Gerald Potterton is an animator, producer, and director who attended the Hammersmith Art School in London, England and worked as an assistant animator afterward. In 1954, he joined the National Film Board of Canada (he moved there the following year. He directed animated and live action short films, and did freelance work as an animator (he contributed to George Dunning’s Yellow Submarine). He continued working through the 1970s, and then was asked by Ivan Reitman at the beginning of the 1980s to direct Heavy Metal. For this Halloween installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look back at Yellow Submarine (which is now celebrating its 45th anniversary) and Heavy Metal.
Directed by George Dunning, 1968’s Yellow Submarine centers on a quest undertaken by the Beatles to journey to Pepperland in a yellow submarine so that they can drive out the Blue Meanies that have ravaged the land. Featuring the voices of Paul Angelis, John Clive, Dick Emery, Geoffrey Hughes, and Lance Percival, this critically acclaimed film cost an estimated $400,000 to make (box office gross is unavailable). The Beatles had been disappointed with 1965’s Help! and decided on an animated film to complete their three-picture deal with United Artists (however, since they only appear in cameos, UA didn’t count the film as part of the deal). The film was also partly inspired by their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles’ animated counterparts were based on the Beatles’ appearance in the promotional film for the song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Over 200 animation artists worked on the film for 11 months, including Gerald Potterton. A style of limited animation was used, which can be credited to art director Heinz Edelmann (this style would later influence Terry Gilliam’s animation work for Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python). Among the film’s accolades are a Grammy Award nod for Best Original Score (for George Martin), a Hugo Award nod for Best Dramatic Presentation, and Special Award wins from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.
Directed by Potterton, 1981’s Heavy Metal is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories that are loosely connected by a glowing orb that terrorizes a young girl. Featuring the voices of John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, August Schellenberg, and Percy Rodriguez, this cult favorite grossed $20 million domestically on a budget of $9.3 million. Most of the stories were adapted from one that appeared in Heavy Metal magazine (the original stories were written in the same spirit). The film was produced in Canada by Ivan Reitman and Heavy Metal publisher Leonard Mogel. Several animation houses, including CineGroupe and Atkinson Film Arts, worked on different segments simultaneously in order to expedite production. Some critics dismissed the film when it first came out due to its graphic violence, sexuality, and nudity. It also featured a number of hit ’80s songs as well as a creative score by Elmer Bernstein. Among the film’s accolades are three Genie Award wins (for Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, and the Golden Reel Award), and a Saturn Award nod for Best Science Fiction Film.