John Halas

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18 Jul 1990
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[This transcript was kindly checked by John Halas’s daughter]

NB: John Halas and Bob Godfrey were hamming it up a bit and having a laugh whilst conducting the interview. There is some license for exaggeration. DS 2021.

The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU history project.

John Halas, animator and film producer, interviewer is Bob Godfrey, the interview was recorded on the 18th July 1990

Side one

Bob Godfrey: you once told me you were the 7th son of seven sons and you were born in Hungary in 1912, can you tell us something about that.

John Halas: I didn't expect that it would be me to tell anything, I prepared to tell a lot about you. (laughter all round)

Bob Godfrey: no, it's your interview not mine.

John Halas: it's a totally false illusion. Well, I cannot deny the fact that I was born, often I regretted my parents’ decision on this matter and I really haven't got a very clear vision of what happened until later. My first impression of my mother was that she was a mountainous lady, very fat and very gay. And my father, a very sour severe individual… but I loved them. Soon I had enough of them and when I was two and-a-half years old I ran away from home into the nearest forest. I was found sleeping under a tree by gypsies who wouldn't give me up because of my charm. Eventually I was discovered through an advertisement that my father put in the local paper, offering a reward to anybody who came across me. That was the first mistake in my life, bribery, so the gypsies gave me up, I think the equivalent of the money they got for returning me was about £50…. a total waste of money!

Then there was a dispute early on. Nobody believed that I was a boy they all thought I was a girl. Because after all when the family already had six boys it was quite reasonable for my mother to want a girl. So I was dressed in skirts and I was so happy when the neighbours approached my parents asking to see proof of my sex. They offered a bottle of wine, a big bottle of wine, for my father to show that I really was a boy.

Now after that, when I was about five, I can't remember too much, only that my grandmother arrived from Vienna and decided that since my aunt in Zurich, Switzerland, had had no children, I should be given to her as a present. That did happen and I had a fabulous time in Switzerland for about six months because I had not yet learned tact. When I was offered a box of chocolates, I didn't take one chocolate, I took the whole box. I think that was the best lesson.

(note; in a later memoire my father explained that it was his brother Joseph who was sent to live in Zurich, he, John, was sent to be fattened up and get enough to eat but returned back to Budapest on a Red Cross train some time later)

Bob Godfrey: That would be the First World War?

John Halas: No after that. I was born in 1912 and it would have been, immediately after the war.

Bob Godfrey: Were you hungry from the war?

John Halas: I must have been hungry because I was like a little of peanut. In those days, there was not much food and the degree of starvation. I remember being hungry and my daily intake was just a potato at the end of the day or soup, there was no food. And my grandmother was quite right to snatch me away. I remember when my time was up in Switzerland, because of the local evacuations and a I arrived back in Hungary on the Red Cross train, my mother was waiting for me at the station but she didn't recognise me because I was about four times my size, a little football. And I pulled at her skirt, she said go away and went to the officials and nurses and it turned out actually that little boy was me. Then a sweet reunion took place. But the funny thing was, that at that time, almost like now, I spoke no languages. I had forgotten my Hungarian and there wasn't enough time for me to learn Swiss German, so I communicated in sign languages, and in symbols, just up like now. Anything else?

Bob Godfrey: When did you leave Hungary, I read that you went to art school in Budapest, is that correct?

John Halas: my youth is so full of events that there is just no time to reveal all of them. All I can say is that when I was 17 a window dresser in Budapest advertised for an assistant to go with him to Paris. I won this distinction and I went with the window dresser to Paris. When we arrived I learned that he really wasn't a window dresser, he wanted to become a window dresser and he wanted cheap labour, and I was that! I was already a designer at the time, which was the reason he chose me. In fact he turned out to be a salami salesman!

