British Animator Bob Godfrey Dies at 91

Britain's first Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey dies at 91.

Bob Godfrey

LONDON -- Britain's first Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey, whose work ranged from the children's TV cartoon Roobarb to mock-erotic movies like Kama Sutra Rides Again, has died at the age of 91, according to a report by Reuters.

Godfrey, often referred to as the “Godfather of British Animation,” was born in Australia but educated in England and started his career as a graphic artist in London in the 1930s before gaining work in the film industry. He was the first British animator to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his 1975 musical comedy Great, about civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Godfrey was recognized with three additional Oscar nominations, including for his 1971 short film Kama Sutra Rides Again, one of his mock-erotic exploitation films that focused on the hypocrisy of British attitudes towards sex. Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick so admired the film that he screened it alongside UK showings of A Clockwork Orange.

“Much of Godfrey's work has been predicated on satirizing the foibles and minutiae of what it means to be British,” says his biography on the British Film Institute website. For nearly 50 years Godfrey worked with some of animation's biggest names including Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, poking fun at orthodoxy and establishment thinking. He retired in 1999. His work ran along two tracks -- adult material and quirky children's cartoons which he wanted to appeal to adults too. He was known for his children's cartoons Roobarb, about a warring cat and dog, and Henry's Cat.

His death follows the recent death of veteran actor Richard Briers, aged 79, who narrated Roobarb and also the character of Brunel in Godfrey's film Great.

In an interview in 2001, Godfrey said he had one professional regret. “I'd love to have done a full-length feature but I can't seem to stretch myself to that length,” he said. “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.”

For more about Godfrey and his work, watch the BBC special, The Craftsmen – Bob Godfrey Documentary, Parts 1 and 2, below:

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