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Feature FilmTV

John Coates (1927-2012)

I’ve just heard that John Coates, best known for being the “production supervisor” on Yellow Submarine, a co-producer of Heavy Metal, and producer of several notable shorts (The Snowman), series (The World Of Peter Rabbit) and features (When The Wind Blows) has passed away at age 84.

Coates co-founded TVC London (aka TV Cartoons Ltd.) with George Dunning in 1957 and was known as the business partner of the duo. In the 1960s, TVC produced the original Beatles TV cartoons and the Cool McCool series for King Features – and that led to them being the studio behind Yellow Submarine (1968). Coates continued to align himself with quality work throughout the years, and was most recently nominated for an Academy Award for Joanna Quinn’s short Famous Fred in 1997. A legend of the British animation industry, John Libbey published a biography of Coates last year.

  • John Coates was a true legend. For me personally, some of my favorite works by him are the Beatrix Potter and The Wind in the Willows adaptations he produced in the 90s. These beautiful TV specials still stand as the definitive, filmed versions of these literary classics. (Heck, TVC’s “The Wind in the Willows” is still one of my favorite animated films, period!) John Coates made TV animation worthy of the big screen… better, in fact, than a lot of stuff that wound up on the big screen. Here’s to you, John.

  • GW

    I love The Snowman and The Bear. I wasn’t familiar with him until now, but now I know about him I’m sad that he’s gone.

  • Having read both Bob Heironymous’ and Al Brodax’s accounts of making YELLOW SUBMARINE, the primary thing the books have in common is that YS was made in less than a year with a makeshift studio and no real plan in place, not even a working script. That such a wonderful film was made at all is nothing short of a miracle, one that was, in large part, due to John Coates’ ability to adapt to a shifting set of circumstances. YELLOW SUBMARINE is by far my favorite animated feature, but those Beatrix Potter adaptations are really well-done, too. Thank you, Mr. Coates.

    • Mark Dillman

      I have both books as well. The two perspectives are very helpful in understanding more about “Yellow Submarine”.

  • By the way, Heironymous’ book is must-read material; Brodax’s not so much. The first is the most thorough book about a film’s production I’ve ever read; the second is a long and pretentious brochure about Brodax’s brilliance by Brodax himself.

  • That quote “It’s all in the mind, y’know” is one I have heard on The Goon Show, well before the Beatles came around. The Beatles were influenced a lot by the Goons comedy. Spike Milligan would have been right at home in Pepperland.

  • James Fox

    Famous Fred – the short that makes you wonder how many Dexies they took when they made that short

  • Brendan Spillane

    John Coates was the model for Old Fred in YELLOW SUBMARINE. And my love for TVC London’s output isn’t limited to just Pepperland: “The Snowman”, “Father Christmas” & “The World of Peter Rabbit” are AMAZING films!

  • Oscar Grillo

    Nice man John…He’ll be missed.

  • Mel

    The conditions under which “Yellow Submarine” was pulled together were, in the worst of it, nothing short of combat. The fact that they actually made a watchable animated feature despite the circumstances is due to Mr. Coates and his creative soldiers in the trenches. Certainly the Beatles great music got the audiences in their seats but there had to be a film there in order for it to eventually achieve classic status, which it has.

  • When I visited London, I knocked on the doors of all the animation studios in Shoho Square, and even though he didn’t know me, John Coates welcomed me to the TVC studio and told me great stories about the making of The Yellow Submarine, and he showed me the unfinished short Tempest by George Dunning: amazing, weird stuff. After the viewing he said, “of course by this time he was completely off his box”.

  • A GIANT of the British animation scene RIP

  • Errol Bryant

    I worked with John during the 1980s, primarily on ‘When The Wind Blows’ as Art Director, but on mnay other production and commercials. John was a wonderful,gentle man,in fact,a real gentleman, courteous and always respectful. Working for TVC was a real pleasure, and it not only John’s enthusiasm and professionalism and dedication to quality animation that made it so, but also the way he treated everyone equally, regardless of their position on a production. Bless you, John, and thank you for everything.