The Twelve Animated Days of Christmas, #9

Today’s entry from the UK is more curio than classic: the 1959 Halas and Batchelor cartoon The Christmas Visitor, directed by John Halas, designed by Ted Pettengell, and animated by Harold Whitaker and Tony Guy. The cartoon, like a lot of Fifties work by Halas and Batchelor, is an uncomfortable mix of ‘cartoon modern’ styling and traditional animation movement. Its rarity makes it worth a view.


(via the excellent Saturday Morning Blog)


  • tom d.

    “…an uncomfortable mix of ‘cartoon modern’ styling and traditional animation movement…”

    no. the style and animation work well together.

    if there is a problem with this cartoon, it is that the modern designs of this cartoon are “married” to a very tired and old-fashioned story idea (toys coming to life, a villain in black, a girl being tied to the train tracks, etc.).

  • Randy Koger

    Actually, there isn’t anything “uncomfortable” about this animation piece or its style – other than, as usual on Cartoonbrew with this classic stuff, the print is a piece of scratchy, faded garbage. I suspect if this were able to be seen in a venue other than an old, faded 16mm print and not compressed for computer use (containing all kinds of nasty compression artifacts) this piece would be rather delightful and quite a treat.

    If you actually watch this you see that the animation, in fact, moves very very smoothly and the style is in fact upheld throughout the cartoon, and is pretty ahead of its time. Does Hornswaggle’s animation style really look that much different than this some 50+ years later?

  • Scotty A

    Looks about as uncomfortable as Rooty Toot Toot!

  • http://davekirwan.com Dave Kirwan

    Thanks for the peek at this one. As a big buff of the Halas and Batchelor stuff, I’ll have to agree with some of the other commentators: Amid, you’re way too hard on the use of full character animation within this nicely simplified design. Works for me! There’s even a couple of just-about-almost-funny gags. But I am more than sympathetic on the overall quality of the clip. Finding decent prints and/or transfers on vintage H&B material has been a challenge for years!

  • http://willfinn.blogspot.com/ Will Finn

    Amid, thanks for posting this. Never saw it before and though much of Halas/Bachelor stuff leaves me cold, this one is pretty delightful.

    I am glad to see I am not the only one who finds the characterization of “uncomfortable” to be not just unfair but not accurate. The actions are delightful and compliment the designs perfectly. Better than many cartoons in similar styles from other studios, in my opinion. Just because something is stylized doesn’t mean it has to move stiffly or with as little dimension as possible. The only thing that bugs me here is the choice to color St. Nick entirely red. Minor quibble tho. Have a great Holiday.

  • http://www.maketeanotwar.co.uk Aaron Foster

    That’s gonna be one stinky Christmas tree that family will wake up to.

  • Alex

    Wow, I’ve always really liked this one since I was young, but I’ve never seen it in the quality on that youtube. still plenty to be desired, but it’s better than I’ve witnessed. I also think that you’re being rather harsh on the designs and animation- it’s rather well done, but made to fit in with other cartoons of the day.

  • Bookiba

    That was wonderful and very imaginative.

  • amid

    Will – I wasn’t suggesting that the animation should move more stiffly, only that the animators didn’t really understand the designs or find a style of movement that complemented the design. Their treatment of the shapes is clumsy, loses form and volume, and treats the designs as if they are traditionally constructed characters. In particular, I think the animation of the jack-in-the-box villain could have been handled with a more appropriate graphic approach. Don’t get me wrong. This is not bad animation by any means. But the animation doesn’t jibe well with the design in my opinion.

  • Matt Cooper

    It’s amazing to see this again. My grandma had a tape with this cartoon on it. I watched it all the time. MEMORIES!

    I just learned about this site from a plug by Jerry Beck in Golden Collection 4, I’m so glad there’s something like this around!

  • http://willfinn.blogspot.com/ Will Finn

    Thanks Amid for the clarification. I still don’t see the same flaws you do, but that’s what makes a horserace, i guess. I like the combination of the very stylized designs and the virtually full but highly loose & fluid animation–that’s something which didn’t happen often enough in my opinion. For instance, the girl doll is a very dull design IMO, but she is animated with surprising subtlety, texture and believability. Above all, Santa is a great deal of fun to watch. Whatever he lacks in scrupulous attention to design, he makes up for in expressiveness, to my eye.

    I have to go now and purchase a cigar for Santa. I’m fresh out.

  • Mel

    Harman and Ising were doing stories like this one twenty years earlier, in a fuller animation style.