Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Joy Batchelor, a pioneer in British animation.
To celebrate the life and career of this remarkable woman, Birds Eye View teamed up with Batchelor’s daughter and archive manager, Vivienne Halas, during our 2014 festival, to present a special discussion on Batchelor’s Life in Animation. Although a crucial figure in British animation, she has for years been unfairly passed over for recognition. Here, we take a close look at the legacy of her work, which included witty public service short films after the second world war, as well as the BAFTA nominated Animal Farm adapted from the novel by George Orwell. This new short film from the Halas and Batchelor Collection seeks to redress that balance and to introduce Joy’s work to a wider public…
Ode To Joy (2014)
Batchelor was born in Watford, England, in 1914. In 1938, having already established herself as an experienced illustrator and animator, Batchelor answered an advertisement for an animator by John Halas. Halas was a renowned Hungarian animator, who’d learned his craft under George Pal, but launched his own career in 1934. Halas immediately recognised Batchelor’s talent, and took her on board. Their collaboration began with a series of films that were made in Budapest. However, when funding ran out, the couple were forced to return to London. The year was 1939, and the world was on the brink of war.
Back in England, and with no employment, Batchelor took their graphic work around the advertising agencies, publishers and magazines. Eventually the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson asked Batchelor and Halas to make animated film adverts for Kellogg’s Train Trouble and Lux soap Carnival in the Clothes Cupboard. In order to be paid they had to become a company, so, in 1940 they established Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films, and were married in the same year.
From the outset, Batchelor took on the roles of animator, writer, director, producer and designer of the films. Her sense of humour counterbalanced Halas’ ambition and drive and they were united in their belief that animation should become a recognised art form, through which they could make a positive difference to British society.
With Halas, Batchelor wrote and co-wrote hundreds of scripts, commercials, propaganda, educational and entertainment films including the first Charley films made for the COI in 1946 to introduce social security, Animal Farm (1954), George Orwell’s classic allegorical fable, The World of Little Ig (1956) a story of a prehistoric boy that pre-dated Hanna-Barbera’s Flintstones and For Better for Worse (1959) a sponsored film for Philips about the potential benefits and evil of television.
Batchelor was the often unseen driving force behind most of the work. Even in later years, when Batchelor no longer came into the studio, Halas relied heavily on her critical overview. Her feature film, Ruddigore (1964), was the UK’s first animated operetta, perfectly capturing the tongue in cheek quality of its creators, Gilbert and Sullivan. By the mid 1970s Batchelor retired through ill health, but continued to teach at the London International Film School, where she remained a governor until her death in 1991.
Animal Farm (1954)
As a special tribute The Halas & Batchelor Collection has also posted a selection of Batchelor’s films on the Halas & Batchelor YouTube channel…