Beatles and ‘Heavy Metal’ Animator Gerald Potterton Dead at 91

Canada-based animator Gerald Potterton – known in the rock world for his work on the BeatlesYellow Submarine movie and the 1981 cult classic Heavy Metal – has died at the age of 91.

The National Film Board of Canada announced that he died in a Quebec hospital, saying in a statement, “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.

“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.”

Born in London, he won acclaim for his contribution to the “Liverpool sequence” in the Beatles’ 1968 animated film. While the adult science-fiction fantasy Heavy Metal – which he directed – was a flop on its original release, it eventually gathered a fan base, partly because of its soundtrack, which included songs by Sammy Hagar, Black Sabbath, Don Felder and others.

Watch the Liverpool Sequence from ‘Yellow Submarine’

Watch the ‘Heavy Metal’ Trailer

Potterton was also known for directing The Railrodder, a 1965 short that gave silent-movie icon Buster Keaton a late-career hit. Potterton had continued working on diverse projects and his filmography amounted to over 40 productions. He also wrote and illustrated children’s books.

“When the producer, Ivan Reitman, and I first met, I knew about the Heavy Metal magazine in France and I liked the drawings,” he said in a 2015 interview. “A lot of it was crap, but there was some good drawing. … I couldn’t see doing a 90-minute film just in one style. I really liked the idea of like five or six stories, different stuff, just like in the magazine. That’s what makes it work. You jump around with different styles. They’re not all done in the same style. …They’re all different and I like that.”

In recent years Potterton had been working on a documentary about his career, titled The Flying Animator. He updated fans in November, explaining the pandemic had slowed production but that progress was being made and asking them to “hang tight.” You can watch his message below.

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