Halas & Batchelor Part one

Your Very Good Health

In 1932 John Halas (János Halász) formed his first film studio with Gyula Macskássy in Budapest. His involvement with animation evolved from his work with George Pal (György Pál Marczincsak). While working and studying in Budapest Halas became acquainted with László Moholy-Nagy. This encounter was later developed when both were working in London. Due to the lack of business at the studio, Halas left Hungary for a job in Paris where he also continued studies he had begun in Budapest. During this period, Joy Batchelor was an established illustrator producing work for fashion magazines and newspapers in London. After living in Paris, Halas moved to London in 1936 to complete the production of Music Man (1938). It was during this production period that he met Joy Batchelor, who also worked on the film.

John Halas and Joy Batchelor began their graphic design partnership during the pre-war period and then were married in 1940. Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films Ltd was established in 1940 as a formally registered company. They hired a small room in Bush House, Aldwych, on the 18th May 1940, which was the headquarters for the J Walter Thompson advertising agency.

Their work was immediately identifiable by its combination of Disney-style characters and Eastern European aesthetics. The Ministry of Information invited the couple to make wartime public information and propaganda shorts.

Promotional and instructional films made by the studio led to an acceptance of animation as a mode of expression which could engage with mature subjects and serious themes. From 1940 to the late 1950’s the studio was firmly associated with the production of propaganda and public information films. Most of these were shorts and represented a maturity of aesthetic style and imaginative visualisation. The films, usually about 5 minutes long, were written by Alexander McKendrick and fully animated by John Halas and Joy Batchelor with Vera Linnecar, Katherine Houston, Harold Mack and Wall Crook assisting.

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