Welcome to an eBook about my pal Tony and the world of early British CG animation.
Each chapter will contain documentary material, archive material and links to further study.
I’ll release a chapter of this project free of charge as often as possible.
If you’re able to help fund the digitisation of Tony’s film & video archive PLEASE DO GET IN TOUCH : )
< DRIFTER >
1946 – 1962. From Eton to ESN. The education system fails Tony.
Archive: Some technical stuff about model railway signalling systems and amateur electronics. A few details on ‘Pritchett & Gold’ batteries and the post-war British engineering industry.
< ELLIOT AUTOMATION OR: “WOW. FINALLY SOMETHING I CAN DO!” >
1963. Twenty five year old Tony is working as salesman, selling computers. The shy young man is very bad at his job. The future’s not looking bright – until he visits the computing department…
Archive: Information about Elliot Computing and uses of computer technology c.1956. Tales of bonkers bits of military gadgetry being made in the ‘white heat’ of mid-60’s Elstree and Borehamwood.
< THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION >
1965 – 1967. The BBC are looking for people who can use things called ‘Computers’. Tony is hired as a director and meets “MATHS IN ACTION!” presenter, Dr. Benedict Nixon. Dr. Nixon is a computer scientist at The Institute of Computer Science (ICS) and has access to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, THE ATLAS.
Archive: Ephemera and scripts relating to the BBC, including ‘Wormsers’, the BBC’s cardboard & butterfly-clip method of creating animated graphics. Various articles on computer animation. Footage of nuns (Tony’s first bit of studio direction)
< THE FLEXIPEDE. A FILM BY TONY PRITCHETT AND THE LONDON UNIVERSITY ATLAS. >
1967. Tony gains access to THE ATLAS, (thanks to Dr. Nixon, who tells a little white lie about Tony being his research assistant). Inspired by Dr. Nixon, Tony has a go at creating some computer animation. It’s not an easy process. It takes him six months to create a relatively simple-looking two minute cartoon. THE FLEXIPEDE is Britain’s first piece of computer animation and the world’s first computer animated character and story.
Archive: Lots of technical detail and archive material in this section including the master negative (16mm), original Letraset titles, workings out, punchcards, listings and 16mm tests, Tony and Dr. Nixon’s film project/research proposal and budget outline.
< ICA | ICS >
1968. A 16mm print of THE FLEXIPEDE premiers at the Institute of Contemporary Arts’s future-gazing exhibition ‘CYBERNETIC SERENDIPITY’. The flagship show celebrates the collaboration between the arts and sciences. Meanwhile, the board at the Institute of Computer Science are feeling a bit more negative. They see no immediate future in computer animation and halt Tony’s funding.
Archive: Various materials relating to Cybernetic Serendipity. ICS report on THE FLEXIPEDE, leading to the cancellation of funding.
< SOFTWARE GENERATION >
1969 – 1979. Freelance contracts allow Tony to continue to explore the increasingly commercial world of computer animation. He meets a few like-minded people along the way and forms SOFTWARE GENERATION Ltd. with a few of them.
Archive: Materials relating to Rutherford Appleton Lab, Professor Bob Hopgood, Stan Hayward, Alan Kitching & Antics, Software Generation, System Simulation, The Open University, Royal College of Art, ARTHUR C CLARKE’S MYSTERIOUS WORLD, Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN, Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, the ITT 2020 and Tony’s contraption that helps animators work through the night.
< SIGGRAPH >
1982 – 1983. The execs at Ch4 are panicking, Tony’s computer-animated logo, (designed by Robert Lambie-Nairn) has been coloured in by hand and looks really crap. The channel is due to launch in a few weeks time and there just isn’t the computing power in the UK to render the logo in full colour. Luckily, (having just returned from SIGGRAPH ’82 in LA), Tony has a few US contacts. He jets back to LA and saves the day. The execs love Tony’s work, but Tony doesn’t love the execs and is falling “out of love” with computer animation.
Archive: Various materials relating the making of the Ch4 logo including a 35mm print. Various materials relating to SIGGRAPH ’82 AND ’83. Sales brochures, Beverly Wiltshire LA Hotel ephemera. 35mm ITV bumpers, idents production materials. 35mm commercial reels and various company showreels. Materials relating to Tripple i, their FOONLY computer and Disney’s TRON.
< THE NIGHT FERRY >
Than Ch4 logo was to be Tony’s, “last real piece of commercial work”. Tony embarks on a new journey.
Rushes from Tony’s 16mm personal project documenting the last voyage of The Night Ferry. “Whacky” and “Esoteric” materials. Materials relating to the digitisation of The Flexipede master negative.
“I hope I haven’t given you mental indigestion” – Tony Pritchett.