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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent