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Automania’s vision of the future is one in which a massive proliferation of cars has brought mankind itself to a grinding halt. Yet it was made at a time when Britain’s fledgling motorways were still sparsely populated.
The husband and wife team of Hungarian émigré John Halas and Watford-born Joy Batchelor had been working together since 1937 (in 1954 they made Animal Farm, Britain's first animated feature) and by the 1960s they ran Britain’s leading animation company. Much of Halas & Batchelor’s work came through commercial sponsorship, but they retained their independent artistic ambitions, and found an outlet for them in films such as Automania 2000.
At a time when car ownership was far less common, the film’s vision of a gridlocked country might seem prophetic, but can be taken too literally. It is the drive behind this expansion that the animators really want to highlight, sounding a warning about the pursuit of happiness through consumption.
All the same, consideration of the film’s message shouldn’t get in the way of our appreciation of its remarkable design, which mixes techniques and media to startling effect.