Untitled Document

Bob Godfrey : Satire, Surrealism, Sex - Curated by Professor Suzanne Buchan

Date: 14 July - 22 August 2008


For many of his fans, the animation films of Australian-born, Academy Award winner Bob Godfrey are insightful, often hilarious satires of the essence of ‘Britishness’, so much so that he was awarded an MBE. Although he is best known in the UK for his hugely popular Roobarb and Henry’s Cat series, Godfrey’s internationally acclaimed, award-winning talents are expansive, ranging from humane, humorous tales of erotic obsessions to biting political satire and brilliantly simple series. Godfrey’s career spans almost 60 years, moving between commercial and independent filmmaking, and his artistic work reflects both political and stylistic currents of these eventful decades.

Like many other animators, Godfrey’s filmmaking involves enormous amounts of developmental artworks and production materials. In addition to films and original painted cels on display, visitors will have unprecedented access to the creative processes of Bob Godfrey and to that of his studio artists that culminate in his films. The exhibition presents a thematic selection – satire,surrealism, sex – chosen from thousands of artefacts (drawings, sketches,storyboards, photographs, cutouts, documents, multilayer cels, productionequipment) from the Bob Godfrey Collection at the Animation ResearchCentre’s ARC Archive, University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK.

Curated by Professor Suzanne Buchan, Director of the Animation Research Centre and curatorial assistants, Seymour Lavine and Aaron Wood. We are grateful to Bob Godfrey and to his family, and for support from the University College for the Creative Arts, Animation Unlimited Conference 2008, and The Gallery at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth.

Bob Godfrey

Bob Godfrey was born in Horse Shoe Bend, West Maitland, Australia, January 27 1921, but moved to England shortly after with his British parents. He was first introduced to animation as a background artist whilst working for W.M Larkins Studio in 1950. He participated in founding the Grasshoppers group, a semi-professional distribution company, where he directed, wrote, and animated his first cartoons, The Big Parade (1952) and Watch the Birdie (1954) with Keith Learner. Godfrey was a founding member of Biographic Films - a production company that thrived on producing television, advertising and public relations works from 1954 to 1965. He began to make his own personal films, starting with Polygamous Polonius (1959), The Rise and Fall of Emily Sprod (1964) and collaborated on others, including Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit (1961). Having established his reputation as an animator with unique and unconventional mixes of techniques used to produce fast-paced, sometimes satirical, energetic films, in 1965 Godfrey established Bob Godfrey's Movie Emporium, later renamed Bob Godfrey Films. Godfrey continued to work and teach long past retirement, and his current project in development is based on Shakespeare.

Godfrey's films are more often than not the product of long-term collaborations: he invited 11 other animators to work on Kama Sutra Rides Again, allocating a different sexual position to each. Other collaborators include scriptwriters Stan Hayward and Colin Pearson, producer and filmmaker John Halas, cartoonist Gray Joliffe, author Daniel Postgate, and artist Jeremy Banx. Godfrey's signature artistic style established in his first films continued: he was often an animator on many of the films he directed as part of a team of many young animators and artists who worked with him in his studio, and who then went on to become new talents in British animation. Their stylistic diversity and contribution to Godfrey's success is apparent in the artworks on display. Besides directing and animating, Godfrey is 'present' in many of the films through a range of self-figurations. Rotoscope silhouettes and character design bear a marked resemblance to the man himself, and the unmistakable and wide-ranging qualities of his voice add personal qualities to characters and narration.

Godfrey has won dozens of international awards for his films, notably an Oscar and three BAFTAs; he was nominated for many others, including for two more Oscars. He received a range of prestigious awards for his life's work: the ASIFA Prize (1990), the Zagreb Festival's Life Achievement Award (1992) and an Honorary Doctorate (1998). His contribution to Britain's creative industries was recognised with an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1986. His films continue to be screened around the world, and as these are becoming increasingly available on DVD, his films will reach even wider audiences in future.