I met Bob Godfrey once, in… 1991 (?) at the Cardiff animation festival. He was kind and charming and driven and passionate and I was a terrified animation student asking for his autograph. He’d recently been doing a press call thing where he COMPLETELY slated the Lion King which, I seem to remember, had the people running the festival holding their breath because Disney were a big sponsor but if they had asked him to tone it down I can’t imagine he would have listened. So, some time later I walked up to him, holding a copy of the festival brochure, and asked him to scribble on it. He asked me what I wanted to do in the future and I said ‘be an animator’. I can’t remember his reply, something along the lines of Good Luck. It’s very likely he would have instinctively known, as he would have met thousands of people saying the same thing, that I would not have been a very good animator.
The animation industry was in the throws of chaos at the time. There were problems at the Spielberg studio, at the Bluth studio, a factory making Freddie as F R O 7 had just shut down and so on. Channel 4 were doing excellent business supporting UK animation yet even that seemed to have its issues with some of the films made being very ‘arty’ and receiving a very cautious, at best, response. For a young terrified student to say he wanted to go into an industry with so much change happening, and very little of it good, must have been something I can imagine Bob wanting to say more about. But he didn’t. He said something positive and affirming while, I assume, biting his lip on what he could have followed up with. Me, it was what I had always wanted since seeing the Secret of NIMH and he wasn’t the sort of person who seemed to want to puncture the dream of someone he didn’t know.
And then I left college, couldn’t find any jobs that didn’t have a q of 50 people with far more experience than I had, swapped to computer games, then to youth work and then to teaching. I’ve not been unlucky (although I’ve occasionally thought I was at the time ), but I do wonder what Bob would have said to me had their not been thousands of people also wanting his autograph.
He passed away last week, followed soon after by the voice of Rhubarb and Custard; Richard Briers. Very much the sound and certainly the colour of my childhood animation dreams and happiness. Both very much missed by very many people. I must admit I had a tear in my eye when I completed the picture as a warm up sketch this morning…