As briefs for commissioned films go, at first glance this is not the most promising:
Object: To make clear that Local Government is a continuously extending system which has rapidly evolved over the last hundred years. There is no need that the emotional impact of the film should be more than this. 1
It’s perhaps no surprise that the resulting film – Local Government: A History in Pictures, released in 1949 – never became a hit. Fancy watching 11 minutes of black-and-white drawings, occasionally embellished with a touch of animated movement, covering the development of local government in Norwich? Even Alan Partridge might resist such tantalising clickbait.
But to overlook such films is to miss out on a fascinating period in British animated film-making.
The W M Larkins Studio is simultaneously one of the least known and most influential players in the history of British animation. It was founded during the Second World War by William ‘Bill’ Larkins, a Goldsmiths-educated etcher. He had spent time in the advertising industry in the 1930s where he oversaw the design of (among many other things) consumer icons such as the Black Magic chocolate box and the KitKat wrapper.
The company carried his name into the 1980s, but by the post-war period Bill had moved on; his sister Phyllis was more directly involved in running the studio. The family link and even her gender are disguised by her nickname and married surname – she is credited on this and other films as Phil Windebank. But the biggest influence on the look of early Larkins films was her co-art director, Peter Sachs. Continue reading »