Archives for : British animation

Toon-In Talk Episode 15: Interview with Jez Stewart

Hello and welcome to fifteenth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  During research for her book on Lotte Reiniger, Whitney was using the British Film Institute’s website for information.  She came across some great animation information, not just about Reiniger, but also about British animation.  Jez Stewart in the BFI’s Animation Animation Curator and during this interview he discusses British animation history, the BFI’s animation holdings, and other fun facts about working in a renowned film archive.

Episode 15

  • Jez Stewart is the Animation Curator at the British Film Institute (BFI) and he has worked there for fourteen years.
  • He started as an acquisitions assistant and slowly his worked his way up to his current position. Jez describes his work at a mixture of “spreadsheets and boxes of delights.”
  • He works with all the old goodies, including some of the earliest animated films ever made.
  • Jez explains the decomposition of old film stock and how they must store some films at very cold temperatures.
  • The BFI is the UK’s lead body of film, created in 1933, and its purpose is to ensure that all moving images are preserved, shared with people, and exhibit British culture.
  • The BFI’s collection scope if very large. They have work from studios that closed down, wanted to clean out their closets, and more. A large portion of the work is commercial, but they also include material from feature films and other entertainment venues.
  • Housed in the archive is Bob Godfrey’s work, WWI films that make fun of the Kaiser, public information films, the Halas and Batchelor films (they made Animal Farm).
  • Jex explains some of the ways the BFI preserves the films and how the BFI decides to share the material. One of the worst roadblocks is copyright.
  • British animation has gone up and down in the amount of popularity. It was very big in the 1950s when TV was new, then the funding dried up. Channel 4 money helped animation flourish again in the 1980s-1990s, but then it dried up again.
  • Aardman Studios, which made the Wallace and Gromit series and Shaun the Sheep, is the most well-known British animator.
  • Jez is also a fan of Michael Please, Harry Harlow, and others.
  • A lot of British animation exported to the US are children’s shows.
  • Whitney and Jez discuss how foreign feature films are viewed in the US and the UK. They also discuss how sometimes restoration can ruin a film’s integrity and how sometimes there is no school like the old school.
  • The BFI is trying to put more content on the Internet and share more animation film packages to share with audiences, and Jez wants to write a history of British animation.
  • Whitney and Jez both want to see more animation from British animators, especially a feature film.