 Tooneversal Animation Studio, 108, 127, 128 Toothbrush Family, The (1970s), 189 Toothbrush Family, The (1996-97), 189 Tracy McBean (2001-2006), 189 Traitor Friend, The (2004), 231 Transition (1967), 217 Trans-Lux, 46, 47 Travels of Marco Polo, The (1972), 91, 108, 120, 122, 132 Travers, the (John, Gerry and Carmel), 184 Treasure Island (animated film), 92, 120, 180 Trevor Island (1988), 234 Triangle 3-D System, 155 Trounce, Mark, 158, 191 Tsuchiya, Toshio, 111 Tune-Cartoons (animated series), 100 Tupicoff, Dennis, 222, 229, 231, 234, 239 Turnaround (1983), 218 Turner, Malcolm, 154, 221 12 Field Animation Studio, 203 Twelve Months, The (2004), 231 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (animated film), 180 Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, The (1995-7), 48 2 GB (radio station), 83 224 (1986), 220 2UW (radio station), 62 Tych, Jean, 71, 91 Tyrer, Wendy, 231 Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (video game 2002), 204

260  Index U Ubu Films, 214–217, 239 Unbearable Bear, The (animated series), 86, 87 Uncle (1996), 228 Unicorn in the Garden, A (1953), 147 Union Street (1990), 229, 234 Unlimited Energee. See Energee Entertainment Unravelling (2001), 231, 233 UPA films, 68, 96, 110, 147, 154 influence, 68, 97, 98, 109 studio, 84, 96 style, 68, 84 Urashima Taro (2004), 231 Ure-Smith, Sydney, 12 Ustinov, Peter, 151 V Van Beuren Studio, 44 Vengeance (1997), 229, 234 Vernon, Lou, 65 Very Aggressive Vegetables (1998), 202 Video Dating Tape of Desmondo Ray, Aged 33 & ¾, The (2014), 237 video games, 204, 238 Violet and Brutal (1982), 233 Visatone Television, 100 Viska, Peter, 193, 208 Viskatoons, 193 voice acting, 43, 206 Vumps magazine, 32 W Wakefield, S.A., 206 Wakkaville (2009), 203 Walker, Hal, 41 Walker, Stan, 84 Wall, Dorothy, 144

Wambidgee (1962), 94 Walnut and Honeysuckle (2001), 227, 230 Walsh, Marieka, 230 Waltzing Matilda (1957), 80, 229 Waltzing Matilda (1985), 235 war Boer war, 8 conscription, 37 propaganda, 69 training films, 69 WWI, 13, 17 WWII, 65, 69, 72, 143, 144 Ward 13 (2003), 236 Warner’s rust-proof corsets (c1920), 26 Waste Not, Want Not (1939), 63 Watt, Sarah, 227, 229, 230 Way of the Birds (1999), 227 Way of the Exploding Fist, The (video game 1986), 204 Wayland, Hugh, 220 Weatherhead, Bruce, 97, 99, 148 Weatherhead and Stitt, 99, 100, 148 Weaver and the Herder, The (2004), 231 Weaver, Jacki, 155 Weaving, Hugo, 186, 205 Web, The (1993–1995), 227 Wedd, Monty, 94, 115 When Crocodiles Weep (2015), 233 Where the Forest Meets the Sea (1987), 229 Where Stories Come From (2004), 231 White, Eddie, 230, 235 White Fang (animated film), 184 White Wash (1973), 219 Whitford, Archer, 60 Whitford’s Theatre Ads. Ltd, 60 Whitmore, Lee, 225, 229, 230 Wicked! (animated series), 188 Williams, Paul, 191, 192


Williams, Robin, 205 Williams, Ross, 231 Willing Waldo (comic strip), 34 Wilson, Kevin ‘Bloody’, 203 Wind Calls Your Name, The (2004), 220 Windmills (1963), 76 Wind in the Willows (animated film), 180 Winging It (1998), 233 Winnie the Pooh and the Wishing Star (1989), 199 Wizard of Oz, The (1939), 113 Wombat Waddle (dance), 64 Wood, Elijah, 205 Woods, Jason Japalijarri, 195 Worker, The (magazine), 32 World Tales (SBS series) (2004), 230, 231 Writer’s Block (1995), 237 Wylie, Gerald, 197 X Xerography, 92, 152 XY Zap Productions, 196 XYZ Studios, 207


