|Industry||Television production and film studio|
|Fate||Absorbed into DHX Media and Discovery Communications|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles; London|
FilmFair was a production company and animation studio that produced children's television series, animated cartoons, educational films, and television advertisements. The company is perhaps best remembered for its stop-motion films using puppets, clay animation, and cutout animation.
FilmFair was founded by American animator Gus Jekel in Los Angeles. After working with Walt Disney Productions and other Hollywood animation studios in the 1930s, Jekel incorporated FilmFair because he wanted the freedom to create live action work as well. The studio was in "Animation Alley", a stretch of Cahuenga Boulevard that runs through Studio City in northern LA.
In the late 1960s, Jekel asked an English colleague, Graham Clutterbuck, to start a European office for FilmFair. Clutterbuck had been producing and coordinating television ads for European advertising agencies, and had just lost his job as director general of Les Cinéastes Associés in Paris. Although he was not well-acquainted with animation, Clutterbuck accepted. Clutterbuck established FilmFair's European office in Paris. It was there that he met Serge Danot, who pitched his ideas for a children's series, but Clutterbuck turned him down. Soon after, Danot signed a contract with the BBC to produce the series The Magic Roundabout. He invited Clutterbuck to watch them film. There Clutterbuck met the series' co-creator, Ivor Wood. Later, the two men agreed that Wood would make animated films for FilmFair. The success of The Magic Roundabout paved the way for more stop-motion animation at the BBC. Soon, Wood came up with the idea for The Herbs, which premiered on BBC1 in 1968.
By this time, Beatlemania had made England a cultural hotspot. Clutterbuck found it too difficult to attract English talent to France, so he moved the office to London. There, Barry Leith joined the company as director of animation. Wood and Leith collaborated on The Wombles, but Wood also had a few ideas for animating Michael Bond's stories about Paddington Bear. Bond was enthusiastic about Wood's artistic vision, and began scripting the first series. BBC1 premiered Paddington in 1975 to great acclaim. FilmFair produced new episodes of the programme for three years, and it expanded into a considerable media franchise.
FilmFair continued to produce successful stop-motion programmes through the mid-1970s. The company's first classically animated series, Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, premiered in 1976. It was adapted from a series of children's books written and illustrated by Edward McLachlan. The company's first series not directed by Wood was The Perishers (1978), a classically animated series directed by Dick Horn.
In the early 1980s, Central Independent Television bought a controlling share of the European branch of FilmFair. Graham Clutterbuck died of cancer on 30 April 1988; FilmFair dedicated Bangers and Mash (1989) to his memory. In 1991, Central sold FilmFair to Storm Group (aka the Caspian Group), one of FilmFair's video distributors. Altschul Group Corporation (AGC) bought FilmFair's American branch in 1992, as part of campaign to acquire more than a dozen film companies. Discovery Communications bought AGC's film catalogue in 2003.
In 1996, the Caspian Group sold FilmFair London's catalogue and production amenities to the Canadian company CINAR. CINAR'S purchase included all associated distribution, publication, licensing, and merchandising rights. In 2000, CINAR executives were implicated in a financial scandal, and again in 2001. In 2004, the company rebranded to the Cookie Jar Group. In 2012, a Canadian media conglomerate called DHX Media bought Cookie Jar Group, thus acquiring the rights to the European FilmFair properties.
|Paddington Goes to the Movies||1980||BBC1||stop motion||Barry Leith|
|Paddington Goes to School||1984||BBC1||stop motion||Martin Pullen|
|Paddington’s Birthday Bonanza||1986||BBC1||stop motion||Glenn Whiting|
|World Womble Day||1990||Central||stop motion||Martin Pullen|
|The Wandering Wombles||1991||Central||stop motion||Martin Pullen|
|Brown Bear's Wedding||1991||Central||traditional||Chris Randall (anim.)|
|White Bear's Secret||1992||Central||traditional||Chris Randall (anim.)|
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- Brown Bear's Wedding at the Internet Movie Database
- White Bear's Secret at the Internet Movie Database
- FilmFair at the Internet Movie Database
- Graham Clutterbuck at the Internet Movie Database
- Gus Jekel at the Internet Movie Database
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