One of the most original, talented and productive animators of his time, George Dunning established himself at the National Film Board as an artist with a strongly individual style before moving to Britain, where he made the film he will always be associated with: Yellow Submarine (1968), the innovative, vibrantly surreal landmark feature that became an instantly recognizable pop icon of the sixties.
Following studies at the Ontario College of Art and freelance work as an illustrator, Dunning joined the NFB in 1943, where he worked with Norman McLaren and contributed to several episodes of the Chants populaires series. But it was his work on Grim Pastures (1944), Three Blind Mice (1945) and especially Cadet Rouselle (1947) – with its use of articulated, painted, metal cut-outs – that marked him as an individual talent. He attempted an independent production of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen with Colin Low, but it was never finished.
In 1948, he spent a year working for UNESCO in Paris under the mentorship of Czech-born animator Berthold Bartosch. Then in 1949, he and fellow NFB grad Jim McKay created one of Toronto’s first animation studios, Graphic Associates, where he produced commercials and gave Michael Snow his first job in film. He won a Special Canadian Film Award in 1951 for Family Tree(1950), and in 1956 moved to England to manage UPA’s new London office. After the office went under seven months later, he hired many of the UPA staff to work for him and his newly established production company, TV Cartoons (which became TVC London in 1961). While TVC produced about one hundred commercials a year, Dunning managed to make the atmospheric, KafkaesqueThe Wardrobe (1958), The Apple (1962) and The Flying Man (1962).
He also made the three-screen animated film Canada Is My Piano for Expo ’67, and oversaw the cartoon series “The Beatles” for BBC-TV. This led to his work on Yellow Submarine, which he produced and directed, supervising over two hundred artists on an eleven-month production schedule. The influential film, like all of his later work – including the award-winning Damon the Mower(1972) – stresses Dunning’s irrational, surrealistic themes.