We stayed in a hotel near the rue de Rivoli where I was left behind on my own with no language. He was kind enough the first evening to give me some of his samples. So for two days I was not starving. But after that, just imagine, being on your own at 17 with no language and no money in a big city. That was a wonderful lesson to learn how to look after yourself and how to survive. And with the experience of starving I was once again faced up to realities. I found work in a (Hungarian) restaurant to do their signs and menus in exchange for food. I climbed up and before I went back to Hungary I had a studio of my own and learned quickly what not to do, what not to believe and how to survive. But coming back from Paris at least I realised that really I knew nothing about design and I was taken in by the Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in the atelier run by Sandor Bortnyik (

In that atelier, in Budapest I was extremely lucky to assist some of Europe's real visual talents from the Bauhaus. I stayed there for two years until I was 21 and assisted with lettering and assisted teaching other people the way they wanted to teach, the new way and that was the ‘Muhely’ or Atelier, and that's the period when I really soaked up whatever it is that I can offer, and did offer throughout my demented life.

Bob Godfrey: Now you left Budapest and you went back to Les Beaux Art in Paris?

(John never went to the Beaux Arts)

John Halas: I had a stint again in Paris. By now I had some facilities in design and assisted a Romanian graphic designer there, which was a further education and I felt a little bit more assured but then I went back again to Budapest because the work had dried out, my Romanian boss had been sent back to Romania and I needed some kind of solid background again. So I did go back to Budapest and there I established the first animated film studio with a couple of other colleagues that eventually became Pannonia Studios immediately after the war. Pannonia Studios, I'm sure you know?

Bob Godfrey: yes, yes I have heard of it.

John Halas: then doing a little experimental film, a lady from Switzerland came along to see it and proposed to send it to London. This was 1936 already, and in London that group of people liked it. It was called The Music Man based on Franz Liszt's music of Hungarian Rhapsody, a tune that has haunted me for throughout my life. This group of people decided to invite me to London, once again the motivation exploitation of cheap labour and I went. Little did I know that one of them was the husband of the famous German star Brigitte Helm and the son of a failed Berlin banker, the other a photographer who wanted to earn some money because he didn't otherwise.. and then the Hungarian photographer who had persuaded these people to get me over, and my troubles started at that point ….

Bob Godfrey: John you've glossed over something, you've glossed over something I think we should go back on, which is what made you decide to go into animation. You said you started an animation studio in Budapest, what it made you do that?

John Halas: Previously both my teachers, that is both Moholy-Nagy and Sandor Bortnyik had already experimented with movement as a part of the modern media in their abstract work and teaching and they both did animated films purely for experiments. And they roped me in to assist them soon after I joined them after I got back from my first Paris journey. And it naturally whetted my appetite and I realised at and that tender age that static design, whether it is graphics or fine art's cannot be as exciting as moving design. That realisation turned me into a film animator

Alan Lawson: can I ask John, what kind of equipment were using then ?

John Halas: it varied. You remember 8mm, 9.5, that was one of them. And as soon as the 16mm camera came in, 16mm. 35mm came later. But when I established our own studio with my young colleagues, we already had a German bi- pack camera, and that was 35mm. And then I assisted somebody called George Pal, then I shot at a tender at age on a 35 mm camera, so I was quite familiar with the technical equipment too and a I could handle all of them without difficulties. Sometimes I forgot to put the film in the camera, but then that happens to it any soul!

Bob Godfrey: John you came here but were you aware that there wasn't going to be any possibility of going back because the pogroms must have been started by then?

John Halas: no I didn't. But I did go back nevertheless. I came here 1936, on October 11 and it took me a year to finish this Music Man which by the way was the first home made Technicolor animation and it was shown in the cinema's. Unfortunately it was shown next to the best of Disney and just revealed my shortcomings. But by 1938 it was decided by another group of people that I should go back to Budapest, form a unit there and do a film called The Little Tin Soldier based on the Hans Anderson short story. I did that and already Joy Batchelor, my wife, she still is, came with me and we then formed a studio to do this Hans Anderson story but suddenly the money dried out. Why? Because the money man, it was discovered had been jailed. His name was Willings and his father had sold arms to both sides in Spain and the arms for which he got a payment, (that I didn't know about), financed our film. In Spain they discovered the sacks contained stones and INTERPOL put him in jail. Then we packed up suddenly everything, Joy and I came back to England again in 1938 and then the war broke out soon after that.

