Wobbling wonders... Some
credits... Godfrey on the
Godfrey has been animating for nigh-on fifty years. He epitomizes that
enduring image of the eccentric creator toiling
away in his cramped and
cluttered studio on a shoestring budget. Godfrey
in 2D media,
often mixing techniques to produce fast-paced, sometimes
racy films with
particular wit and sharpness to them.
Did we say fast-paced? - Let's upgrade
that to 'breakneck', for surely nothing can
outpace his film 'Great', a rip-roaring,
tongue-twisting sprint through the historical
detail of Isembard Kingdom Brunel's
life and achievements which raced off with
an Academy Award in 1976.
For many, though, it's Godfrey's children's series
that are perhaps most familiar.
And Custard' (1975), 'Noah
And Nelly In SkylArk' (1977), and
Cat' (1983) are
wholly unique, wobbling wonders of Tea-Time tv.
All three feature glorious, felt tip colours
on white backgrounds. 'Roobarb'
really was felt-tipped, 'Noah And Nelly' was
cel-created and made to wobble,
whilst 'Henry' was produced using both
cel and felt pen techniques and
wobbled less, but was no less brilliant for
it. Indeed, Henry even collected
a BAFTA for his brilliance. These three series
brim with animated energy
and enthusiasm and nonsense...
Away from the 6 o'clock watershed, Bob Godfrey's
films are often
saucy, in a Donald McGill, end-of-pier
way. In 'Henry 9 Till 5' (1969),
'Kama Sutra Rides Again' (1971), 'Dream Doll'
(1979), 'Instant Sex' (1980)
and 'Bio Woman' (1981) Godfrey's just having
fun, pointing out our British
inhibitions about sex and relationships, but
- oh, vicar! - what a naughty
boy he is.
In 1990, Godfrey teamed up with cartoonist Gray Jollife to bring
'Wicked Willy' into animated life - the
perfect marriage, one suspects...
Godfrey was actually born in Australia, in
1921 but moved here shortly
after with his British parents, where he has
remained ever since. He started
out as a background artist in a small Mayfair studio
working for W M Larkins,
but soon realised that background artists
frequently ended up in the background
of the production process too, so after five
years he became co-founder of the
Biographic Studio. The most notable productions
during this period were
'Polygamous Polonius' (1958), 'The Do-It-Yourself
Cartoon Kit' (1959) and
commercials for 'Don't Forget The TV Times'
and 'Esso Blue'. Godfrey went
solo in 1964, forming Bob Godfrey's Movie Emporium.
This title was later
shortened to Bob Godfrey Films - the company he
still owns and operates
That's a shot from 'Dream Doll', above.
I remember stumbling upon Godfrey's
more 'adult' output for the first time late
at night on Channel 4 when I was
in my teens - what a world away from 'Roobarb'
and co! Here were frank, and
frankly very funny, sexual toons breaking all
the rules of rudeness, but not in
an erotic way - no - these toons depicted
the great taboos in a thoroughly
down-to-earth manner you could instantly recognize
and chuckle at...
Oddly, in spite of repeated television,
short film and commercial success,
four Oscar nominations and a coveted golden
statuette to his name, no one
has invited Godfrey to produce an animated
feature - Shame on them! - Still,
he remains a short film genius, a talkative
genial artist keen to expound and
inform about his craft, and the effort involved
in its production. And above all
else, he's an animated inspiration to us all..