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Robinson Charley (1948)


Main image of Robinson Charley (1948)
35mm, 10 mins, colour
DirectorsJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
Production CompanyHalas & Batchelor
SponsorsCentral Office of Information
 Board of Trade
MusicMatyas Seiber

Voices: Harold Berens, Geoffrey Sumner

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The story of Charley is used to outline the need for the British worker and businessman to rebuild Britain's trade after two world wars.

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At the end of World War II, the jubilance of victory was soon tempered as the devastating economic impact of the war became evident. Robinson Charley was one of a series of seven light-hearted films made by the Halas and Batchelor animation team at the behest of Sir Stafford Cripps, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to convey important information about the government's new social reforms and, in the case of Robinson Charley, publicise the urgent need to increase production and revivify the hardening arteries of international trade.

Britain's economic history is recounted allegorically through the experiences of Charley, a recalcitrant 'man-in-the-street' type. Designed by Joy Batchelor, Charley features in all of the films in the series. Robinson Charley's protracted journey, from self-sufficient farmer to international business tycoon buying and selling goods on the international market, spans centuries. His trajectory to money and power is scuppered by two world wars in which he has to fight to hold onto his international assets.

In personally commissioning Halas and Batchelor, Sir Stafford Cripps recognised the potential of cartoons as an unobtrusive and entertaining medium by which the government's complex political intentions could be communicated to cinema audiences. (Cripps received a script credit for his involvement in the pre-production stage). And Halas and Batchelor's particular style of animation, with its clarity of exposition, vivid use of colour and exaggerated gestures, had the capacity to disguise any underlying political hectoring.

The witty last-minute reversal of the downbeat ending is engineered through one of Charley's characteristic chipper ripostes with the unseen narrator. The resulting new denouement is a colourful injection of hope for audiences faced with the somber realities of continued rationing and shortages.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
1. The good times (2:18)
2. The lean times (3:36)
Charley Junior's Schooldays (1949)
Charley in New Town (1948)
Your Very Good Health (1948)
Halas, John (1912-1995) and Batchelor, Joy (1914-1991)
Central Office of Information (1946-2012)