Obituary: Dianne Jackson

Dianne Hillier, animator and director, born 28 July 1941, married 1963 Michael Jackson (marriage dissolved 1971), 1975 David Norton (one son, one daughter), died Brockenhurst Hampshire 31 December 1992.

THE ANIMATOR and director Dianne Jackson died at home with her family on New Year's Eve. No more fitting tribute to her could have been devised than the transmission in the Christmas holiday period of four of the films with which she was associated. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, the first of a new six-part animated series of Beatrix Potter adaptations, which she wrote and of which she was the series director, joined such films as The Snowman, without which no Christmas is complete, Granpa and Father Christmas.

She was born Dianne Hillier in 1941, and was educated at Twickenham County Grammar and Twickenham Art School. After she started - unsuccessfully - as an illustrator, she joined TV Cartoons (TVC) in 1967, the company set up by the innovative Canadian animator George Dunning. TVC was then a leading producer of television commercials, although Dunning with his partner John Coates was keen to produce original work. She worked as an assistant animator on TVC's Yellow Submarine. Dunning was to prove a marvellous mentor to her, inspiring in her work a maturity and a style that was to become her own.

In the mid-Seventies she became part of a unit attached to the animation studio Wyatt-Cattaneo alongside the producer Lee Stork, and the animators Alison de Vere and Chris Randall, directing commercials. The frustrations of working solely on commercials inevitably led to the break-up of the unit, and the talents involved went their separate ways, Dianne returning to the TVC fold.

John Coates, recognising the opportunity presented to independent producers by the advent of Channel 4 in 1981, determined to pitch to the new channel a high-quality 26-minute animation production based on a Raymond Briggs book. But who was to direct it? After a false start, he chose Jackson, who had to that point directed nothing more ambitious than short television commercials. It was a gamble that was to result in a film of enduring appeal. That film was The Snowman (1982).

When as Channel 4's commissioning editor of The Snowman I ventured to suggest mid-production that this was surely a classic in the making, with a flash of her eyes she was quick to point out that it was a lot of hard work. Something of her own quiet good humour - and child's sense of wonder - is in the sequence she animated herself of the snowmen's Christmas party, to which the boy is brought by his Snowman. Those who purchase The Snowman as a book are often astonished that the famous trip in the film to meet Father Christmas does not feature in the original. That was a special part of Dianne Jackson's talent to capture the spirit of a work but to elaborate it to stunning effect.

Her creation of a fantasy dream sequence for Hilda in When the Wind Blows (1986 - directed by Jimmy Murakami) was part of a strategy to 'open out' the film and was felt at least initially to have gone too far. Characteristically she fought her corner.

None the less her ability to create imaginative worlds which appealed to 'children of all ages', that is to adults too, was unerring. I recall sitting with her during the premiere screening of Granpa, when a child in front of us turned to a friend and said: 'I'd really like to be in this film.' Dianne laughed delightedly.

Granpa (1989), which she directed, the story of a little girl's relationship with her grandfather, based on John Burningham's book, was of less immediate popular appeal than The Snowman. But it was perhaps more satisfying to her creatively, demanding a more subtle approach.

She was however to return to the work of Raymond Briggs when she storyboarded and acted as supervising director of Father Christmas (1991). Without Dianne Jackson it is true to say that none of the Beatrix Potter adaptations would have been produced. To Frederick Warne, the publishers and guardians of the Potter heritage, she was the guarantee of the integrity of the series.

Hers was a specifically English sensibility which encompassed the rhythms of the seasons, the countryside and its animals and a sense of the past, all of which feature in her best work, including her last storyboard, for Margery Williams's classic book The Velveteen Rabbit.

As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit: 'Real isn't how you are made . . . it's a thing that happens to you when a child loves you for a long, long time . . .' Dianne's films will be loved for a long, long time.

(Photographs omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game