John Halas and Joy Batchelor working on the film animation of 'Animal Farm' adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50) (b/w photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.

Joy Batchelor – Life in Animation

Who was Joy Batchelor? To celebrate the centenary of her birth and the release a new biography, Beatrice Okoro, Bridgeman’s UK Account Manager for TV and Film, rediscovers her groundbreaking achievements in the animation industry.

 

Matyas Seiber, John Halas, Joy Batchelor and John Reed discuss the characters for the film animation of 'Animal Farm' adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50) (photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.
Matyas Seiber, John Halas, Joy Batchelor and John Reed discuss the characters for the film animation of ‘Animal Farm’ adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50) (photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.

 

On 1st October 2014 I spent an evening at the Hungarian Culture Centre to hear about a pioneering female animator Joy Batchelor, introduced by her daughter Vivien Halas. I was very surprised that I haven’t heard about this women before – who was she?

The evening started with a talk by Vivien about her mother’s life: Joy was born in Watford to a commercial artist and a former golf club manageress. After leaving art school, she found work at an animation studio and met her future husband, Hungarian animator John Halas; the two set up Halas & Batchelor Cartoons in 1940.

 

John Halas and Joy Batchelor working on the film animation of 'Animal Farm' adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50) (b/w photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.
John Halas and Joy Batchelor working on the film animation of ‘Animal Farm’ adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50) (b/w photo), English Photographer, (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.

 

We were then shown a variety of animation from Halas and Batchelor, ranging from World War II public service information films to work for the United Nation. The work that surprised me most, however, was Animal Farm (1954). I had watched this cartoon at school and though, at the time, I didn’t understand the context, I remembered the animation.

 

Left: Napoleon Takes Over, scene from the 1954 animated film of 'Animal Farm' adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50), Batchelor, Joy and Halas, John (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd. Right: Snowball Paints the Animals' Commandments on the Barn Wall, scene from the 1954 animated film of 'Animal Farm' adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50), Batchelor, Joy and Halas, John (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.
Left: Napoleon Takes Over, scene from the 1954 animated film of ‘Animal Farm’ adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50), Batchelor, Joy and Halas, John (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.
Right: Snowball Paints the Animals’ Commandments on the Barn Wall, scene from the 1954 animated film of ‘Animal Farm’ adapted from the book by George Orwell (1903-50), Batchelor, Joy and Halas, John (20th century) / Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd.

 

When Joy set up her company with her husband, this was unique considering at the time, in the late 1940s – early 1950s, women were expected to stay at home cook and look after their children, not run a successful animation studio. Joy was self taught in her craft and had also taught others. Some of the work she did for Harper’s Bazaar is highly original and all the way through her work you can see her style. 

 

Illustrations by Joy Batchelor and John Halas / © Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd
Illustrations by Joy Batchelor and John Halas / © Halas & Batchelor Collection Ltd

 

By the time of her death in 1991 Joy Batchelor was forgotten and unacknowledged which is a great shame. However, her amazing talent lives on in her films and should never be forgotten.

 

Watch Clips

 

 

Find out more

Vivien Halas’ biography of Joy Batchelor, ‘A Moving Image, Joy Batchelor 1914-1991 ‘, is out in a limited edition publication

Halas & Batchelor Animations – watch all cartoons in the Bridgeman archive

The Halas & Batchelor Collection – see all images and footage

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