Y Yeend, Norman, 142, 146 Yellow House, The (animated/liveaction series), 93–95, 125 Yellow Submarine, The (1968), 99, 111, 133, 189 Yoram Gross Studios, 145 You Never See Maggie Alone (1958), 81 Yo-Yo Show, The (animated series), 94 Yue, Shaun, 231 Yukfoo, 207 Z Zagreb animation studio, 89 Zhou, Sijun, 231 Zipper (1998), 221 Zoo (1962), 215 Zoptic Screen, 156 Zwicky, Karl, 186

Australian Animation PDF - AZPDF.TIPS (2024)


Is animation class hard? ›

Pursuing a degree in animation is challenging; it requires not only creative talent but also technical skill and dedication. However, determining its difficulty can be subjective since it largely depends on an individual's aptitude for art and technology.

Why is hand drawn animation so hard? ›

Hand drawn animation frames are a craft. It's something that requires skill and time, not just in the creation of the art itself but also in its use of tools like pens and brushes to get there. It's not something you can do on a computer; it takes patience and practice to draw each frame by hand.

Can I learn animation in 1 month? ›

Average Time it Takes to Learn Animation

All in all, even setting aside hours a day to dedicated study, learning digital animation can take several months and will often take more than a year of study.

What is the hardest job in animation? ›

Of all the jobs in animation (and I've done most of them in my career), I will forever believe storyboarding is the hardest job with the least amount of time. A toast to all you story warriors!!!

Why do animators only draw 4 fingers? ›

“Everybody shortens it to three fingers and a thumb... just simply for an economy of line. When you're having to animate 24 drawings per second, dropping one finger makes a huge difference," Marsh explained.

Why does Disney not do hand-drawn animation? ›

2D animation takes a lot of labor, each frame is handmade by a team of real people. This is a very labor intensive job, with sometimes low pay due to all the companies' money going towards the film instead of the workers. Disney made the decision to completely switch to 3D animation because it lowered labor costs.

Is CGI easier than hand-drawn animation? ›

4 Advantages of CGI

CGI has some advantages over traditional hand-drawn animation, such as the ability to create realistic and complex animations that are impossible or impractical to draw by hand. It also provides more control and precision over the animation, as well as the ease of editing and modifying it.

Can you self teach animation? ›

For example, you can choose to learn through an online college course, self-paced online courses or teach yourself the skills using common animation programs. But before you select a method, it's essential to understand what each option entails.

What is the easiest animation technique? ›

What is the Easiest Type of Animation? The easiest form of animation technique for a beginner animator to start with is stop motion animation. Stop motion allows for mistakes, you can progress at your own pace and the required equipment is affordable.

Can I make animation alone? ›

Animation filmmaking is different. It is technically possible for one person to make an animated short all by themselves. Students do it all the time. When working on their graduation film, most students do the majority of the work (if not all of it) by themselves.

What is the easiest way to learn animation? ›

What is the process of animation?
  1. Record yourself: It may seem silly at first, but recording yourself doing your character's actions will help you study the movement.
  2. Pose: Next, begin by animating your key frames of the movement. ...
  3. Blocking: Now, create the frames in between each keyframe.
Sep 16, 2022

How can I draw better in animation? ›

Make drawing part of your daily routine

The best way to improve your drawing skills is to practice regularly. Drawing every day, even if it's just for a few minutes, will help you see your progress clearly. For the same reason, it's a good idea to date your work.

How difficult is it to learn animation? ›

As mentioned before, animation isn't something learned overnight. It's arguably one of the most difficult aspects within a 3D pipeline. It'll take lots of trial and error and most likely some frustration. You may have heard before that it takes a thousand bad drawings to get to those good drawings.

Are animation courses easy? ›

Animation is more time consuming than “hard”, once you know what you're doing most of your time goes working on it, rather than trying to figure it out.

Does animation require a lot of math? ›

While maths makes a pretty great foundation for a career in the world of animation or design, Alexey stresses that you don't need to be a maths genius or top of your class to pursue a career in animation. There is a whole spectrum of jobs in the industry, some more technical than others.

Why is animation so difficult? ›

The most challenging part of learning animation lies in the technical skills and techniques that handle animated images' subtle and complex elements. Everyone has seen an animated commercial, film, or web element that cuts corners and looks unreal or uncanny.

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