Bob Godfrey

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Interview Date(s): 
10 Sep 1990
9 Mar 1995
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[There is no indication of where the recording sides begin and end on this log-sheet synopsis. DS]

This interview starts with an ‘appreciation’ by John Halas who considers Bob Godfrey to be one of the most outstanding animated films makers in the world. The interview is peppered with laughter, humour and modesty.

Born in Australia, 1921, but returned to the UK at age of six months. Lived in Ilford and was schooled there, and at age 14 went to Leyton Art School, who were still teaching about William Morris, then went to Unilever as an errand boy, moved on to their art department, LINTAS.[Lever International Advertising Services]. Liked the idea of wearing a smock. In 1941 joined the Royal Marines – the idea of a pith-helmet, red jacket, and blue trousers with a red stripe appealed to him. On demobilisation, returned to LINTAS (1946). A little later joined David Hand, painting boxes etc., drew backgrounds for a John Halas production This is the Army (cartoonist David Low), then joined Larkins [Studio, started by William Larkins] after meeting David Sachs (51, Charles Street) where he worked as a backgrounds artist. He then decided that he wanted to learn more about the animated film business, and he bought himself a Moy & Bastie 35mm camera (c.1920) and felt that he had reinvented the cine camera. He also joined ACT at this time when he was earning approximately £11 a week, for a five-day week. He talks about Jeffery Sumner, the boss of Larkins. He then talks about the start of his own company, Bob Godfrey Films, which started with the help of Jeff Hale and Keith Lerner who was only 17 at the time, working from two small rooms at 11 Noel Street, then   moving to 90 Dean Street. He talks about Do it Yourself Cartoon Kit, 1963; Plain man’s Guide to Advertising; Polygamous Polonius, working with Michael Bentine, Dick Lester, Joan Littlewood etc.

In 1965 Bob Godfrey Films was founded; he then goes on to talk about Henry, 9 ‘til 5, Karma Sutra Rides Again, which was on release with Clockwork Orange (an amusing story about Stanley Kubrick and this cartoon film). He was also involved on Yellow Submarine (this becomes clearer at the end of the interview). He talks about the film he made about Brunel, called Great which won an Oscar. In 1976 Bob Godfrey Films moved to 58 Neal Street, where Henry’s Cat (BBC) was made. In 1988 Bob Godfrey Films moved to King’s Cross Road.



Britain’s first Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey's work ranged from the children’s TV cartoon “Roobarb” to mock-erotic movies like “Kama Sutra Rides Again”.

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 nominated three other times for Oscars, 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.

He was best known for his children’s cartoons “Roobarb”, about a warring cat and dog, and “Henry’s Cat”. 

Among many, many other things in his career, including a long spell teaching animation, he was a special advisor on the Beatles cartoon film  Yellow Submarine.