Bob Godfrey Documentary Bob Godfrey Documentary

Bob Godfrey Documentary

A short but delightful BBC special (in two parts) about British animation legend Bob Godfrey. It’s from the early-1970s.

The film contains the following bit of wisdom from Godfrey: “There’s no point in doing something in animation that could be done very much quicker or much easier in live-action. Animation should deal with surreal things, with fantastic things, impossible things, because there are no limitations in animation. The only limitations there are are within the animators themselves. There’s nothing you can’t do. This is the terrifying thing about it, this is the exciting thing about it. You name it, it can be done in animation.”

For a taste of his work, here is a delightful episode of the 1970s children’s series Roobarb, directed and animated by Godfrey.

  • Rhubarb was narrated by Richard Briars, an English actor who is virtually unknown in the US.
    Briars narrated hundreds and hundreds of animated cartoons and hearing his voice is an instant flashback to childhood for any Australian around my age.

  • Great to see that, and nice to see Bob (and Jeff Goldner) looking so young!

    “Animation is around at the moment in rather a small way. In twenty or thirty years time it will be around in quite a big way. It’s going to keep growing because we’re moving into an audio-visual communications era. People are going to learn from the screen as opposed to books.” How right he was.

    Bob gave me my first animation job. He was great to work for – the impish sense of fun that shows in his work was a constant source of entertainment and inspiration. His sense of timing seemed almost magical – if one of our scenes wasn’t quite working he’d watch it three times then say, “Take two frames out here, and put one in there”, and then it was funny. He was tirelessly inventive – always thinking on his feet and often improvising to great effect – especially when a deadline was looming!

    But whenever anyone in the studio had a birthday he’d take all of us out for a very long lunch, deadline or no deadline. Super chap.

  • Christopher Cook

    Bob Godfrey directed a couple of first season episodes of the Beatles cartoons at TVC-London, and given the budgets ABC allocated to make 26 weeks worth of first-run episodes, they looked horrible. They really didn’t capitalize on Godfrey’s surrealism, but then I guess that wasn’t what ABC was looking for.

    Loved the “Gilliam Was Here” sign!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Being reminded of having watched Roobarb and not knowing whom animated those until years later. He also produced and voiced the main character in Henry’s Cat. Also get a kick out of his personal shorts like Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit, Henry 9 til 5, Kama Sutra Rides Again, Instant Sex and others.

  • Roobarb is one of my all-time favourite TV cartoon series. It is proof that the UK TV cartoon’s golden age is in the 70’s – mid 80’s. We may had extremely small budgets when compared to the US cartoons of the same era, but we more than made up for it in imagination, inventiveness, and, more importantly, heart.

    Bob Godfrey’s use of “magic markers” gave the animation an unusual look but full of vitality, Grange Caveley’s surreal humour really shines in the scripts, and the inclusion of Richard Briers as voice artist (the use of only one star actor in a cartoon series was very common pratice in the UK) was inspired. It’s a winning combination!

    Other surreal UK cartoons I recommend are Nick Spargo’s “Willo The Wisp” and Cosgrove-Hall’s stop-motion series “Chorlton and the Wheelies”.

  • Thanks for posting this! I sure miss Bob….I used to have lunch with him each year when he came to Vancouver as a guest instructor at VanArts. Having lunch with Bob was an absolute riot….such a funny guy. His wife sent me a very nice letter several months ago in response to a Christmas present I sent him last year…he’s been having some health struggles lately, but he still retains his sense of humor.

  • Saturnome

    I’ve been looking for Godfrey’s “Great” for a long time. Any way too see this in Canada?

  • Bruce E. Durocher II

    I have a staple-bound paperback book that the BBC put out in the 70’s called “THE DO-IT-YOURSELF FILM ANIMATION BOOK” by Bob Godfrey & Anna Jackson which says on the copyright page that there was a multi-episode program on how to animate that aired when it came out. As far as I can find out it never aired in the USA but I’d love to get a copy, since the book is fantastic–the cut-out animation chapter is basically all Terry Gilliam and includes storyboard sketches for the “woman-eating baby carriage” sequence from Python, and the cell animation chapter has lots of material from Richard Williams as well. My copy of the book was stolen within two weeks of my returning to Seattle and it took me years to find a replacement–I wish someone would get the rights to it and rerelease it again.

  • Thanks for featuring this. I often feel like there is a whole Golden Age of UK cartoons that are missed in the sometimes US-dominated internet history files and Bob Godfrey is an absolute legend.

    Much of what was created at that time didn’t always have a huge amount of technical know-how behind it (and certainly didn’t have money) but it had ingenuity. It had life. It had discovery and experimentation. It had creativity.

    Roobarb’s mix of Godfrey’s direction, Grange Calveley’s wonderful stories and Briers’ narration is just magical. Going through the episodes, there is such a mixed bag in the drawings – some are atrocious. Others are like finding a piece of buried treasure. They have some amazing quality to them. There are drawings in there you just won’t ever find anywhere else.

    I think special mention should go to Peter Green’s animation in the opening sequence, which is just lovely.

  • Nancy Green

    Nice to see father was Peter Green who animated many of Bob’s films, and my earliest memories are of him sitting in the living room, animation sheets flicking back and forth as he draw out the Rhoobarb shed sequences etc..