Friday, February 22, 2013

Bob Godfrey (1921-2013)

So I've been sick and have been spending most of the past two days just trying to sleep it off. And when I woke up today I found out that some time during my slumber the animation world had lost one of their greatest contributors, and one we've seen several times in the past on this blog. Sadly, the Australian-born British animator Bob Godfrey had passed away at the age of 91. He is greatly remembered in England for his work in children's entertainment, such as the television series Roobarb, Henry's Cat, and Do-It Yourself Film Animation Show, which inspired a whole generation of animators, including 3-time Oscar winner Nick Park. Yet Godfrey's success with the Academy came with completely different types of films, ones that satirizes the British way of life, often with explicit sexual innuendo. His greatest triumph came with his 1975 masterpiece Great, the irreverent musical tribute to the life and career of Victorian-era British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Great captured the Best Animated Short Oscar in 1975, and was my second favorite nominated film between the years 1972-1981. He received three other nominations, including Kama Sutra Rides Again (1973), Dream Doll (1979, with Zlatko Grgic), and Small Talk (1993). Although those  nominations ended up losing, they helped him leave behind a style and legacy that will remain memorable to fans of animation for a long, long time.

Text of the article after the break.

(Reuters) - Britain's first Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey, whose work ranged from the children's TV cartoon "Roobarb" to mock-erotic movies like "Kama Sutra Rides Again", has died aged 91, his family told the BBC on Friday.

Godfrey, often referred to as "The Godfather of British Animation", was born in Australia but educated in England and started his career as a graphic artist in London in the 1930s before gaining work in the film industry.

He was the first British animator to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his 1975 musical comedy "Great", about civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Godfrey was nominated three other times for Oscars, including for his 1971 short film "Kama Sutra Rides Again", one of his mock-erotic exploitation films that focused on the hypocrisy of British attitudes towards sex.

Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick so admired the film that he screened it alongside UK showings of "A Clockwork Orange".

"Much of Godfrey's work has been predicated on satirizing the foibles and minutiae of what it means to be 'British'," said his biography on the British Film Institute website.

For nearly 50 years Godfrey worked with some of animation's biggest names including Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, poking fun at orthodoxy and establishment thinking. He retired in 1999.

His work ran along two tracks - adult material and quirky children's cartoons which he wanted to appeal to adults too.

He was known for his children's cartoons "Roobarb", about a warring cat and dog, and "Henry's Cat".

His death comes after the death on Sunday of veteran actor Richard Briers, aged 79, who narrated "Roobarb" and also the character of Brunel in Godfrey's film "Great".

Aardman Animations studio founder Peter Lord tweeted: "Dear old Bob Godfrey is no more. A great influence and inspiration to me and my generation of animators. Also a lovely bloke."

In an interview with the Guardian in 2001, Godfrey said he had one professional regret.

"I'd love to have done a full-length feature but I can't seem to stretch myself to that length," he told the newspaper.

"When you look at my films, they appear to be a series of 30-second commercials cut together. I'm a short distance man whether I like it or not."

1 comment:

  1. A "good innings", certainly, but sad nonetheless. It's so hard to see his films nowadays as well, even on the usually reliable YouTube.

    He's definitely left a legacy though - even discounting the sorts, I'd doubt there being a single person over the age of 30 in Britain who couldn't sing the Roobarb theme at you.