Les Deux Barbus by Harold
Les Aventures des deux barbus (from La Nouvelle République)

Harold Mack was a British animator who together with his wife, Pamela Mack, was mostly active in the British animation industry. They also worked for Dutch comics legend Marten Toonder in his comics and animation studio. The Macks furthermore had their own small animation studio. Their professional contributions to both the English and Dutch animation industry have been invaluable. As a comics artist Mack worked on 'Panda' and the newspaper comic 'Les Aventures des Deux Barbus' (1950-1953), both produced for the Toonder Studios.

Harold Mack was born in 1918 in London and studied art at Harrow Polytechnic. His first job was spent at the advertising agencies Gordon Lawrence and Lord & Thomas before he turned to animation. In 1940 he joined Halas and Batchelor, where he contributed to the animated commercial short 'Train Trouble' and 'Carnival in the Clothes Cupboard' (1940), as well as the Allied Forces propaganda series 'Abu' in 1943. Between 1944 and 1946 Mack made animated commercial shorts for Gaumont British Animation. To help them out with some professional advice, Gaumont invited an animation director over from the Walt Disney Company: David Hand. Hand had directed various Silly Symphonies shorts, among them 'Old King Cole' (1933), 'Who Killed Cock Robin?' (1935) and 'Little Hiawatha' (1937), as well as several Mickey shorts like 'The Mad Doctor' (1933), 'Pluto's Judgement Day' (1935) and 'Mickey's Polo Team' (1936) and animated feature films like 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1937) and 'Bambi' (1942). Mack learned many valuable skills from observing Hand, but still felt exploited by Gaumont. He left in 1947.

Mack joined British Animated Pictures where he teamed up with George Moreno, a former animator for Max Fleischer. They worked on the short-lived 'Bubble and Squeek' series and other shorts like 'The Big City' (1947), 'Fun Fair' (1947), 'Home Sweet Home' (1948), 'Loch Ness Legend' (1948) and 'Old Manor House' (1948). Once again he felt unsatisfied with the working conditions and left. On the plus side he met his future wife Pamela French there, who worked as a junior animator and colour specialist for them. They married on 26 January 1949. The same year the couple joined the Swiss film company of Julius Pinschewer in Bern, where they animated 'Willie Does His Stuff' (1949), a promotional short for National Savings.

In 1949 Dutch agent Anton De Zwaan, who represented the Toonder Studios in the Netherlands, had a meeting with Walt Disney. The head of the Toonder Studios, Marten Toonder, was well known for comics like 'Tom Poes', 'Kappie' and 'Panda', which were co-written and drawn by a huge staff. But he also dreamt of having his own animation studio and invested a lot of money in professionalizing it. De Zwaan therefore arranged a meeting with the most famous animator in the world. Disney gave De Zwaan some professional advice and suggested working with former employee Harold Mack. The choice was likely motivated by the fact that David Hand and Mack had worked together and that Mack worked in the United Kingdom, which was more closeby to the Netherlands than Hollywood, California.

Mack and his wife moved to Amsterdam where they became two of several foreign artists to work for the Toonder Studio, including the Welshman Harry Hargreaves, the South African Alexander Podlashuc, the Danes Børge Ring, Bjørn Frank Jensen and Per Lygum, as well as the Frenchman Philippe Landrot and English painter Alan Standen. Mack worked on short animated adaptations of 'Panda' ('Plucky Panda's Penny', 1949) and Tom Poes' ('Tom Poes and the Loch Ness Monster', 1950), but also stand alone animated shorts not based on specific Toonder creations like 'Theodora's Testament' (1951), 'The Next Chapter' (1951), 'The Golden Fish' (1952) and 'Moonglow' (1954). His name also appeared in the credits of five shorts in the 'Hugo' series. These were educational shorts intended to motivate post-war Germany to collaborate with other European countries in rebuilding itself as part of the Marshall Plan. While the adaptations of 'Panda' and 'Tom Poes' couldn't capture the spirit of the comics, 'Moonglow' did win some international awards. The Macks furthermore contributed to several animated commercials for the Dutch and German public TV channels.

While Mack was mostly active in Toonder's animation department he briefly worked on the 'Panda' newspaper comic during this period. He is also most likely the artist behind 'Les Aventures des Deux Barbus', a pantomime comic produced by the Toonder Studios, about two bearded twins. The series was signed with the pseudonym "Harold" and appeared at least in the French newspaper La Nouvelle République between 1950 and 1953.

In 1958 the Macks left Toonder and set up their own animation company, the Anglo Dutch Group, located in the Dutch city Aalsmeer. They mostly made commercials, for instance for 7-Up, but also political animated cartoons for The Ed Murrow Show. Some of these TV commercials, like 'The Professionals' (1969) for Firestone Tyres and 'Hippies' (1974) for 7-Up won awards. Harold Mack was a mentor for Dutch animators like Bill Karstens, Rupert van der Linden and Ronald Raaymakers, as well as the English animator Frank Terry. He passed away from cancer in 1975. His widow suvived him for three more decades and died in Norwich in 2001.


Harold Mack in 1974 (Photo: Cornelis Kapsenberg)

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