Animator who created Roobarb and Henry's Cat;
Born: May 27, 1921; Died: February 21, 2013.
Bob Godfrey, who has died aged 91, was an animator most famous for Roobarb, the cult teatime cartoon about a naughty, accident-prone mongrel, but his career was by no means confined to children's television. It included a biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, adult films such as Kama Sutra Rides Again and the peak of his success: an Oscar in 1976.
It is Roobarb, though, that will always be the headline of Godfrey's career and rightly so because it was a marvellous creation. Made up of 30 five-minute episodes and shown in 1974 on BBC1, it related the rivalry between an enthusiastic dog called Roobarb and a mocking cat called Custard. The loose, free-flowing, sketchy style, created using felt-tip pens, meant everything in Roobarb's world looked like it was moving – and gave the episodes an energetic and fast-moving feel at a time when most television was just the opposite.
The success of Roobarb did not come out of the blue though – in fact, by the time it aired in 1974, Godfrey had already set up his own animation studios and had had success in television, film and commercials.
He was born in New South Wales, Australia, to British parents who returned to the UK when Godfrey was six months old. He went to school in Ilford, then art school, then served in the Royal Marines during the Second World War.
His first break as an artist was with Unilever working as a commercial artist, but he became bored with that and joined the Film Producers' Guild to work on industrial films. Again, this did not stretch him enough – he spent much of his time painting backdrops – and he realised he wanted to be an animator because, he said, it made people laugh. "I like to make people laugh," he once said. "I think if I wasn't in animation, I'd be in a seaside concert party at the end of the pier."
Eventually, Godfrey left the Guild to set up a studio with colleagues, Biographic Films, and they started making short films for not very much money which led to work on television adverts. His aim was always to break free of the glossy traditions of Disney and have more fun with the genre which led to work for television with former Goons Michael Bentine and Spike Milligan.
After success throughout the 1950s, Godfrey set up his own studio Bob Godfrey Films and made adult animations including Henry 9 to 5 and Kama Sutra Rides Again, which was nominated for an Oscar. He went on to win one for Great, a biography of the great engineer Kingdom Brunel. He also won three Baftas and received an MBE in 1986.
It was during the creative peak in the 1970s that Godfrey worked on Roobarb, which was narrated by Richard Briers, who died just a few days before Godfrey. A few years later, he returned to children's television with Henry's Cat.
Godfrey had an important influence on the animators who followed him, not least Terry Gilliam, who created his first animations for Monty Python in Godfrey's studio. Richard Williams, who animated Roger Rabbit, and Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit, also cite Godfrey as a major influence.
Godfrey himself always said animation was a beautiful medium for communicating complicated ideas. "It can summarise things," he said, "and get to the heart of things quicker. It's a beautiful medium for communicating ideas."
He is survived by his wife Beryl and two daughters. He was pre-deceased by another two daughters.
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