Bob Godfrey: John you skipped a bit again, you were talking about Joy but you didn't touch on the romantic angle, when did you meet Joy?

John Halas: I needed labour, I advertised when I got to London

Bob Godfrey: You got a wife!

John Halas: Animators. And a young girl turned it up and I put her to test and low and behold both her drawing and animation were much better than mine! I soon hired her and that was our meeting. And since 1936 we worked together in various levels, mind you. We did not continue when there was a crisis in the film industry and animated films just before the war. She worked then for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and I worked for various comic magazines as illustrator.

But it was at the beginning of the war when the Ministry of Information later the COI snatched us up. A man called John Grierson saw our previous work and together with somebody called Arthur Elton who was working then for the Ministry of Information decided that we could do propaganda films, which we did. Already together with Joy we did about 70 propaganda films, working day and night, already forming a company. We didn't want to form a company at all but it was essential for the Ministry of Information for invoicing and paying us money for our work. That is why in 1940 we formed Halas and Batchelor, for the sole purpose of making propaganda films. And once you do that, as you know, they work you day and night to churn out films of this nature, you get used to communicating with adult audience, because England's population consisted of all sorts of audiences and it was a bitter lesson for us. That's why, immediately after the war we were engaged by the various administrators to do propaganda films as well, among them, the Army, Ministry of Defence. We did a film This Is The Army, it to was designed by David Lowe, the famous David Lowe. And then we did a film for the Air Force, and a number of other ministry's. Once finished, then industry picked on us, British Petroleum, Shell and then we moved in a big way into public relations films and this is practically where you came in because we were together with Larkins Studio to do films for the European Economic Commission. We then made The Shoemaker And The Hatter paid for by the American government to teach kids, Europeans how to co-operate with each other. They should commission Bob Godfrey a Film now for the same objective!

Bob Godfrey: physically you were in Bush House in the early years and then presumably you moved from Bush House to Stroud to get away from the bombs?

John Halas: No it is not entirely true. We worked in Bush House because there was a minor war going on between J Walter Thompson the advertising company and the Ministry of Information as to who should have power. J Walter Thompson had commissioned us to make any number of films together with the Alexander Mackendrick, Larkins worked on these films as well, to make advertising films for their main clients such as Unilever, Lux soap and Rinso detergents. And apart from the propaganda films we also did a few of these advertising films and they gave us facilities at Bush House where they were. But one-day during this period, it was 16th April, 1941, Hitler sent us a little present, it was a bomb over our Chelsea flat. And it hurt Joy badly, it hurt me a little too , and it stopped us working for a few weeks, Joy for a longer period, and that was when we moved out to Bushey, Watford, not to Stroud, to Bushey, Watford. And we continued our war service in Bushey, Watford.

Stroud came when we had the commission of Animal Farm and we had to expand suddenly and when our predecessor, Anson Dyer retired, I don't know whether it you remember Anson Dyer? He was 82 when he retired and I inherited a number of people from his former studio which was in Stroud and we established ourselves in Stroud where part of Animal Farm was produced and we stayed because it was a lovely place for a lifetime.

Bob Godfrey: you were in Westbourne Grove weren't you?

John Halas: Westbourne Terrace to make Animal Farm but also in Soho Square already, to continue our public relations films for BP and Shell and a lot of people have joined us, among them Allison de Vere, roundabout 1955, 1956, to work on the BP films and many more.

Bob Godfrey: John 1955, 1956 was the start of commercials, which was a real turning point in all our lives, but it before we touch on that can ask some questions about what  used to be called the ACTT, how did you get involved with the ACTT, who recruited you

