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Early Animation

The dawn of a new celluloid art: Britain's animation pioneers at peace and war

When you're creating a new art form, everything is experimental. The pioneers of animation in Britain cast a range of subjects as the stars of their films - the toys of an Edwardian child; insects and animals; Kaiser Bill and John Bull. But even the richest of fantasies on display here offer a window into the turbulent era in which they were made. When the nation went to war, animation was conscripted to meet its propaganda needs. In peacetime, the industry sought success as an entertainer, but found a career in sales.

 

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Giro the Germ Episode 1
Giro the Germ  Episode 1
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Giro the Germ Episode 1

Animation & Artists Moving Image19278 minsSilent

The germs in this silent 1920s cartoon seem to have caught the Flapper bug

The Latest News
The Latest News
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The Latest News

Animation & Artists Moving Image19041 minsSilent

The “Bill Bailey” punchline might have lost its meaning over the years, but this comic gag short features some of Britain’s earliest animation

John Bull's Animated Sketchbook No. 4
John Bull's Animated Sketchbook No. 4
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John Bull's Animated Sketchbook No. 4

Animation & Artists Moving Image19155 minsSilent

An animated recreation of the sinking of the Lusitania is the centrepiece of this pioneering mix of comedy, satire and outrage in cartoon propaganda.

Animated Putty
Animated Putty
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Animated Putty

Animation & Artists Moving Image19114 minsSilent

Long, long before Wallace met Gromit filmmakers performed malleable magic to bring clay to life

Oh'phelia A Cartoon Burlesque
Oh'phelia  A Cartoon Burlesque
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Oh'phelia A Cartoon Burlesque

Animation & Artists Moving Image191910 minsSilent

To bob, or not to bob? That is the question for Ophelia in this early animated Hamlet, starring a far from gloomy Dane

The Right Spirit
The Right Spirit
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The Right Spirit

Animation & Artists Moving Image19319 mins

Don’t judge a book by its cover but do judge a political party by its garage in this Conservative cartoon from the height of the depression.

Animated Cotton
Animated Cotton
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Animated Cotton

Trick film19095 minsSilent

Relax and unwind in rewind with this trick film – if you haven’t cottoned on yet all is not as it seems…

Dreams of Toyland
Dreams of Toyland
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Dreams of Toyland

Animation & Artists Moving Image19087 minsSilent

Decades before Toy Story, a young boy’s toys come to life through animation

Ten Little Dirty Boys
Ten Little Dirty Boys
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Ten Little Dirty Boys

Public Information Filler192912 minsSilent

Ten boys discover that a good wash is step one on the road to health in this silent cartoon

House That John Built
House That John Built
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House That John Built

Public Information Filler19287 minsSilent

Empire buying begins at home: John Bull gets a makeover in this cartoon promoting British farmed goods

Cartoons by Hiscocks
Cartoons by Hiscocks
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Cartoons by Hiscocks

Animation & Artists Moving Image19264 mins Location: Oval, The

Short animation of a comic duel between English batsman Patsy Hendren and Australian bowler Arthur Mailey at the Kennington Oval.

Cricket Notes 1924
Cricket Notes 1924
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Cricket Notes 1924

Animation & Artists Moving Image19241 minsSilent

Rain may stop play, but never the British sense of humour.

Sea Dreams
Sea Dreams
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Sea Dreams

Animation & Artists Moving Image19146 minsSilent

Skilled artist Lancelot Speed brings his cartoons to life to mock the German navy at the start of WWI.

Tale of a Tendril
Tale of a Tendril
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Tale of a Tendril

Animation & Artists Moving Image19259 minsSilent

A bug’s life laid bare in this charming cut-out animated tale by pioneering film naturalist F. Percy Smith

Sleepless
Sleepless
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Sleepless

Animation & Artists Moving Image19145 minsSilent

Cartoon drawings come to life to haunt the German Emperor in a witty piece of WWI propaganda.

Bully Boy
Bully Boy
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Bully Boy

Animation & Artists Moving Image19146 minsSilent

Lightning sketch propaganda stirs outrage about Reims bombing, and features a British bulldog eating the German sausage

Othello
Othello
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Othello

Animation & Artists Moving Image19203 minsSilent

An animated Moor of Venice brings comedy to Shakespeare’s tragedy, in this cut-out cartoon with some neat tricks up its sleeve

General French's Contemptible Little Army
General French's Contemptible Little Army
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General French's Contemptible Little Army

Animation & Artists Moving Image19147 minsSilent

Mixing lightning sketches with animation, this propaganda cartoon comes to life in defence of the British fighting force of 1914.

