This month, as BFI Southbank pays tribute to Studio Ghibli, we focus on British animation, which has often displayed a surreal touch that would make Ghibli’s legendary co-founder Hayao Miyazaki proud. This selection takes in the delicately beautiful silhouette animation of Lotte Reiniger, the rich colour palette of Halas & Batchelor and the more lo-fi cartoons of kids’ TV.
Beyond fiction, British animators have been deployed to tell stories of national progress (Charley in New Town, 1948) and industrial might (King Coal, 1948; River of Steel, 1951); in advertising, Norman McLaren’s Love on the Wing (1938) proved too Freudian for its sponsor the GPO, who banned it.
You can view animated work aimed squarely at grown-ups, including Joan and Peter Foldes’ apocalyptic fable A Short Vision (1956), Candy Guard’s hilarious Fatty Issues (1988) and the late Run Wrake’s gloriously twisted Rabbit (2005) – a Mediatheque favourite. Although 2D hand-drawn and CG animation is the focus, you could also enjoy stop motion classics from the likes of Aardman and the Brothers Quay.
Ten to try
Mary’s Birthday (1951)
Germ warfare threatens to ruin young Mary’s birthday party in this enjoyably-surreal colour outing for animator Lotte Reiniger.
Mr Benn (1972)
As if by magic Mr Benn enters a fancy dress shop, and emerges into another world!
The Snowman (1982)
David Bowie introduces the Oscar®-nominated animation – a staple of festive TV schedules since the early 80s and a firm family favourite.
Original Welsh language episode of the popular children’s series about a teddy with super powers.
Wil Cwac Cwac (1985)
A mischievous duckling is the star of this Welsh language children’s animation based on the stories by Jennie Thomas and J.O. Williams.
Billy the Fish (1990)
Harry Enfield voices the half-man, half-fish goalkeeping star of the Viz comic.
A rabbit is stalked by a mysterious admirer in Leigh Hodgkinson’s gleefully-unsettling animated short.
The Princess and the Pendant (2007)
This is a charming silhouette animation made by a group of Durham schoolchildren.
Noddy in Toyland (2009)
Computer animation brings Enid Blyton’s most popular creation up to date.
Watership Down (1978)
‘Bright eyes, burning like fire…’ A memorably-dark classic based on Richard Adams’ bestselling children’s novel.