The Story of British Animation
To accompany an important new BFI book, we chart this extraordinarily fertile area of British film.
In The Story of Animation (BFI / Bloomsbury 2021), BFI curator Jez Stewart charts the astonishingly rich history of UK animation, from early stop-motion experiments to the latest advances in computer graphics. With Hollywood’s shadow always looming, the UK industry has struggled against almost overwhelming economic headwinds. But the skill, wit and ingenuity of British animators has never dimmed. Here, we present a selection of films highlighting key chapters in the story.
Animation & Artists Moving Image20145 mins
Spherical Harmonics is about the strange power of the CG image. It's a fantasy under construction, full of digitally created memories, counterfeit physics and controlled accidents.
Kenneth Williams as the voice of methane? It’s a gas! This British Gas sponsored short is the origin of cult kids TV classic Willo the Wisp
Animation & Artists Moving Image198515 mins
Military mind experiments, pacifists, Brighton beach and Billy Bunter in a bumper car – there is a lot going on in this fantastic animated short
Animation & Artists Moving Image19763 mins
2 + 2 = BOOM! The apocalyptic danger of maths is explored in this computer animated cartoon from the mind of Stan Hayward
Animation & Artists Moving Image19408 mins
Who does he think he’s kidding? This parodic day-in-the-life portrait of Mr Hitler is one of the very few British examples of comic cartoon propaganda from WW2.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19819 mins
Nuclear nightmares realised in cartoon form by a Yorkshire women’s collective that advocates protest over pointless preparation
Animation & Artists Moving Image19308 mins
Teddie, Piggie and Poll might not have gone down in history like Mickey Mouse, but here is a British answer to Disney’s Steamboat Willie
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
Animation & Artists Moving Image193011 mins
A British Steamboat Willie? This early British sound cartoon might not have been the first, but it’s a cracker
Animation & Artists Moving Image19368 mins
Spoiler alert! The fox is always going to outsmart the hounds in this delightful, balletic cartoon that heads from the countryside into 1930s suburbia.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19734 mins
Even Clark Gable doesn’t live up to his image in this off-beat cartoon about a woman fed up with the attentions of little green men
Animation & Artists Moving Image196220 mins
Does your home suffer from BO? This gag filled pastiche of the ad industry is happy to nibble the hand that feeds it
Animation & Artists Moving Image19283 minsSilent
Meet Sammy, his dog Sausage and their creator, early British animator Joe Noble, whose inventive streak sees him chased by his own shadow
Animation & Artists Moving Image19074 mins
This trick film of magical transitions features some early animated flourishes that, for their time, were clearly at the cutting-edge
Animation & Artists Moving Image19179 minsSilent
Blackly comic cartoon portrait of an apocalyptic England, destroyed 50 years after signing a premature peace in WWI.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19684 mins
An abstract poetic tale that tells both one and a thousand stories of love and loss, by a designer on The Beatles Yellow Submarine film
Animation & Artists Moving Image191910 minsSilent
Remember when Charlie Chaplin went into space? Reality is no obstacle in this endlessly inventive silent cinema cartoon of the 'Little Tramp'
Sponsored film19475 minsSilent
Do you know the golden rules of tea making? The Tea Bureau set out to put your cuppa straight in this progressively designed post-war cartoon
Animation & Artists Moving Image19256 mins
1920s canine icon Bonzo the Dog tests the Entente Cordiale to the limit in this silent British cartoon
Animation & Artists Moving Image19094 mins
Toy Story meets Fatal Attraction in this tale of an Edwardian childhood romance scuppered by poor finances and a stalking dolly
Animation & Artists Moving Image19123 mins
Roll up, roll up! Come witness staggering feats in what might be the earliest surviving animated film made in colour.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19438 mins
Hitler as a snake and Mussolini as a toad feature in this British propaganda cartoon made for distribution in the Middle East
Animation & Artists Moving Image19951 mins
Aardman turn the cinema screen into a mirror and offer this delightful portrait of the typical film festival audience
Washing day keeping you from a spin on your flying carpet? This quality cinema features a young apprentice genie learning a helpful solution.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19332 mins
Long before MTV, Len Lye crafted this antecedent of the music video with a cheeky monkey singing and dancing to Cuban hit 'Peanut Vendor'
Animation & Artists Moving Image197819 mins
Farting and swearing and violence – oh my! Albert Jarry’s controversial play translates beautifully to splattered inks in Geoff Dunbar’s award-winning animation.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19557 mins
Newlyweds meet a nuisance in an enjoyable mix of cartoon comedy and real-life actors, including Roobarb legend Bob Godfrey.
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.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19379 mins
Come on Steve! The 1930s comic strip carthorse both starts and stops a naval battle in this cartoon animated by Carl Giles
Animation & Artists Moving Image19091 minsSilent
Charming animated illustration of one of nature's wonders from Britain's most inventive pioneer of wildlife filmmaking.
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