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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
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Giro the Germ Episode 1

Animation & Artists Moving Image19278 mins

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

The Latest News
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The Latest News

Animation & Artists Moving Image19041 mins

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
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John Bull's Animated Sketchbook No. 4

Animation & Artists Moving Image19155 mins

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
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Animated Putty

Animation & Artists Moving Image19114 mins

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

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

Animation & Artists Moving Image191910 mins

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
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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
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Animated Cotton

Trick film19095 mins

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
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Dreams of Toyland

Animation & Artists Moving Image19087 mins

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

Ten Little Dirty Boys
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Ten Little Dirty Boys

Public Information Filler192912 mins

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

House That John Built
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House That John Built

Public Information Filler19287 mins

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

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
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Cricket Notes 1924

Animation & Artists Moving Image19241 mins

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

Sea Dreams
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Sea Dreams

Animation & Artists Moving Image19146 mins

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

Tale of a Tendril
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Tale of a Tendril

Animation & Artists Moving Image19259 mins

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

Sleepless
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Sleepless

Animation & Artists Moving Image19145 mins

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

Bully Boy
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Bully Boy

Animation & Artists Moving Image19146 mins

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

Othello
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Othello

Animation & Artists Moving Image19203 mins

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
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General French's Contemptible Little Army

Animation & Artists Moving Image19147 mins

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
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The Smoke from Grand-pa's Pipe

Animation & Artists Moving Image19209 mins

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

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
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To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly

Animation & Artists Moving Image19091 mins

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

Agitated Adverts
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Agitated Adverts

Animation & Artists Moving Image191710 mins

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

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
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John Bull's Animated Sketch Book

Animation & Artists Moving Image191610 mins

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
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Peter's Picture Poems

Animation & Artists Moving Image19173 mins

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

E13 Avenged
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E13 Avenged

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 mins

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

Ever Been Had
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Ever Been Had

Animation & Artists Moving Image19179 mins

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
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A Pencil and Alick P.F. Ritchie

Animation & Artists Moving Image19157 mins

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

Studdy's War Cartoons
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Studdy's War Cartoons

Animation & Artists Moving Image19156 mins

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

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

Animation & Artists Moving Image19155 mins

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
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Socialist Car of State

Animation & Artists Moving Image19309 mins

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

His Birthday Present
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His Birthday Present

Animation & Artists Moving Image19151 mins

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

Wooden Athletes
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Wooden Athletes

Animation & Artists Moving Image19125 mins

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

Red Tape Farm
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Red Tape Farm

Animation & Artists Moving Image19277 mins

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
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Fight for the Dardanelles

Animation & Artists Moving Image19159 mins

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

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

Animation & Artists Moving Image19162 mins 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
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Bertie's Cave

Animation & Artists Moving Image192511 mins

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