The End of Animation in Britain?

Yesterday, I read with dismay on Cartoon Brew that the British government, with its current Tory-led cabinet, has decided not to renew the grants and other funding it had made available to Animate Projects, a group who sponsored various animation projects at all levels of the spectrum.

A study put out by the Royal Television Society last year highlighted that Britain has become increasingly incapable of competing with other countries on just cost alone! The main issue they cite is that said other countries (namely Ireland) have benefitted greatly from government tax breaks that have caused productions that would have been made in Britain move elsewhere. As an Irishman, you can easily guess on which side of that argument I fall on.

Should governments subsidise an industry? That’s a political hot potato which you won’t find me discussing here, but I will say that for a market as large as Britain (both culturally and commercially) there is little or no excuse for the government not at least encouraging animation as a viable artform. Other European countries do it, we just don’t see the results very often due to cultural differences.

Is there a bright side to all of this? Can there be a bright side at all? Perhaps it is not clear now and the shock of the announcement is still being felt but I think animation in Britain is in need of a rebuilding of sorts. I find it hard to believe that here in the US we get such excellent animated shows as The Simpsons, et al while in Britain there is almost nothing in comparison (correct me if I’m wrong). That country has been putting out top-notch live-action programmes like The Office so there are no excuses when it comes to animated shows of the same quality.

I think we need to see more action on the part of broadcasters (I’m looking at you, Channel 4) to help encourage a change in attitudes to animation that we are starting to see over here in the States, i.e. that it is not just for children. The success of the likes of The Secret of Kells in the US is proof that the cultural and geographical divide is not so great that it cannot be bridged.

Ultimately, the closing of a program that helps people discover and nurture their creative talent will only serve to homogenise the workforce to the detriment of society at large although it almost certainly does not bring the curtain down on the rich and quirky history of British animation. Now is not the time for moaning, it is time to pick ourselves up and carry on.