Heavy Metal and Yellow Submarine filmmaker Gerald Potterton dies at 91

Heavy Metal and Yellow Submarine filmmaker and animator Gerald Potterton dies at the age of 91

Gerald Potterton, the British-Canadian filmmaker best known for his work on the adult animated classic Heavy Metal and The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, has died.

The director, writer, producer and animator passed away at the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville, Quebec, according to the National Film Board of Canada.

‘With a heavy heart, we mourn the passing of long-time friend and collaborator Gerald Potterton (1931-2022),’ the NFB, Canada’s public film and digital media producer and distributor, announced on Twitter on Wednesday. 

 ‘Join us in celebrating the life of the director behind Heavy Metal & The Railrodder by revisiting his #NFB filmography→ http://bit.ly/PottertonNFB w/ Buster Keaton, 1965.’ 

RIP: British-Canadian filmmaker Gerald Potterton passed away this week at the age of 91; he is pictured in 2016

‘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,’ Claude Joli-Coeur, NFB chairperson and government film commissioner, said in a statement. 

He added, ‘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.’ 

Potterton started creating animation for the NFB back in the 1950s, and then went on to direct his own classic short films, including two Academy Award-nominated productions: My Financial Career (1962) and Christmas Cracker (1963), which he co-directed with Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale and Grant Munro. 

He also directed live-action films like the comedy The Ride (1963) as well as the acclaimed late-career Buster Keaton short film The Railrodder (1965).  

Making his mark: Potterton began creating animation for the National Film Board Of Canada in 1950s before he started work on his own films, which included The Railrodder (1965), which starred Buster Keaton in an acclaimed late-career role

After starting up his own studio – Potterton Productions –  in Montreal in 1967,  the London, England native returned to his hometown the following year to work on the much-anticipated animation, Yellow Submarine, which was being directed by his friend George Dunning.

Potterton is credited with doing the layout for what would come to be known as the ‘Liverpool’ sequence of the film featuring The Beatles’ hit song Eleanor Rigby, according to Deadline.

Potterton would go on to produce the Oscar-nominated animated short The Selfish Giant (1971), based on an Oscar Wilde short story, and a decade later he directed Heavy Metal (1981), which was adapted from the magazine of the same name by writers Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum, and produced by Ivan Reitman.

Aimed at a more adult audience, with its graphic violence and sexuality, the animated science fiction-fantasy anthology film featured the voices of a number of up-and-coming stars of the 1980s like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis and Joe Flaherty. 

Career path: The London, England native started his own studio – Potterton Productions – in Montreal, Canada back in 1967

Working with Fab Four: Potterton returned home to his native London in 1968 to work as an animator on The Beatles’ much-anticipated film Yellow Submarine

The popular soundtrack, which also helped endear the film to audiences as a cult classic, included songs by such rock band as Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Journey and Nazareth, among others.

Among his accolades during his career, Potterton was selected by the World Animation Celebration in 1998 as one of ‘Ten Men Who Have Rocked the Animation World.’

And due to the lasting influence of his films, the NFB claims there have been more than a dozen retrospectives and lifetime honors for his work over the years, including at the Ottawa Animation Film Festival (1994) and the Seattle Film Festival (1997).

So far, no official word on Potterton’s cause of death has been released to the public. 

Another breakout: Potterton is also best known as the director of the cult-classic film Heavy Metal (1981), which was adapted from the magazine of the same name by writers Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum, and produced by Ivan Reitman

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