Małopolski Ogród Sztuki
Rajska 12, 31-124 Kraków
Small Screening Room
26th November (Tuesday)
Geoff Dunbar was born in 1944 in Abingdon. He left school when he was 15 and worked in a series of jobs to save money for his dream 8-mm movie camera. Fascinated by Walt Disney’s animations, he became a self-taught animator to finally begin a prestigious traineeship at Larkins Studio which makes films for the Film Producers Guild in London, among others.
A few years later Dunbar joined Halas and Batchelor’s animation company where he worked on This Love Thing (1970) and The Condition of Man (1971) at the same time supervising works on commercials. It was only in 1974 when following the commencement of his cooperation with Oscar Grillo from Dragon Productions Geoff Dunbar made his debut.
Geoff Dunbar established his reputation as an innovator in the artistic world with two formally surprising films Lautrec (1974) and UBU (1979) both going against the existing conventions, subjects and styles. In the six minute Lautrec recognized with Palme d’Or in Cannes, Geoff Dunbar uses figures derived from the pictures of the famous French painter to create a vivid animation rendering the spirit of Lautrec’s works.
UBU, awarded with a Golden Bear in Berlin and Grand Prix in Ottawa, was created already in a studio set up by Dunbar. The artist surprised the audience with his short, 20 minute animated adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s anarchist play. His interpretation draws upon the roots and style of the Grand Guignol theatre, famous of its naturalistic horrors, established by Jarry in Paris at the end of 19th century. Using ink smudges and guttural sounds with cartoon balloons replacing the characters’ dialogue Dunbar created a world filled with violence.
Seeking more artistic freedom and control over his own project led Dunbar to the formation of his own studio named Grand Slamm Animation (later Grand Slam Partnership). Dunbar financed his artistic ideas e.g. Ubu by taking on commissioned works, as many animators did, mostly including commercials, e.g. for Guiness or Dulux paints.
In the 1980s the artistic market started to evolve and ambitious projects were ever more difficult to carry out. Dunbar, who had been experimenting with styles and formats, was forced to look both into more traditional formula of animated films as well as children audience. But even in these fields Dunbar managed to show his artistic personality.
The artist’s early films aroused the interest of Paul McCartney and led to the making of Rupert Bear and the Frog Song (1984), a story based on a popular children comic book about Rupert Bear. The animation was a supplement to McCartney’s full featured film Give My Regards to Broad Street. The song of a former member of The Beatles entitled We All Stand Together sang by frogs in Rupert Bear and the Frog Song topped British chart for a long time and the animation won BAFTA award for the best animated short.
Dunbar continued his collaboration with McCartney at the beginning of the 1990s. The BAFTA awarded Daumier’s Law (1992) constituted a partial return to the style of his debut Lautrec. Honoré Daumier’s drawings provided the visual seed for the pair’s storyline about an ordinary citizen buffeted by the system and bureaucracy.
In the 1980s Dunbar continued his engagement in children animation and directed, among others, three episodes of the popular series based on Beatrix Potter The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends (BBC, 1993-1994). Dunbar entered the new millennium with yet another project. Tuesday made in 2000 is a faithful 13-minute adaptation of David Wiesner’s picture book for children supplied with Paul McCartney’s music.
10 years ago, with his own company, the artist made his biggest project to date entitled The Cunning Little Vixen (2003), an almost 1 hour long animation based on Leoš Janáček’s opera produced for BBC.
Lautrec, dir. and srcipt Geoff Dunbar, Great Britain 1974, 6’
Using Henri de Toulouse Lautrec’s sketches, drawings and pictures, Dunbar animates figures derived from the French painter’s work. Dunbar shows Lautrec’s life in a few photographs only and then animates the artist’s drawings: can-can dancers, Lautrec’s favourite singer Yvette Guilbert, circus clowns and acrobats as well as animals drawn by Lautrec to Jules Renard’s book Histoires Naturelles.
UBU, dir. Geoff Dunbar, music Laurie Scott Baker, Great Britain 1979, 18’
The adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, the precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd. The burlesque is a satire on ruling people’s greediness and cruelty. Ubu is an antihero; he is a fat, ugly, stupid and foul-mouthed usurper and dictator. Dunbar applies a comic strip bubble form (dialogues in bubbles) together with smudged and flickering ink splashes to create a grotesque and violent world of Jarry’s play. Apparently, Jarry had always imagined his play as an animation.
Rupert Bear and the Frog Song, dir. Geoff Dunbar, script Geoff Dunbar, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, mus. Paul McCartney, Great Britain 1985, 13’
A film which initiated the partnership of Dunbar and Paul McCartney. The adaptation of a popular children comic published regularly in the Daily Express. One day Rupert Bear leaves home and sets out on a big journey. Following a swarm of butterflies Rupert encounters a waterfall. Walking through it he discovers a world full of singing frogs.
Daumier’s Law, dir. Geoff Dunbar, script Paul McCartney, Geoff Dunbar, Linda McCartney, music Paul McCartney, Great Britan 1992, 15’
A black-and-white animated film animating Honoré Daumier’s lithographies including Gargantua series. Each story shows helplessness of an ordinary citizen seeking justice in a bureaucratic system.
Tropic Island Hum, dir. Geoff Dunbar, script Paul McCartney, music Ian Dean, Great Britain 1997, 13’
Another product of Dunbar’s and Linda and Paul McCartney’s collaboration. A fairytale about Wirral the Squirel (Paul McCartney) which is almost killed by hunters. He is rescued by ballon-riding Froggo (Paula McCartney’s voice as well). They both fly to a tropical island where other animals take refuge from hunters.
Tuesday, dir. Geoff Dunbar, music Paul McCartney, Great Britain 2001, 13’
The adaptation of David Wiesner’s picture book for children. Dustin Hoffman and Paul McCartney gave their voices to characters. Charming story almost without words where anything is possibile. We observe events happening on one unusual Tuesday when certain American suburbia is visited by frogs flying on lily pads.