Six years into the business of running an animation studio, Halas & Batchelor had established firm roots in the British film industry. Since 1942 they had been almost exclusively engaged in producing public information shorts for various government departments, and now the war was over there must have been some uncertainty about what was coming next.
In the 1946 November-December edition of the Documentary News Letter (many volumes of which have been digitised and made available on the Internet Archive, advertised their services to the industry. It was not the first time they had done so, but this example is particularly interesting as it offers a snapshot of the staff "engaged on present productions". Many of these names - bar John and Joy - are unfamiliar. Some I have varying degrees of information on, and will be familiar to a few. Others I fear are lost to the mists of time. I hope that this blog will provide an opportunity to profile some of them in the coming year. Consider this a starting point:
Robert E. Privett
Bob Privett (born 1912, registered in Romford) was one of the perennial faces of the British animation industry, but is sadly a name that has left little trace. A short but affectionate obituary by Ken Clark for Animator magazine in 1984, offers some details of his start in the industry. The short animated cinema commercials produced by Younger Publicity Service and Publicity Pictures were often pretty basic, with the Younger’s Shopping Gazettes in particular featuring very little actual animation. Joining Anson Dyer’s studio to produce short entertainment cartoons in colour must have felt like a real step on in the industry – although the company had several ups and downs before the hiatus of WWII.
His experience on joining Halas & Batchelor seems to have been recognised – he is the first name after John and Joy themselves. Unlike many of the women animators who had formed the backbone of the unit in wartime, Bob seems to have been given more and more responsibility. Along with Allan Crick, who had become a partner in Halas & Batchelor after the war (and will be written about another day), Bob seems to have been animation director of a kind of sub-unit within the company that specialised in high profile sponsored films for BP and the like. Although he may have been involved on Animal Farm (1954) in some capacity he is not credited on the film, and he was tasked with keeping other work moving through the studio.
After moving on to British Transport Films at the start of the 1960s, Bob worked far mostly with live action filmmaking. His relationship with Halas & Batchelor was not over however, credited with script writing on the Evolution of Life series (1967). In later life he taught animation at the London School of Art and Design.
Rosalie Crook (aka Wally Crook)
Rosalie Walta Crook - better known as Wally Crook - is one of the most enigmatic figures in British animation history but is sadly little known. Born in Romford in 1914, she was nicknamed "Wally" after the father she never met - he died shortly before she was born. She first pops up on the map at Anson Dyer's studio in Hammersmith around 1940, but may have had some animation experience before then. She moved with Dyer's studio to Stroud when it was relocated to avoid the blitz but returned to London and joined Halas & Batchelor around 1942.
She was remembered by those who worked with her as the "queen" of the animation room; she seems to have been a kind, funny and engaging personality, and was also the union shop steward. Her reputation was also built on her prowess as an animator, and she was listed as Halas & Batchelor's key animator in the company's listings in the Kine Year Book.
She left Halas & Batchelor around 1951 and moved to the Larkins Studio, and was moved to the animation department of Guild Television Services at the start of commercial television in the UK in 1955. Troubled by asthma throughout her life she died in 1961 at the age of 46 - her father died at the same age. We will return to Wally in future posts.
Born in 1926, Christine was only 15 when she began working at Halas & Batchelor. She was studying at Watford Art School at the time that the studio moved out to nearby Bushey to escape the worst of the blitz. She recalls being sent up from the school (where Joy Batchelor had studied some years earlier) to work in the trace and paint department on a temporary basis. She actually remained at the company until 1950, by which time she was working as an inbetweener but then left the industry altogether.
Born in Lambeth in 1923, Vera joined Halas & Batchelor in 1940 fresh out of art school. Her talents and need to express them quickly moved her from tracing work - copying the pencil drawings of others onto clear cels in ink - to animating herself. She remained a key member of the company in its founding years, before leaving to join the Larkins Studio in the late 40s.
Vera flourished at Larkins, working particularly well with Nancy Hanna who was already established there and the two were head-hunted to work in an animation department at Pearl & Dean under ex-UPA man Dave Hilberman in 1953 or 54. Hildenburg's tenure at Pearl & Dean was unfortunately short-lived and Nancy and Vera were not treated well by the management thereafter. They both moved to join Bob Godfrey and Keith Learner at Biographic in 1957, and remained key a fixture of the British animation industry there until she retired in 1985.
Post-retirement, Vera has left animation behind but continues to paint and exhibit her work.
Staff outside Halas & Batchelor at 10A Soho Square c1946. From left to right: Stella Harvey, unknown, Wally Crook, unknown, Vera Linnecar
Elizabeth Williams - seemingly known by everyone as Liz, and better known by her latter married name of Liz Horn, joined H&B at a similar time to Vera when they were still at Bush House. She remained with the company through the war and beyond, and is credited on most of the Charley series as "E. Williams", moving from inbetweening to animating. In an interview she did with Ken Clark in 1985 she offers a great insight into H&B at that time and its progressive ambitions that led to films like A Magic Canvas.
This experience was not to last and she left H&B on unhappy terms before 1950. After periods at a variety of companies, including the briefly innovative unit at Pearl & Dean, she set up as a "freelance team" with her husband Dick Horn (see below). She worked a lot at Biographic with Vera until the early 80s.
So far I have drawn a blank on this name. Any info would be greatly appreciated
There is a bit of a mystery to this one. There is a John Beaven credited on a number of H&B films from this period, and although he is not always directly credited as such my understanding is that his role was painting backgrounds for the animation cels. Googling Walter Beaven I came across some ebay listings (now removed) for title cards for The Shoemaker and the Hatter (1950) that were apparently signed "Walter Beaven on the rear - also some designs for packaging from the 1930s.
This listing of artworks by John Beaven which includes biographical details of him working at H&B lead me to some FreeBMD digging and I discovered that a John W Beaven married Christina Sweet in Hendon, March 1940. Could the "W" stand for Walter and this be a name used for commercial work to differentiate from private artistic enterprises? The other possibility is that Christine Jollow remembered a Mr Beaven who was a colour mixer for the paint department who was John's father. He could be the Walter who is listed, but that would mean his son the background artist was not. Any info putting this right would be greatly received.
Part 2 of this post will appear next week - if you have any info on any of the people named, or can identify the unknown names in the photo then please do get in touch via the contact page or other means if you have them.