John Halas: to ways it was. First I employed labour, one day a charming blonde cameraman turned up at Bush House, his name was a Ralph Bond, we nearly fell in love with each other and he taught me a great deal about how to employ people. I was a quick student and he gave me guidance. Then as a producer and a member of the Federation of Documentary Film Makers, I was put on a chair opposite a charming individual called George Elvin. We get on very well with each other, after all, these gentlemen and others had a certain point of view, some of them were political, but most of them were very human. On that the political side they couldn't beat me because my brother was a member of the Communist Party in Paris and I was often together with my brother in Paris. On the human side we very much held the same opinions. Later on  when the young Elvin, David, decided to come in to the field of animation, lo and behold David Elvin appeared at the doorstep and he became quite a good background artist which was anyway motivation to be together with the EC's team, George Elvin. Any way the real reason was that we got on as human beings are together very well. You remember Joe Telford

Bob Godfrey: Telford, yes

John Halas: he was a sweet individual as well. He saved me when I was arrested in East Germany for instance at Leipzig. May I to you this story?

Bob Godfrey: Yes, it sounds interesting.

John Halas: I was doing work in Munich, West Germany and I had to go to the Leipzig Festival where I was on the jury. And I foolishly took the shortest way to I thought that from Munich I would go to Berlin, changed their for East Berlin, by bus to and then picked up as a jury member in Leipzig. I did that, little to realise that the bus fares which go from West Germany to East Germany in Berlin were closely scrutinised and watched by the police and it happens that when I did that I was arriving in East Germany in a bus for a hundred and 20 on my own surrounded by six policeman and it detectives and talk in a little hut for interrogation. And my funeral was that I had a lot of Japanese papers, having been asked by the Japanese to them to explain their documentary films in Leipzig. They were convinced that I was a spy and they allowed me to phone East Berlin and the representative of the festival handed over the telephone to Joe Telford who shattered John where are you, they are waiting for you. And he came with a huge Russian limousine and bailed me out. I was so glad. Bob Cooper and Joe Telford and I arrived in Leipzig and I did my duty there.

Bob Godfrey: John, I just want to touch on something now because we're up to ITV and commercials in 1955, which dramatically change or all our lives and introduced many more studios on to the scene. I think that two things he did that, one of them was camera hire which meant that a lot of people could form companies without having to buy equipment, so many more people came on to the scene, but really what I wanted to touch on is the early days of Annecy, you, Ivanov-Vano and Andre Martin and possibly one or two others issued a kind of manifesto that animation, that you all loved so dearly, should be recognised universally as an art form such as poetry music or sculpture. You had already made the Magic Canvas and you had already done abstract work and work in that area. I think this was your dream and it might have been a bit shattered by the coming of commercials that literally put all that out of the window. So there you have an early vision which unfortunately was not been realised, because you were European, very much a European, you took an anti Disney stance but you weren't the only one to take that in those days, there was a very strong anti-Disney stance in those days, but this didn't happen. It didn't come about because there was suddenly a great flood of work making commercials-  Have you got anything to say on that.


John Halas: May I answer these very fundamental and academic problems, the relationship between art and commerce and between art and animation as well. It is a triangular question and I am delighted that Bob Godfrey has brought this up. Well first of all when you go to Paris as a young man and spend time there it is very it difficult to divorce matters from art. I soaked up the love of art, for sure in Paris. And when I came back from Paris to Budapest and assisted Moholy Nagy and Bortnyik who were two of the most interesting, outstanding abstract, avant-guard artists in Europe it served as an injection of looking for artistic solutions in films, in animated films and using it as an experience to create something new with it. But in the meantime,  just like you, I had to make a living, and how does one do that? One cannot do it with art or abstract, avant-garde films, you have to sell something so when TV commercials came in I was very glad to have a source of revenue to pay for the other side. And I must say that even in the late Fifties and the early Sixties when commercials boomed I took the attitude of holding up the rich and giving the money to the poor, the poor being experimental films and the films that one initiates oneself as experiments. And that is how it happened. I must have made something like 1,500 films, commercial films, TV commercials and as I told the audience the other day in Zagreb, (you must have been there?), that after the production of 300 TV commercials one is ripe for the asylum! And I was there under false pretences. Just like now the only excuse for making TV commercials, and by the way I haven't made one for 20 years thank God, is that it pays for all the other ventures. Do you accept this as a valid answer?

Bob Godfrey. Yes.

