Gerald Potterton | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gerald Potterton

Gerald Potterton, director, producer, animator (b at London, UK 8 Mar 1931). Gerald Potterton trained at the Hammersmith School of Art in London and served in the Royal Air Force.

Gerald Potterton

Gerald Potterton, director, producer, animator (b at London, UK 8 Mar 1931). Gerald Potterton trained at the Hammersmith School of Art in London and served in the Royal Air Force. Upon release from the service, he worked for 2 years with a British company on the animated adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm (1954). Arriving in Canada in 1954, Potterton was in the forefront of the animation wave that shook the NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA (NFB) in the early 1960s.

His first film for the NFB was Huff and Puff (1955) with Grant Munro. Hors-d'oeuvre (1960) was Potterton's first film as a director; it was a compilation piece made with Arthur LIPSETT, Kaj Pindal, Derek Lamb and Robert Verrall. Potterton was twice nominated for Oscars, for My Financial Career (1963), directed and animated with Munro, and Christmas Cracker (1963) with Norman MCLAREN and Jeff Hale. He directed Buster Keaton in The Railrodder (1965), one of the NFB's most popular films. In one of his last screen appearances, the great silent comedian travels across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean on a railway track maintenance car, wearing his trademark "boater" hat, without a word spoken. When he arrives, he turns the car around and heads back east. The film won an honorary mention at the 1965 Berlin International Film Festival, and Potterton and the NFB crew that shot the film appeared in Buster Keaton Rides Again, an entertaining documentary about the making of The Railrodder.

Gerald Potterton left the NFB shortly after and returned to England to work on the iconic animated feature of the 1960s, The Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968), directed by George Dunning. While in England, Potterton collaborated with playwright Harold Pinter on Pinter People (1968), a one-hour television special on the work of Pinter, consisting of several animated interpretations of Pinter's material interspersed with interviews.

Returning to Canada, he formed Potterton Productions in 1968 and embarked on an ambitious slate of privately produced animated shorts, features and live-action drama. These included a half-hour animated interpretation of an Oscar Wilde short story, The Selfish Giant (1971; Oscar nominee for animated short), Larry KENT's Fleur Bleue (1971) and Michael Mills' The Happy Prince (1974) and The Little Mermaid (1975). He also directed Donald Pleasance and Kate REID in the live-action comedy/adventure The Rainbow Boys (1973), and produced George Bloomfield's A Child under Leaf (1973), starring Dyan Cannon and Al WAXMAN. Potterton Productions folded operations in 1974.

Gerald Potterton worked, uncredited, on Richard Williams's Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977) and supervised the R-rated animated feature Heavy Metal (1981) for producer Ivan REITMAN. The movie won 2 GENIE AWARDS and the GOLDEN REEL AWARD for the highest-grossing Canadian film in 1981. The source of the film was the original art and stories found in the French sci-fi/fantasy magazine of the same name, and it was voiced by such talents as Jackie BURROUGHS, John CANDY, Joe FLAHERTY, Don FRANCKS, Eugene LEVY, John VERNON and Al Waxman. Heavy Metal was actually 6 short films animated by hundreds of artists overseen by Potterton across 2 continents. Sexually graphic, very violent, with a mixture of grisly horror and low humour, it remains a cult favourite.

Potterton returned to the NFB to make The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones in 1983. In 1985 he was hired by the animation house Cinar of Montréal to adapt an English version of a 52-episode Japanese series based on the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The series was repackaged for video (later DVD) in North America as 4 self-contained films in 1987: The Wonderful World of Oz, The Marvellous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz.