Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

While we're on the theme of Searle's work in film & animation here's a seasonal treat. In 1955 Searle designed a short film based on the twelve days of Christmas for director & star Wendy Toye.

Here's a photo spread from the December issue of LIFE magazine, 1955. 

Picture Post featured the film in 1956

Searle's design for the cow decoration.

The weather-vane design.

'. . .Toye's film was what one might call wardrobe-intensive; everything in it was meticulously yet exuberantly designed. As a graphic artist, Searle expected his audience to make deductions from what they saw, hence the specification: 'One could have long pants or nightshirt- (overslept)'
Russell Davies

The imdb review:

"This is a treasure of a short, long missing from TV, and rare on video; a bringing-to-life of the old and familiar carol, illustrating in delightful detail just what can happen when one's Truelove gets carried away with Christmas gift-giving. Set in a blissfully picturebook corner of Edwardian London, the smitten Miss Tilly (in a charming performance by the film's creator, Wendy Toye) is be-gifted over the Twelve Days of Christmas by her natty, nifty and adoring Truelove, to the tune of partridges in pear trees, calling birds, french hens, turtledoves, gold rings, geese-a-laying, boys-a-singing, maids-a-milking (complete with multi-colored cows), dancing ladies, lords-a-leaping, pipers piping and drummers drumming! The mounting and resulting havoc becomes increasingly comic as this little film works toward its magnificent and uplifting conclusion.

Those of you who know and love the work of cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle will rejoice to learn that he created the visual design of the film, and his touch is apparent in every moment."

The film was entered into that years' Venice Film Festival, nominated for an Oscar and broadcast to a nationwide network audience on New Year's Day as a color Spectacular on NBCTV.

Through the wonders of YouTube we can watch the film!

The film and director Wendy Toye are featured in Mark Cousins' 'Women In Film'

Saturday, October 31, 2009


My presentation on Searle at the CTN-x conference went down well. Many people thanked me afterwards for showing all the rare material, some weren't even familiar with his work & were seeing it for the first time.

'Energetically Yours' was well received-I showed the behind the scenes photos that Searle had given me, Amid Amidi contributed storyboards that didn't feature in his book 'Cartoon Modern' and Bill Melendez' son Steve allowed me to screen his print of the film which his father animated.

Searle himself wrote a great introduction for my presentation that I read for those assembled:

"Greetings to this sparkling constellation from an ex-Hollywood dinosaur.
Yes, it is weird to realise that when I was born, radio and television did not exist in the home.
But the cinema was wildly alive- and animation was bursting out all over.

Every week I gathered up my pocket-money and dashed to the local flea-pit to lose myself in the splendidly eccentric adventures of Felix the Cat. Drawings were actually coming alive! I was hooked.
Animation has come a long way since those golden pioneer days of Felix. Now the future is the hands of you lucky people.

Forgive me if I take advantage of this exotic occasion to make a small plea as an infatuated pen & ink dipper.
Please do not forget that the magical pen line still exists!
Also, merely as an observer, I feel that some of you could switch off the automatic pilot and wing your way into wilder territory. Just a thought.
Thank you very much for inviting me. I will now go back into my hole."

The highlight of the presentation was the slideshow of the two sketchbooks that Searle allowed me to photograph on my last visit. Very few have seen inside these books so it was a real treat for Searle fans. I plan to put up the images here on the blog in due course . . .

Nov. 20-22 I'll be at the CTN-X animation conference in Burbank, LA. I'm giving a presentation on Searle's work in animation & film titles. Support materials will include a slideshow of the 2 sketchbooks Searle filled on the sets of SCROOGE and MONTE CARLO OR BUST! and I'll be screening several animated shorts Searle collaborated on with Ivor Wood.

There will also be a panel discussion with animation director John Musker, animator James Baxter, CalArts Student Manny Hernandez and myself.
If anybody coming has an original Searle drawing please bring it along, I'd love to see any Searle related material.

I've updated the Ohio University exhibition section and put up a post on Searle's work for Lilliput magazine here. Also I continue to add more to the Punch Theatre section and the French sub-section.

Refugees pt.2

Searle's Refugees sketches as originally published in Punch magazine (Dec. 30, 1959). Pt. 1 here.