At the very start of commercials you were starting on your magnum opus Animal Farm

John Halas: NO, no. We started at Animal Farm April 1951, Joy and a very sweet American artist Philip Stapp and myself went down to St Tropez, in the south of France, (which became very famous not on account of ourselves but Bridget Bardot who moved into our hotel later) and started on the story board of Animal Farm. That was 1951. The production then started during September 1951 and we did not finish it until August 1954.

John Halas: The first commercial was September 15th,1955. It already contained our little epic, our mini feature, an Oxo commercial and the famous Murray Mint horse commercial. Do remember that?

Bob Godfrey: I'd do indeed. I think that one of the questions here, commercials were very different in those days and I think in those days you could make a creative contribution to a commercial. Whereas today I don't think a production company can make a very great creative contribution to a commercial. They do as much as they possibly can without you!

John Halas: Well, you remember, Bob, the Agency's put one immediately in your place, they appointed experts. There were experts on design, they are called to art directors. There are experts on television, media, they are called television executives. And then there are experts on story board design and they are called the heads of the story board departments. And then the account executives on the top group controlled all these inside people. So at your doorstep appeared about 10 different experts who told you how to animate, how to construct a scene how to cut, how to establish a rhythm, how to shoot a pack shot which was really their objective in the end. So you soon were demoted from your position and eventually, my gosh it's 1990 now the artistry and timing has very much shifted over to these experts in advertising!

Bob Godfrey: John, the name Philip Stapp that alerted me to this-   we were at that early 1951 stage in the peak of the Cold War and I would call all these films almost Cold War films, because you had to change Animal Farm so it fitted a certain requirements from the United States of America. Larkins were involved in a film called Without Fear that Philip Stapp was involved in, so this was very much a kind of America propaganda effort to really in the Cold War.

John Halas: It tried to be but I think that at least myself and Joy did not give in. Larkin's work was for the European Economic Co-Operation like our Shoemaker and the Hatter film to encourage the rebuilding of Europe. Animal Farm was specifically requested and made for Louis De Rochemont and Philip Stapp worked only on the storyboard, not on the main production by the way. We worked later when Animal Farm finished on several other films with Philip Stapp but not Animal Farm.

I am so glad to be able to put on record that indeed a reputable producer like Louis De Rochemont at that time gave into the American authorities that time but I didn't, neither did Joy. They wanted to make an anti-Communist film. I turned this intention into anti totalitarian film, against Hitler and Mussolini. I didn't visualise Napoleon as as Stalin. I left the propaganda out altogether. They didn't notice it. They didn't have the intelligence to notice it. This is why I think Animal Farm survives, and it is on the way to become one of the favourite films now after 36 years that is was finished in the Eastern bloc, in Hungary for instance

And I'm now invited to Moscow to present it in the coming September. So throughout the production of Animal Farm I was very careful not to offend the Russians, the communists, to offend the fascists as much as I could and to leave the Americans to believe whatever they wanted but not to join the witch hunt. And we survived.

A little incident that I had with the Russian cultural attache after Animal Farm was finished, he phoned me and asked me this- about this Animal Farm why it did you accept to do it? I invited him to eat at the Quo Vadis restaurant and I explained to him at my point of view. And I told him if he had any complaint to make to make it to my brother in Paris.

He became a friend and we had no further inquiries. It did not affect our relationship.

Bob Godfrey: What about George Orwell. Was he alive?

John Halas: no he died some months before we started, in 1950. But we were very close to Sonia Blair, George Orwell's widow and she was very good and helped us and it was an immense pleasure to know her and a also to get her point of view about various problems which arose. Any further questions?

Bob Godfrey: Can we now touch on, from 1955 until 1965 were the biblical good years, when the wheat was fat and everything was going well and we all thought it was going to last for forever and of course it didn't. So the 1965 onwards I think the going got a bit harder and jobs were harder to come by and to run a studio of your size, which you always had a biggish studio, didn't you in your banana warehouse in Kean Street by then, you had a biggish studio and life must have become a bit of a struggle for you to actually employ all that number of people and keep all the those balls in the air which you've done with remarkable success really, you were still one of the biggest studios weren't you, in Europe?

