Halas and Batchelor are often referred to as the ‘British Disney.’ Their work, incorporating advertisement, feature, propaganda, instructional, corporate and short films had a distinctively British look and feel, and showed emphatically that animation’s potential for expression went well beyond Disney.
In the words of Nick Park:
“Halas and Batchelor represent a ‘great age’ in animation. They document an evolution in graphic expression in this country that spans decades. They made animation more important, and showed how graphics and animation could be used to communicate effectively, making even the most mundane of messages more interesting palatable or accessible.”
So imagine my luck when I found out that the University I was studying at housed an archive of the work of Halas and Batchelor (you’d think they’d have put it in the prospectus really…) and that they were looking for volunteers to help run it.
I immediately volunteered, and within 2 years was running one side of the archive while Slurpy MD Aaron Wood was running the other side (also known as ‘the boring side’). The work that we got to handle (through archive gloves of course) on a daily basis was of such beauty that I could never believe how few people knew or cared of its existence. Not only were Halas and Batchelor amazing artists themselves, they were also collectors of the work of other animators, including Lotte Reiniger, Yuri Norstein, Pete Lord, John Lassiter and Norman McLaren.
So it was with a mixture of great sadness and great joy that I heard that this wonderful work is now being donated to the British Film Institute. Its sad that the students of Farnham will no longer have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the history of animation with this unique archive of work, but it’s wonderful that at last the work will be in a place that has the resources and enthusiasm to treat it with the respect that it deserves and get it out to a bigger audience.