Remembering John Halas

Vivien Halas has posted this filmic remembrance of her father John Halas (1912-1995), who would have been 100 years old today. Halas, whose studio, Halas & Batchelor, made the first British animated feature, Animal Farm (1954), was obviously a seminal figure in British animation and also served as the founding president of ASIFA-International.

The documentary features a number of interviews with friends and people who worked with him at his studio and ASIFA. It also includes some fascinating clips from his films, including a 1970 experiment with 2D computer animation and a 1930 film he made in his native Hungary.

I never really met Halas, though I did correspond with him when I served as editor of the ASIFA-Hollywood’s Graffiti magazine and The Inbetweener newsletter in the mid-1980s. As ASIFA-International President and President Emeritus, he would send out a column which we and other ASIFA chapters would publish.  I still recall a rather prescient piece talking about the growing affinity between visual effects and animation.

Vivien Halas add that, “This short documentary will be available shortly as a bonus on a new DVD specially made for ASIFA of John’s favourite short films from Halas & Batchelor.”

Happy birthday John.

2009 Movie Box Office Break UK Records, While Attendance Also Blossoms


While there’s much suspicion about the validity of Avatar’s box office performance due to inflated 3D ticket prices, the UK Film Council’s 2010 Statistical Yearbook paints a different picture. As reported by The Guardian,

last year was the best ever in terms of box office takings and the second best year since 1971 in terms of admissions, fuelled by the continuing growth of 3D and the through-the-roof success of Avatar, as well as the enduring, recession-resistant appeal of the big screen.  …

In terms of box office, it was a record year with takings topping £944m [about $1,457,000,000]. Cinema admissions also shot up from last year’s healthy 164 million to 174 million, not quite beating 2002 (176 million), but still up 6% and the second highest number since 1971.

As to the impact of 3D,

The 3D revolution arrived in earnest, with 14 3D films accounting for 16% of UK and Ireland box office revenues, up from 0.4%. There are still sceptics but [David Steele, the council’s head of research and statistics] said: “It does not appear to be a flash in the pan.”

Two Films Added to the New UK Memory of the World Register

The Life Story of David Lloyd George
The young David Lloyd George’s dream of David and Goliath in Maurice Elvey’s The Life Story of David

The Life Story of David Lloyd George Main TitleOn July 14th, the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO announced the 10 items and collections to be included in its first UK Memory of the World Register, which follows in the footsteps of  UNESCO’s worldwide Memory of the World Programme, which I previously posted about here. Included are two films, both rather obscure — one because of its subject matter and the other because it was a film that was never shown publicly and believed to be lost. The latter is Maurice Elvey’s The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918),  a biography of the British prime minister, which was repressed and presumed destroyed; the latter is  St Kilda, Britain’s Loneliest Isle (1928), a documentary of  life on a island in the Hebrides that was soon to vanish.

Luke McKernan provides a fascinating rundown of the history of Elvey’s film on The Bioscope, his invaluable blog about silent movies. He notes that the film has

a remarkable history of idealism, political intrigue, slander, subterfuge, disappearance, rediscovery and restoration. The Life Story of David Lloyd George was made in 1918, vanished before any cinema audience had a chance to see it, and re-emerged to astonished acclaim in 1994. Its place must be in virtual history rather than actual film history, because its story is one of if onlys and maybes. But what a story it is.

The 152-minute film is available on DVD from The National Library of Wales here and includes 47 minutes of extras, including an interview with ace film historian Kevin Brownlow.

As to St Kilda, it is

A filmed voyage by steamer from Glasgow to St Kilda, containing scenes of the ports en-route and life of the population on St Kilda. Research supports the conclusion that the scenes on the island of Hirta were taken in May 1923, with footage of the voyage from Glasgow out to St Kilda shot later, c. 1928. The film was made on the eve of the evacuation of St Kilda, August 1930, and with it the end of two millennia of human habitation on the island.

The film can be seen on YouTube in two parts (part 1 is embedded above), though you can also see in one sitting on the Scottish Screen Archive site here, which contains additional information on St Kilda.

Meanwhile …

In preparing for this post, I checked UNESCO’s Memory of the World site and discovered its list of Current Nominations, which include a number of film-related items. These include the EYE Film Instituut Nederland’s Desmet Collection, that includes “films, company documents, posters and film stills from the 1910’s” collected by Jean Desmet and Rossellini 77 Triptych, about Roberto Rossellini’s final project. Others include the Audiovisual Collection of Max Stahl, which includes material relating to the founding of Timor Leste, the Thor Heyerdahl Archives (Heyerdahl, the 20th century explorer, made Kon-Tiki (1950),one of the most popular post-war documentaries), and Collection of note manuscripts and film music of Composer Aram Khachaturian.

Thanks to The Bioscope, from whose site I cribbed the frame grab at the top from The Life Story of David Lloyd George.