John Halas: at that time yes but not now.

Bob Godfrey no, not now, but I'm talking about between from 1965 to throughout the Seventies.

John Halas: You were quite right, during the very few periods did I have less than 100 colleagues which is a formidable number from every point of view. It was because several American organisations, Rankin and Bass in New York, Hannah and Barbara in Hollywood, came to us to help them out with series, television, series for children and adults. Take for instance the series Tomfoolery which was based on Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear's poems. We did 17 half hours. You very kindly helped us brilliantly and they did not stop coming. And for that you needed staff. And also you needed a certain competence in organisation and production. I took the trouble of maintaining a studio for this purpose to keep the studio together. But there was a time when I had enough. That's when the television companies, Tyne Tees first, Yorkshire and one other, ABC came along and they proposed to buyout the studio. They did, and in 1968, the sticky years, they bought Halas and Batchelor and they continued it to produce big series for American television like Jackson Five, Osbourne brothers and their own work, Captain Crook Voyages,  etc. many series and then the individual television commercials as well. That was the time, I am sure when I should have the retired. I didn't because I wasn't a businessman I was trying to be a filmmaker of unusual animated films and I went into educational films. That’s how Educational Film Centre arose.

I brought in to that field Lord Snow who was interested in educational films and a number of other people and made numerous films for schools and a few other type of films speculatively.

So by 1971 or 1972 or 3 I can’t remember the television companies blew up the studio to 240 individuals and they found that producing animation in bulk was not so easy as looks. Obviously they had been motivated by huge profits like Hannah and Barbara but they found that they incurred instead huge losses instead.

Bob Godfrey: I think the mothers of America had something to do with it as well because they started to go on about the Saturday morning spaghetti shows and so there was a bru ha ha there about the advisability of making these films.

John Halas: By 1974, they approached me to buy back Halas and Batchelor. I really didn't want to but I had so many good, lovely colleagues whom I did not want to see dismissed with the bulk of the others, such as Harold Whitaker, Jack King and many others like Oscar Grillo by the way that a I decided to have another go in 1974. Joy Batchelor very much advised me not to start another adventure. I had taken a place in Wardour Street previously for the Educational Film Centre but I gave it up and went back to the banana house in Kean Street and started the unit in a very modest way. And I concentrated on two things. The first was survival, the second to promote animation worldwide as an art medium and I am still struggling ever since to try and make a success of both. I don't think I will make it!

Bob Godfrey: John, I think just touching on two brilliant aspects of your career, your 10 Good years as President of ASIFA, probably the best president ASIFA ever had because you are a truly international man, speaking goodness knows how many languages and knowing absolutely everybody in the business, you were a splendid President and I think ASIFA thrived under your presidency. I had the good fortune to be there some of that time, to witness how good you were, and that is a very great feather in your cap. If I can just go back to educational films, there is the germ of a very brilliant idea and I was reading about it last night. You had all the right ideas. You were going to go into the schools with a mass produced projectors and you were going to start educating young people and I think that move just happened to coincide with a time when our present Prime Minister was cutting the budget as fast as she should could go, and so that little plan came unstuck. And I think it is a very great tragedy as here was a plan to bring inexpensive films into the classroom to educate young people blown away by a lack of initiative, by lack of imagination and by lack of funds. So here’s another dream going up the spout. Partly through history.

John Halas: I most grateful for both your comments.

Alan Lawson: before we going if further we should explain what ASIFA is.

Bob Godfrey: I'm not quite sure what the initials stand for but it’s the world organisation of animators, I think we started off with about seven countries and now we've got counties all over the world coming in. They join ASIFA, America for instance has about five branches of ASIFA, they paid a small sub and we have ASIFA London, ASIFA England, ASIFA New York , ASIFA LA and they sponsor festivals and we meet all over the world. And I think in a way it's quite unique, isn't it John? One would like to see the idea spreading because we have all these countries some of which have great difficulty in communicating with one another, John doesn't but I do, communicating with Japanese and Czechs and Poles and Russians, and in the main, if we've had our ups and downs, we've had our little wars, with the French mostly, that goes without saying, but we've had our little wars but in the main we're all very friendly and we get on fine. Does that answer your question?

