montypython-icon montypython-icon

Terry Gilliam Teaches Cut-Out Animation

Wow, here’s something I’d never seen before: Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam discussing his animation techniques on Bob Godfrey‘s Do-It-Yourself Animation Show in 1974. Godfrey’s show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, Jan Pinkava, who directed the Pixar short Geri’s Game, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.

In a day and age when more kids are interested in animating than ever before, it’s a shame that TV shows (or Web series) that are fun and informative like this don’t exist. The DIY advice that Gilliam gives in this episode is not only brilliant, but still as relevant today as back then:

“The whole point of animation to me is to tell a story, make a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter. Whatever works is the thing to use.”

  • Thanks for finding this! I saw this as a kid, and really, really wanted to be an animator. I even built my own rostrum and borrowed a cine camera from a neighbour. I ended up as a cartoonist/illustrator, and very happy in my life choices. Now I have a niece who is about to study animation at university, and I wanted to show her the program that inspired me, but I couldn’t track it down anywhere. So thanks!

  • Paul N

    This bears repeating:

    “The technique itself doesn’t really matter. Whatever works is the thing to use.”

    • wgan

      really dig that
      although i personally never get along with Terry Gilliam’s story telling too well

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    I love Terry Gilliam, he is underrated, or at least not talked about as much, as an animator. I loved his Monty Python low budget animations (“Animations”, yes, that’s what he was credited for). Amzing sense of comedic timing considering he probably didn’t have the budget for an animatic and much stuff was post-synced. There exists a best of his work on DVD. Damn good original illustrator too, even on the airbrushing of stuff that was cut-out from various sources.

  • WOW! Where has this footage been hiding for all these years? I consider Gilliam my earliest animation influence, when I first saw Monty Python during it’s Dallas debut in 1975, it was the animation that drew me to the television and warped my impressionable little mind! Everything I am I owe to this long haired hippie freak. I wanted to tell him that when I met him at Richland College during one of his lectures, but I was so nervous I just told him I loved him and asked for his autograph. I’m sure he thought I was insane, and of course, he was right.

  • Great find! I still don’t understand how he made it relatively smooth though with all those loose pieces.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Probably used a glass platen of sorts during the shoots.

  • Chris Webb

    I believe Terry Gilliam also wrote a how-to book about cut out animation called Animations Of Mortality. It was published in the UK in the late 1970’s.

    Thanks for tracking this down, Amid. I’ve always wanted to see it. Great to see one of the Pythons telling how he actually does what he does.

    • Except for a page or two in the middle it’s not a how to book at all.
      Mostly it’s a collage of images from his animation.

  • Tim Hodge

    Looks like he also inspired Nigel Tufnel’s hairdo.

    • Doug

      hehe No, I think that was Jeff Beck.

  • gogopedro

    wow… fantastic find…

  • bob kurtz

    great stuff!!!!!

  • Mister Twister

    This is my face:

  • Was My Face Red

    The BBC/UK had a great tradition of shows that presented all kinds of animation to kids and showed how it was done. Apart from Bob’s massively influential show there was also the long running magazine programme ‘Cartoon Time’ – first presented by Rolf Harris and then Tony Robinson (off Blackadder.) It was amazing how lovingly made and eclectic these shows were. Rolf would present animation from all times and places, as well as the more obvioulsy Warners Shorts, talk about their history and then do really bad drawings himself. Robinson got even more into the history. Can you imagine a 25 minutes kids TV show on the making of Halas and Betchelors ‘Animal Farm’ being broadcast today?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I wish they would do shows like that again.

  • Keith T.

    Gotta say, kids shows in the 70s had an awful lot more tits in them than I remember. I counted four pair in the first five minutes…

  • Jack Pelling

    Wow, what a gem. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Adolphus

    Terry Gilliam’s “Animations of Mortality” remains the funniest book on the making of animation ever published.

  • Thanks for the find and the animation help!! Yes!

  • this is pure golden gold !!

  • Toonio

    Gilliam’s imagination surpasses anything ever seen.

  • Mike

    No school like the old school!

  • oh this is pure gem! thank you so much for this.

  • Bob Harper

    This is great. Gilliam is definitely one of the major influences for me as well. I have an excellent condition of Animations of Mortality and now this companion piece will go along nicely to remind me to have fun making cartoons.

  • Robert Schaad

    This is valuable. His animation for Python was hugely influential to me, as much for imagery and his sense of surreal absurdity. Thanks!!

  • this is also an IMPORTANT reminder that it’s not about “how high-poly” your cg models are or how “epicly photoreal” your renders are.. ugh. no need for stereoscopic 3D glasses folks!!

    this is a guy with some dirty old magazines (some dirtier than others “..terrible joke”), a pair of scissors, and impeccable comedic timing !!

    Ahh the 70’s. Ahhh Monty Python.

  • I’ve never been so inspired by someone showing me how to cut corners.

  • Treadwell

    In addition to the great content, this clip also demonstrates how to host this kind of segment: Bob Godfrey was wise enough to keep quiet and let his guest do his thing. Can you imagine all the pointless interruptions most presenters would have inflicted upon this?

  • Lamont W.

    “The whole point of animation to me is to tell a story, make a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter. Whatever works is the thing to use.”

    I love the comments here, supporting this quote… when Flash cut-out technique, cutting corners, “cheaper and faster” and websites like GoAnimate and Xtranormal are usually frowned upon here.

    Very inspiring video.