Bob Godfrey: A Collaborative Act
It’s not often you get a chance to see the work of a genius on your doorstep — so when we heard our Farnham campus was going to host an exhibition of legendary animator Bob Godfrey’s work, we got down there pronto.
20 Feb 2020
To all of us at UCA, Bob Godfrey is a bit of an icon. As well as creating some of the best-loved cartoon characters of his era, he also founded our Animation degree course, which remains a training ground some of the biggest names in the business.
An exhibition of his work, Bob Godfrey: A Collaborative Act, opened at the James Hockey and Foyer galleries at UCA Farnham last week, and runs until mid-March. Here’s what I learned when I went to take a look:
1. His drawings found their way into all kinds of unexpected places.
As I wandered around the exhibition, I noticed two very tongue-in-cheek workplace posters. Yup, even staff notices were an outlet for his talents.
2. It’s not until you see all his work in one place that you realise just how versatile he was.
If you’re not familiar with Godfrey’s work, or perhaps only know him for Roobarb, you might be surprised to see how much it varies, both in style and subject matter — from playful cartoons to carefully-considered wartime portraits; the cuteness of Henry’s Cat to the ferocity of a zombie Margaret Thatcher.
3. He could always find the funny side.
There’s a whimsical quality to everything on display— even when it carries serious undertones. Godfrey wasn’t afraid to poke fun at people, or society as a whole; one look at his 1994 video, Know Your Europeans: The United Kingdom, tells you that. To the strains of a satirical song about the many types of people that make up the UK, you see punk rockers dancing around in Union flag underpants, Prince Charles pottering about in his garden, and Welsh rugby players with leeks wedged under the tape around their heads. It’s 5 minutes 29 seconds of pure silliness and subtle shade.
4. He was a master of self-deprecating humour
As quick as he was to poke fun at the wider world, Godfrey was never too proud to give himself the same treatment — here’s how he doctored his certificate of nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the Oscars).
In fact, my favourite part of the whole exhibition is actually this joyful little stop motion of Bob himself, rolling around and posing on the floor — definite shades of Monty Python silliness here.
5. Being part of his team must have been AWESOME.
Full disclosure: I love to draw. As a child, I harboured dreams of becoming a Disney animator (who didn’t, right?). But now, when I imagine being part of Godfrey’s team, scribbling away in his pioneering studio, creating work that would go on to become synonymous with 1970s and 1980s cartoon styling and satire… that must have been pretty darned exciting.
If you fancy seeing the show for yourself, get yourself down to UCA Farnham’s Foyer and James Hockey Galleries and dive right in. It’s quite the trip.
Bob Godfrey: A Collaborative Act, runs until March 17.