Joy Batchelor was born in Watford, England, in 1914. By the time she answered John Halas’s advertisement for an animator in 1937, she was already an experienced illustrator/animator, a rare thing for a woman in the nineteen-thirties. John immediately recognised her talent and their collaboration began with a series of films that were made in Budapest. However as Germany marched into Vienna in November 1938 their funding was withdrawn and the couple were forced to return to London. The world was on the brink of war.
Back in England, with no employment Joy took their graphic work around the advertising agencies, publishers and magazines. Eventually the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson asked them to make animated film ads, for Kellogg’s Train Trouble and Lux soap Carnival in the Clothes Cupboard. In order to be paid they had to become a company so in 1940 they established Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films, and were married in the same year.
From the outset Joy was more that just an animator, she took on writing, directing and designing the films as well as producing them. Her sense of humour counterbalanced John’s ambition and drive and they were united in their belief that animation should be recognised as an art form and that through it they could make a difference.
Joy wrote and co-wrote literally hundreds of scripts, commercials, propaganda, educational and entertainment films including the first Charley films made for the COI in 1946 to introduce social security, Animal Farm (1954), George Orwell’s classic allegorical fable, The World of Little Ig (1956) a story of a prehistoric boy that pre-dated Hanna-Barbera’s Flintstones and For Better for Worse (1959) a sponsored film for Philips about the potential benefits and evil of television.
Joy was the often unseen driving force behind most of the work even in the later years when she no longer came into the studio John relied heavily on her critical overview. Her feature film, Ruddigore (1964), was the first animated operetta, perfectly capturing the tongue in cheek quality of its creators, Gilbert and Sullivan. By the mid 1970s she retired through ill health, but continued to teach at the London International Film School, where she remained a governor until her death in 1991.
For more in-depth information about Joy Batchelor and her work, please read our book A Moving Image, Joy Batchelor 1914-91, Artist, Writer and Animator, which is available from our books page.
'Joy Batchelor was the most successful woman in British animation to date. Her forty year career as first an animator, but then very quickly as a writer, producer, director, and joint creative head at what was one of the biggest animation studios in Western Europe, has never been matched, and probably never will. To this can be added her later role as a teacher, and as an internationally recognised authority on the global animation scene.'
Jez Stewart, Curator at the BFI National Archive