John Halas: May I just say ASIFA stands for Association Internationale de Film d'Animation. And I am most grateful to Bob Godfrey for his observation. I am one of the founder members way back in 1960 we founded this association but it really started well before that, actually with deeds and moves and acts. I am not ashamed of the achievements at all because being in-between the two worlds, West and East they often relied on me as a mouthpiece, and an expression of their opinion. We already applied way back in the Sixties, Seventies glasnost and perestroika and they became very close friends, the Hollywood, New York people and alcoholics in Moscow. And I don't know exactly whether the American President's and Gorbachev have studied our behaviour but now they certainly behave the way we did 30 years ago, for that I am delighted for our contribution in ASIFA and for all the other matters that happened since, that is to try and bring international units together, or national units to make them international, to have films financed by television and government and so on and now under another name, called Media and Cartoon in Europe because it is human nature to invent the wheel several times, and that is what Bob meant talking about ASIFA, but the ideas, the basic ideas are there and it is a question of making them work and avoiding individual personal benefit of that, because we are always, I hope thinking of the people, and our colleagues, and this is why it kept together and works well.

On the educational front, you don't need to need a lot after imagination to know that visual education is easier than verbal education and written education. And schoolchildren always favoured visual education from the very start. As a consequence of that period we worked in the loop film format in 8 mm, I am not displeased on account of the fact that the world's most used film and the American Encyclopaedia Britannica sold over 37,000 copies of the 8mm film called Heart In Action. We tried it as a consequence of that period. But as I explained education and films in education is the last media to be financed when you haven't got enough money to buy basic books and pay teachers salaries either, so that idea fell flat. No new films are being produced on that, but it is (a subject) waiting to be explored nevertheless.

What else?

Bob Godfrey: well John it’s coming to complement time now. You write books, you are the friend of musicians, writers, poets, artists, hundreds of young animators owe their start in the business to you, you have been one of the great wombs of animation, turning out all these little babies, you've got the OBE and your laden down with honours and prizes and life achievement awards and you’ve got an EMMY from our American friends, so your great talents are recognised worldwide and it has been a remarkable life, quite remarkable, full of achievement so I must come now to the last question. If you could start all over again would you want to change the course and do something different? I think I know the answer to that but I want to hear it from you.

John Halas: no, I am still probing in the dark, I don't see any of this achievement, I only am prepared to apologise for all my failures and shortcomings, because both the animated media and life are very much bigger than any individual character could achieve. I am just a plain beginner who tries to do something good for human beings and this is the way to express it. So I cannot agree with you that I did all those things, they were done all by themselves, obviously, because they needed something doing about them. The next 50 years, actually it's not 50 its something like 65 since the beginning, it depends where is the starting point, I would certainly choose some of the fields I was functioning (in) but I would have halted somewhere along the way to concentrate on a single objective rather than so many other objectives. But all of other objectives I thought would assist in the single objective and that is the furtherance of a media that is so vital to humanity. That is the end and thank you for asking me all these useless questions.

Bob Godfrey: John Halas, it has been a very great privilege and a very great pleasure



John Halas (born János Halász; 16 April 1912 – 21 January 1995) was a pioneering Hungarian-Jewish emigre who became the father of British Animation. He was educated in Budapest and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. After art school he worked with the Hungarian-born director and special-effects expert George Pal.  He moved to London in 1936 and while working on "Music Man" he met Joy Batchelor, who was already a film animator.They married, and in 1940 they founded Halas and Batchelor Animation  which became the largest cartoon film studio in the UK. They experimented with 3-D graphics , computer animation and  holography.  They  used animation in the service of high art, making the Poet and Painter series for the 1951 Festival of Britain and such experiments as The Owl and the Pussycat (1952), a 3D stereoscopic short based on Edward Lear's nonsense poem. However they directed and co-produced their greatest work in 1954 the  adaptation of George Orwell's " Animal Farm." the first British full length colour cartoon feature film.