Britain’s first Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey, whose work ranged from the children’s TV cartoon Roobarb and the BAFTA-winning Henry’s Cat to mock-erotic films like Kama Sutra Rides Again, died Thursday at the age of 91. Born in Australia (née Roland Frederick Godfrey), he was educated in England where he began his career as a graphic artist in the 1930s. During World War II he served in the Royal Marines and afterward seized an opportunity to work in animation that eventually lead to a collaborative animated film produced in 1952 at a cost of £10 and entitled The Big Parade. Godfrey’s crew — Jeff Hale, Keith Learner, and later Nancy Hanna and Vera Linnecar — decided to set up their own studio, making some of the first commercials for ITV. The Guardian described him as the godfather of British animation. In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his 1975 musical comedy Great, about civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he was nominated three other times including for the aforementioned Kama Sutra. Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick so admired that film he screened it alongside UK showings of A Clockwork Orange. Godfrey’s deceptively simple drawings drew their strength from posture and gesture, and he had a lasting impact on other animators. Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) worked in his basement; Terry Gilliam made his Monty Python animations in Godfrey’s studio; and Nick Park cites Godfrey’s The Do-It-Yourself Animation Show as a major influence. In an interview with the Guardian in 2001, Godfrey said he had one regret. “I’d love to have done a full-length feature but I can’t seem to stretch myself to that length. When you look at my films, they appear to be a series of 30-second commercials cut together. I’m a short distance man whether I like it or not.”
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