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Gerald Potterton, the British-Canadian filmmaker who directed the adult animated cult classic Heavy Metal in 1981 for Columbia Pictures, has died. He was 91.
Potterton passed away at the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville, Quebec on Aug. 23, the National Film Board of Canada said on Wednesday.
“Gerald came to Canada and the NFB to be part of a new wave of storytelling, one that was fresh and irreverent, and he brought great wit and creativity to every project. He was also a builder, helping to lay the foundation for today’s independent Canadian animation industry with Potterton Productions… He was an exceptional artist and a truly nice man,” Claude Joli-Coeur, NFB chairperson and government film commissioner, said in a statement.
Born on March 8, 1931 in London, England, Potterton graduated from the Hammersmith Art School and emigrated to Canada in 1954 to work alongside the pioneers of NFB animation.
He created animation for NFB films in the 1950s before directing his own classic shorts, including the Stephen Leacock adaptation My Financial Career in 1962 and Christmas Cracker in 1963, which he helmed along with Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale and Grant Munro. Both films were nominated for Academy Awards.
Potterton also directed the live-action comedy The Ride in 1963 and The Railrodder in 1965, which starred Buster Keaton in one of his last film roles. In 1968, he returned to England to work on a sequence for the animated Beatles feature Yellow Submarine.
Back in Canada, he turned to forming his own indie studio, Potterton Productions, for film and TV projects, which included his Oscar Wilde adaptation The Selfish Giant (1972), an animated short that earned him his third Oscar nomination.
In another new direction, Potterton directed the animated feature Heavy Metal, which became a cult classic. He also collaborated with the NFB again on his second Leacock adaptation, The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones in 1983, and co-created the animated children’s series Smoggies, which run for four years to 1990.
In 2020, he wrote and illustrated a popular children’s book about Joseph-Armand Bombardier, L’homme des neiges. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Potterton was selected by the World Animation Celebration in 1998 as one of “Ten Men Who Have Rocked the Animation World.”
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