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King Coal (1948)


Main image of King Coal (1948)
35mm, Technicolor, 3 mins
DirectorJules Pinschewer
SponsorNational Coal Board
AnimatorJules Pinschewer

King Coal is roused from his underground kingdom to see the factories and homes of Britain calling out for more coal. He sees that they get it.

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Released one year after the 1947 launch of the National Coal Board, this short animation works as a recruitment film and general propaganda piece for the coal industry. The nursery-rhyme figure of 'Old King Cole' becomes King Coal, who is roused from the depths of the earth by the cry for fuel for homes and factories. Once on the surface he proudly bestrides the heart of Britain to act as a beacon for the industry. The film ably moves from its fantasy beginnings to more realistic surroundings, with 'the fiddlers three' morphing into miners. There is an almost constant left-to-right directional thrust in the last half of the film, giving an impression of movement and progress. People march and motor into the mines, and then are rewarded with their liberty, represented through leisure pursuits such as gardening and football, rather than wealth.

The film was produced by Jules Pinschewer, who even in 1948 had almost 40 years of experience of producing such animated propaganda films. After filing patents for 'living billboards' in both Berlin and London in 1910, Pinschewer set up his own production company in Germany in 1911. As well as directing his own films, he built his reputation on recruiting the services of visionary animators such as Lotte Reiniger and Walther Ruttmann. Pinschewer's Jewish background and avant-garde reputation led him to leave Germany during Hitler's rise to power and he settled in Berne, becoming a Swiss citizen in 1948. The British branch of his company was established in 1946 and produced other films for the British government on National Savings, such as Willie Does His Stuff (1948).

King Coal marks Pinschewer's European heritage by its strong artistic motifs: the frequent use of silhouettes; the recurrent concentric circles; and the mixing of materials in colouring, from strong ink blocks to pastel shading, beautifully rendered in Technicolor.

Jez Stewart

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (3:12)
King Coal