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Robert Balser, who served as the animation director for The Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine and on the Saturday morning Jackson Five cartoons of the early 1970s, has died. He was 88.
Balser died Monday of complications from respiratory failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his wife, Cima, told leading animation website AWN.com.
Balser also partnered with graphic design legend Saul Bass on the seven-minute, end-of-film animated title sequence for Michael Anderson’s star-filled Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and he helmed the otherworldly “Den” sequence for Heavy Metal (1981).
Balser and Jack Stokes served as animation directors on the surreal Yellow Submarine (1968). The vividly colored film, set in the paradise of Pepperland, is full of morphing shapes and bizarre creatures like the Blue Meanies.
More than 200 artists were employed on the hand-drawn Beatles feature during a frenzied production that took 11 months to complete on a budget of less than $1 million.
“We didn’t say we’re going to do this because of this or that — it just happened,” Balser, one of the few Americans to work on the film, said in a 2012 interview. “I see how it works with little kids, with teenagers, how it’s engraved in the memory of older people. I think it resonates today, but I don’t know why.”
Balser launched Pegbar Productions in Barcelona, Spain, and later worked on the Jackson Five cartoons, which aired on ABC from 1971-72; The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, a 1979 Emmy-winning telefilm; and episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show in the 1980s.
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