Animator, writer, illustrator and painter; producer and director of both animated and live action films.
He was born 8 March 1931 in London England and attended Hammersmith Art School. An animator at Halas and Batchelor in London England, he worked as an assistant and in-betweener on the feature Animal Farm.
Impressed by the National Film Board film makers of The Romance of Transportation, he hired on at the NFB in 1954 and settled in Canada in 1955. He teamed with Grant Munroe to make a simple cel animation film instructing air crews about the dangers and side effects of hyperventilation at high altitudes. Huff and Puff (1955) was so funny, marketing wanted to release it to movie houses but the RCAF wouldn’t grant permission for its release. Potterton’s second NFB film Fish Spoilage (1955) obviously an instructional film, was a hit on the festival circuit. The degree to which Potterton and other NFB animators pushed the envelope was shown by Potterton’s choice of music for Fish Spoilage. Instead of using traditional jigs or pop songs, he allowed composer Eldon Rathburn to use a contemporary jazz score.
Potterton and other NFB animators often structured their instructional films as parodies of popular feature films. For Do It Now: Don’t Wait For Spring, a series of films about smoothing out labour demand, the animators styled them after Peter Seller’s The Goon Show. Another film, It’s a Crime (1957) directed by Koening and animated by Potterton, spoofed The Third Man. According to Karen Mazurkewich, My Financial Career 1962) a famous Stephen Leacock short story animated by Potterton, was the best example of the animator’s dry wit and versatility. It won Best Animated Short at the 1962 San Francisco International Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Animated Short Film at the 36th Academy Awards. Potterton’s Christmas Cracker (1963) was also nominated for an Oscar.
In the early 1960’s Potterton branched out into directing live action films making The Ride (1963) in which he also acted and The Railroader (1965), which he also wrote and co-edited with Jo Kirkpatrick. In 1968, he returned to animation working on The Yellow Submarine (1968)in Britain.
In the late 1960’s Potterton left the NFB, and with partners Peter Sander and Murray Shostak founded Potterton Productions. Their first film was a special Pinter’s People (1969) a live action film directed by Potterton, for NBC-TV. The second film was a salvage operation of a Russian epic Dr. Appelite 66 which became Tiki Tiki (1970). The company then undertook a series of high caliber made for television films based on the children’s stories of Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson. The first half hour film The Selfish Giant (1971) produced by Potterton and directed by Sander was nominated for an Oscar. Next came The Rainbow Boys (1973), a live action film written and directed by Potterton. It was a mild success. Potterton then produced The Happy Prince (1974) The Little Mermaid (1975) and The Christmas Messenger (1975). This was followed by Child Under a Leaf which was a flop and emptied the company’s coffers. Potterton sold his shares and the company closed 1974.
Potterton continued his career in animation and live action films which included working as an associate director on Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977) and a supervising director on Ivan Reitman’s Heavy Metal (1980). In 1987 he was animation director for a series of Wizard of Oz films. In the early 1990’s he directed several live action films. As of 2014 he was living in Cowansville in Quebec.
My Financial Career. Writ., Stephen Leacock. Co animator, Grant Munro. Producers, Colin Low & Tom Daly. National Film Board, 1962. Film, 06m, 30 s.
The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones. Writ., Stephen Leacock. Producer, David Verrall. National Film Board, 1983. Film, 07m, 48s.
The Art of the Movie Heavy Metal, Ed., Susan Cohn. New York Zoetrope, 1981..
Cartoon Capers: The History of Canadian Animators. Writ., Karen Mazurkewich. McArthur & Co., 1999: 41- 43, 99-101, 235-236.
Take One’s Essential Guide to Canadian Film. Ed., Wyndham Wise. University of Toronto Press 2001: “Potterton Gerald”: 171.
.” a handbook of Canadian film. Writ., Eleanor Beattie. Peter Martin Associates Ltd/Take One, 1973: “Gerald Potterton”: 173-174.
Heavy Metal, 4-8, Nov. 1980: “Flix: Heavy Metal on Film.” Writ., Bhob. 7-9.
Miriad, 5, Autumn 1981: “Gerald Potterton.” Writ., Ken Williams: 19-21.
“Gerald Potterton.” Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. N.p. 18 Jan. 2014. Accessed 30 June 2014.