The Smoke from Grand-pa's Pipe
The Smoke from Grand-pa's Pipe
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The Smoke from Grand-pa's Pipe

Animation & Artists Moving Image19209 minsSilent

I’ll have what he’s smoking! - US import Jesse “Vet” Anderson breathes life (and smoke) into the UK animation industry

Matches Appeal
Matches Appeal
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Matches Appeal

Animation & Artists Moving Image19141 mins

An innovative animated appeal film for donations to send matches to troops in the First World War

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
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To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly

Animation & Artists Moving Image19091 minsSilent

Charming animated illustration of one of nature's wonders from Britain's most inventive pioneer of wildlife filmmaking.

Agitated Adverts
Agitated Adverts
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Agitated Adverts

Animation & Artists Moving Image191710 minsSilent

Anson Dyer imagines the characters behind newspaper adverts and brings them to life in this Kine Komedy Kartoon

John Bull's Sketch Book
John Bull's Sketch Book
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John Bull's Sketch Book

Animation & Artists Moving Image19154 mins Location: Scarborough

This WWI cartoon rouses the British lion, bringing to life the December 1914 German Naval raid on Scarborough with visual flourishes.

John Bull's Animated Sketch Book
John Bull's Animated Sketch Book
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John Bull's Animated Sketch Book

Animation & Artists Moving Image191610 minsSilent

The hand of the artist tweaks the nose of “Kaiser Bill” and friends in this episode from an early animated propaganda series

Peter's Picture Poems
Peter's Picture Poems
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Peter's Picture Poems

Animation & Artists Moving Image19173 minsSilent

A star-spangled sock on the nose for Kaiser Wilhelm, as this wordplay propaganda cartoon meets war crimes with pun-ishment

E13 Avenged
E13 Avenged
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E13 Avenged

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 minsSilent

Pioneering visual graphics – with added cotton wool – recreate an incendiary WWI incident involving a stricken British submarine.

Ever Been Had
Ever Been Had
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Ever Been Had

Animation & Artists Moving Image19179 minsSilent

Blackly comic cartoon portrait of an apocalyptic England, destroyed 50 years after signing a premature peace in WWI.

A Pencil and Alick P.F. Ritchie
A Pencil and Alick P.F. Ritchie
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A Pencil and Alick P.F. Ritchie

Animation & Artists Moving Image19157 minsSilent

More chalk-talker than pencil-pusher, this popular artist recreates his cartoons for the screen with flashes of added animation.

Studdy's War Cartoons
Studdy's War Cartoons
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Studdy's War Cartoons

Animation & Artists Moving Image19156 minsSilent

Animated WWI-era comic highlights from the innovative cartoonist George Studdy, creator of Bonzo the dog.

Dicky Dee's Cartoons No.3
Dicky Dee's Cartoons No.3
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Dicky Dee's Cartoons No.3

Animation & Artists Moving Image19155 minsSilent

An edible bomb is cooked by the Kaiser in this fun WWI cartoon, which mixes propaganda with fantasy as a boy's dreams turn into nightmares.

Socialist Car of State
Socialist Car of State
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Socialist Car of State

Animation & Artists Moving Image19309 minsSilent

Party-political hyperbole meets Wacky Races in this spirited cartoon produced for the Conservative Party.

His Birthday Present
His Birthday Present
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His Birthday Present

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 minsSilent

Was the root of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s power his 'Imperial Moustache'?

Wooden Athletes
Wooden Athletes
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Wooden Athletes

Animation & Artists Moving Image19125 minsSilent

Stripped-back wooden dolls put on the greatest show on Earth via the marvel of stop motion

Red Tape Farm
Red Tape Farm
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Red Tape Farm

Animation & Artists Moving Image19277 minsSilent

Mr Nosey Parker visits farmer John Barleycorn to tell him how to do his job in this witty Conservative Party campaigning cartoon.

Fight for the Dardanelles
Fight for the Dardanelles
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Fight for the Dardanelles

Animation & Artists Moving Image19159 minsSilent

Witness the birth of motion graphics in news reporting amid the ongoing Gallipoli campaign during WWI.

John Bull's Animated Sketch Book
John Bull's Animated Sketch Book
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John Bull's Animated Sketch Book

Animation & Artists Moving Image19162 minsSilent Location: London

Bringing cartoons to life to illustrate the innocence of British propaganda as it accuses the Kaiser’s propaganda of being deceitful.

Bertie's Cave
Bertie's Cave
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Bertie's Cave

Animation & Artists Moving Image192511 minsSilent

A bedtime story for insects by a legend of natural history filmmaking