The Halas and Batchelor Ruddigore (1967)

Robin OakappleJohn Reed
Richard DauntlessDavid Palmer
Sir Despard MurgatroydKenneth Sandford
Old AdamGeorge Cook
Rose MaybudAnn Hood
Mad MargaretPeggy Ann Jones
Dame HannahGillian Knight
ZorahJennifer Toye
Sir Roderic MurgatroydDonald Adams

Animated Feature by Halas and Batchelor,
with D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: James Walker

This fifty-five minute animated feature by the husband-and-wife animation artists John Halas and Joy Batchelor is a heavily-abridged version of Ruddigore. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company supplied the soundtrack.

Correspondent Arthur Robinson recalls that it "began with John Reed narrating some exposition, while we saw a cartoon witch curse Sir Rupert and a snippet of Dame Hannah's song was barely audible in the background." Due to the heavy cutting, continuity was provided by a running narration given by Robin Oakapple's character.

Chris Webster looked up the history of this film in back issues of The Savoyard. This chronicle suggests that the film took longer to make than originally anticipated:

During the second week of August the Company recorded the soundtrack for an animated film based on Ruddigore that is now being prepared by Halas and Batchelor Films Ltd

APRIL 1965.
H&B are still busy on the Ruddigore film, but it now seems that this will not be ready until the end of the year.

"Mr [Michael] Walters and others will be glad to hear that Sir Rupert is at last to make his debut. He will appear at the beginning of H&B's animated film of Ruddigore which should be ready in another three or four months.

"…Ruddigore… has now been completed and we hope that this will be seen before the end of the year

" The H&B film is now complete and awaiting distribution. To make it a suitable length for showing on American TV large cuts have had to be made, and some omissions are bound to cause distress. Whenever a scene or piece of dialogue is cut out, it turns out to be a favourite of more people than ever appeared to enjoy it before! Joy Batchelor, who has directed the film, is well aware of that, and has not made any cuts without careful thought and without having a good reason for making them.

MAY 1967.
The Mikado [i.e., the film made in 1966] will be seen along with H&Bs Ruddigore in a special G&S programme to be shown at a number of top-class Rank theatres. As we go to press the dates and places have not yet been settled, but the showings are likely to be in the Autumn.

According to one of the cast members, more of the opera was recorded than made it into the film. Thus, it is theoretically possible that a master tape may be located someday, and with appropriate permissions, issued on CD.

Marc Kenig added:

I first saw the film about 25 years ago at a Batchelor & Halas retrospective in Philadelphia at Temple University. The cartoonists were there and it was coupled with a showing of one of their Hofnung Symphony cartoons and a beautiful but uncompleted handanimation short called "Butterfly Ballet."

I wish I had recorded their commentary or took notes. From what I recall, they talked about how long it took to negotiate with the D'OC, the foot dragging on the D'OC part, and if memory serves that B&H wanted to actually do a full-length Pinafore, Pirates or Mikado. D'OC insisted on Ruddigore — "throwing it over the wall," so-to-speak, since it was far less popular and not one of the money-makers. As if a cartoon would have cut into attendance! Yeah, right, but this was the post-copyright paranoid D'OC organization we are talking about.

There were always copyright problems around the cartoon and there were at the time of the showing, but I forgot the details if indeed they were gone into at any length. I tried to obtain a copy, but they were bound up in a dispute with some Canadian distributor with exclusive North American rights or something (around 1982).

After a brief theatrical release, the film was shown on television in both the U.K. and the U.S., and it was released on home video in the U.K. in 1987. I do not believe it is currently available.

Issue History
1967 Gala Film Distributors 35mm (no number)
1987 Education Films Limited PAL (no number)