Gerald Potterton, Director Of ‘Heavy Metal’ And ‘Yellow Submarine,’ Died At The Age Of 91


Gerald Potterton, a British-Canadian director who died recently, directed the adult animated cult classic Heavy Metal for Columbia Pictures in 1981. He was 91.


Potterton died on August 23 at the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville, Quebec, according to the National Film Board of Canada.

Gerald came to Canada and the NFB to be a part of a new wave of storytelling, one that was fresh and irreverent, and he did so with great wit and creativity. He also helped lay the groundwork for what is now Canada’s independent animation industry with Potterton Productions. “He was an exceptional artist and a truly nice man,” NFB chairman and government film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur said in a statement.


Potterton, who was born on March 8, 1931 in London and attended the Hammersmith Art School before moving to Canada in 1954, is regarded as one of the National Film Board of Canada’s earliest animators.

He worked as an animator on NFB features in the 1950s, and later directed several acclaimed shorts, including the 1962 Stephen Leacock adaptation My Financial Career and the 1963 Christmas Cracker, which he co-directed with Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale, and Grant Munro. The Academy recognised both films with nominations.


Potterton directed The Ride (1963), a live-action comedy, and The Railrodder (1965), a comedy starring Buster Keaton in one of his final film roles. In 1968, he returned to England and worked on a segment for the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine.

After returning to Canada, he established Potterton Productions, an independent film and television production company. His Oscar Wilde adaptation The Selfish Giant (1972) was an animated short that received an Academy Award nomination.

With the cult classic Heavy Metal, Potterton took an animated film in a new direction. His second Leacock adaptation, The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones, was an NFB production in 1983, and he also co-created the animated children’s show Smoggies, which aired for four seasons (1986–1982).

L’homme des neiges, a children’s book about Joseph-Armand Bombardier that he wrote and illustrated, will be published in 2020. Potterton, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, was named one of the World Animation Celebration’s “Ten Men Who Have Rocked the Animation World” in 1998.

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