Its Great! Britain’s First Oscar Winning Animation

As our catalogue entry for Great, 1975, Britain’s first Oscar winning animation is up then its a good time to provide background into what makes it so ‘Great’!

This animation is based on the life and times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineer, set in Victorian England.  Great is a 30 minute comic-opera based on the life of Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

This film showcases technical developments within 2D animation, showcasing a combination of animation styles, including real life actions sequences.

The film which was too long for a short and too short for a feature, was not widely seen in cinemas but it did go on to become the first British film to win the Academy Award for Animated Short Film and also won the best animated film at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

UCA holds animation Cel artwork, drawings, sketches, and dope sheets, and helps de-mystify the process of creating 2D animation and the different stages involved, and would be ideal for someone exploring how to create a 2D animation, and interested in the history of animation, what use of acetate cels add, the use of colour blocking, what different colours were used and why were they changed?

In terms of social history, this is a fantastic look at how many ways well- known figures are portrayed. This is an irreverent look at key, often respected figures, such as Isambaard Brunel, which could cause offence. Its interesting to compare the images of Brunel to more stately images, such as one’s seen in the Brunel museum.

Likewise we see an excellent image of Queen Victoria, sitting on her ‘throne’, aka the toilet! The power of image to reduce people of ‘power’ such as the royal family, to comedy figures…

Next year, 2015, is Great’s 40th anniversary, so watch this step for events and exhibitions





First World War Centenary: War and the impact on Art

As part of the First World War Centenary (1914-1918) we are looking at the impact World War had on art, including art education, through our archives.

While we hold records of all our founder art schools of the University for the Creative Arts, there are gaps within our records that cover the first world war period – Epsom School of Art holds records of 1889, and then there are no more records until 1919- one year after the end world war – a mystery!  Paper and and art materials would have indeed be in very short supply within the war period.

However, we can look at the aftermaths of the first world war, and the impact it had on art school education, and particularly women in art school education. Art schools gave women the opportunity to learn.

David Haste, Artist, and ex staff member of the Kent Institute of the Art and Design, and author of the ‘Art Schools of Kent’ provides general contextual information related to women in Art Schools:

‘Art Schools were first established as Design Schools in the 1840s…they were an immediate attraction to middle class women, particularly so when it was still commonly believed that art was a luxury in education permissible for girls, but quite unnecessary for boys’ – David Haste

‘The original government approved art schools were ostensibly established to train artisans and create designers for manufacturing industries. Few middle class women were attracted to industry…but respectable young women’ going to art school to learn how to draw …was openly encouraged’ – David Haste

However the number of women in art school education was even more marked after the First World War, which is hardly surprising given the males conscription and lives lost within the war

‘The gender balance in art schools were usually even 50/50, but given the impact of the war by the 1920s/30s female students were in the majority’-David Haste, Author of Art Schools of Kent

This is highlighted by the image of a female of the front page of the 1919-1920 prospectus


epsom prospectus


Reeling in Reels of Film

The Archives at Farnham are currently looking after over 400 reels of Film Reels produced by students by Film Production. These films date from the 1960s to the present day and consist of work from the University for the Creative Arts previous institutes prior to  including Guildford School of Art, Farnham School of Art, West Surrey College of Art and Design and Surrey Institute of Art and Design (for further information about our institution’s history see here )

Key issues here include determining the format (e.g whether it is the final print), the condition (films need to be kept in cold storage otherwise degradation occurs), whether we can view it. Stay tuned to the blog to keep an eye on our progress…

Film reels from the Animation Archive film reels 2 Lisa Moore, Digital Images Officer, with Film Reels of student work dating from the 1960s 4 Lisa Moore, Digital Imaging Officer, with film reels Lisa Moore, Digital Imaging  Officer, with film reels Lisa Moore, Digital Imaging Officer, with film reels

Ways of using Animation Archives in Studio Practice

Adam Sharp, Producer from A&BTV explains how the archives of Roobarb, created by Grange Calveley and animated by Bob Godfrey, helped to develop a new series, Roobarb and Custard


Bob Godfrey logo 001resize


‘Roobarb was created by Grange Calveley in the early 1970’s. Grange’s first sketch of Roobarb (on top of a piano with a brush) encapsulates beautifully the concept and character of the show – based entirely on Grange’s own pet dog.


From this early drawing, Grange wrote the entire 30 episode series.


Grange worked with animation director, Bob Godfrey, to create a test animation of what would later become episode 1 and set about getting a commission from the BBC. Once commissioned a team of animators, including students from St Martin’s started to draw the series. There was no style-guide as such other than employing the wobble or boiling effect, which was both economically and logistically pragmatic.


The series was a critical and commercial success garnering awards and a massive audience of 7 million within weeks of first transmission.


Unfortunately, all the original artwork for the 1974 series was lost in a studio fire in the 1980’s.


In creating a new show 30 years later, we decided we had to go back to the original episodes to help create the style-guide using screen grabs. Interestingly the TX quality of the original shows is nowadays deemed substandard and would not pass QC. There were discussions at the time to bring the animation bang up to date and clean the entire look and feel up. We decided however to take the best elements of the original series and retain the loose style and boiling effect in order to make the new series look and feel as much as possible like a natural progression from the original show.


Grange had already written the 39 new episodes. Each script starts with a sketch / image of what Grange is trying to portray in that particular story. These and other images that Grange creates at this stage are used to convey a look and feel for the finished animation – a pre-storyboard guide. It was imperative that we found a new animation team that;

  • Understood the history and heritage of the characters involved
  • Could work with us and the original series screen grabs to create the style-guide
  • Understood the humour and subtleties of Grange’s writing and characters


After a long and exhaustive, global search we landed with Gerard O’Rourke’s Dublin-based, Monster Animation. Gerard’s animation director Jason Tammemagi was then tasked with the new series.

The style sheets and storyboards were then used in a relatively straight-forward manner to create the new show with Flash. The only real issues were then deciding on how much of a wobble to include and how the marker-pen colour changes could be implemented best.

The new series “Roobarb and Custard Too” was first broadcast to critical acclaim in 2005 on Channel 5’s Milkshake strand and continues to be shown today.

For more information go to’

Images of the storyboards produced from the original archives of Roobarb are available to internal students and researchers to UCA

The Bob Godfrey Studio Archive catalogue can be found here




Stolen Glances: LGBT Work with the Tessa Boffin Archive

Beige LGBT magazine has released two more interpretations of AIDS images of from the Tessa Boffin Archive.

Tessa Boffin, working in the 1980s, undertook photography work in LGBT issues, which included work around AIDS and the way homosexuals were portrayed by the media. As AIDS was only just coming to the fore, it was especially terrifying, and LGBT groups were particularly marginalized and demonised.

The two students work featured play around with the idea of being masked, and hidden away

Visit the students work and the source of the inspiration on the beige website


Shannon McGrath