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 1Giro the Germ Episode 1

Animation & Artists Moving Image19278 minsSilent

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

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The Latest NewsThe 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

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John Bull's Animated Sketchbook No. 4John 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.

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Animated PuttyAnimated Putty

Animation & Artists Moving Image19114 minsSilent

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

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Oh'phelia A Cartoon BurlesqueOh'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

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The Right SpiritThe 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.

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Animated CottonAnimated 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…

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Dreams of ToylandDreams of Toyland

Animation & Artists Moving Image19087 minsSilent

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

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Ten Little Dirty BoysTen Little Dirty Boys

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

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House That John BuiltHouse That John Built

Public Information Filler19287 minsSilent

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

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Cartoons by HiscocksCartoons by Hiscocks

Animation & Artists Moving Image19264 minsSilent Location: Oval, The

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

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Cricket Notes 1924Cricket Notes 1924

Animation & Artists Moving Image19241 minsSilent

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

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Sea DreamsSea 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.

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Tale of a TendrilTale 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

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Animation & Artists Moving Image19145 minsSilent

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

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Bully BoyBully Boy

Animation & Artists Moving Image19146 minsSilent

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

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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

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General French's Contemptible Little ArmyGeneral 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.

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

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

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Matches AppealMatches Appeal

Animation & Artists Moving Image19141 mins

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

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To Demonstrate How Spiders FlyTo 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.

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Agitated AdvertsAgitated Adverts

Animation & Artists Moving Image191710 minsSilent

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

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John Bull's Sketch BookJohn 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.

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John Bull's Animated Sketch BookJohn 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

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Peter's Picture PoemsPeter'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

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E13 AvengedE13 Avenged

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 minsSilent

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

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Ever Been HadEver 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.

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A Pencil and Alick P.F. RitchieA 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.

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Studdy's War CartoonsStuddy's War Cartoons

Animation & Artists Moving Image19156 minsSilent

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

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Dicky Dee's Cartoons No.3Dicky 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.

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Socialist Car of StateSocialist Car of State

Animation & Artists Moving Image19309 minsSilent

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

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His Birthday PresentHis Birthday Present

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 minsSilent

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

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Wooden AthletesWooden Athletes

Animation & Artists Moving Image19125 minsSilent

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

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Red Tape FarmRed 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.

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Fight for the DardanellesFight for the Dardanelles

Animation & Artists Moving Image19159 minsSilent

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

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John Bull's Animated Sketch BookJohn 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.

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Bertie's CaveBertie's Cave

Animation & Artists Moving Image192511 minsSilent

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