Yoram Jerzy Gross AM (18 October 1926 – 21 September 2015) was a Polish-born Australian producer of children's and family entertainment. Internationally acclaimed for his films and television series, Gross established a worldwide reputation for the adaptation of children’s characters from books and films to animation that won the hearts of children worldwide. His company is best known for producing Blinky Billand Dot and the Kangaroo.
Gross used his films to convey loyalty, peaceful resolve and good winning over evil. "If you watch my films carefully you will see the history of my life", he said.
Early life and career Edit
Born in Kraków, Poland, the brother of Jewish film director Natan Gross, Yoram Gross endured World War II under the Naziregime. His family was on Oskar Schindler's list, but chose to make their own risky escape, moving hiding places 72 times.
Gross studied music and musicology at Kraków University. "All I wanted to do was play Chopin", he said. He first entered the film industry in 1947 in Kraków when, at the age of 20, he became one of Jerzy Toeplitz's first students. Toeplitz founded thePolish Film Institute (he also founded the Swiss Film Institute and set up, at the invitation of the Federal Government, theAustralian Film and Television School). Gross commenced his career as an assistant to Polish directors Eugene Cenkalski(pl:Eugeniusz Cękalski) and Leonard Buczkowski, as well as the Dutch director, Joris Ivens. He studied script writing underCarl Foreman.
In 1950, Gross moved from Poland to Israel, where he worked as a newsreel and documentary cameraman. He then became an independent film producer and director and began winning prizes at international film festivals. His full-length feature,Joseph the Dreamer (1961), a biblical story, received special prizes in many countries. His experimental film Chansons Sans Paroles (1958) was selected by international film critics as "the most interesting film of 1959". Another comedy, One Pound Only (1964), set the box office record of the year. Gross won more than 80 international awards for his various films.
In 1968, Gross, his wife Sandra and young family migrated to Australia and lived in Sydney. They established Yoram Gross Film Studio – initially working from home. Gross continued to make experimental films and to win awards. He originally produced film clips for the popular weekly television music program Bandstand for such artists as John Farnham. At theSydney Film Festival in 1970 he was awarded second prize for The Politicians in the category of best Australian-made film, and at the 1971 Australian Film Awards, his film To Nefertiti won the bronze award.
Since 1977, Gross devoted his energies to making animated films and series, but continued his interest in experimental films with awards to assist young filmmakers. He believed that he should continue the tradition from which he benefited so much in the early days of his career and established, amongst other annual prizes, the Yoram Gross Award for Best Animated Film at the Sydney Film Festival and the Yoram Gross Best Animation Award at the Flickerfest International Film Festival.
Gross wrote a book on making animated films titled The First Animated Step (1975), and produced a film of the same title.
The first animated feature film produced by the Yoram Gross Film Studio, called Dot and the Kangaroo (1977), utilised a special aerial image technique of drawings over live action backgrounds. The film was based on an Australian classic best seller by Ethel Pedley, and was described by ABC film critic John Hinde as a "brilliant technical success and the best cartoon film originated in Australia". It won Best Children's Film in Tehran and also won a Sammy Award for the Best Animated Film at the 1978 Australian Film Institute Television Awards.
After that, Gross produced, directed and scripted a total of sixteen feature films for children. Eight of these films continue the adventures of Dot from the original film Dot and the Kangaroo. Dot and the Bunny (1984) was the winner of the 1983 Best Animated Film at the 28th Asia Pacific Film Festival, and Dot and Keeto (1985) won the Red Ribbon Award at the 1986American Film and Video Festival.
To co-ordinate with the release of his films, Gross also published books based on the films Dot and the Kangaroo, The Little Convict and Save the Lady.
Gross's 1991 animated film The Magic Riddle had a more international flavour than his previous children's films made in Australia. It was based on an original story he came up with, and is a mixture of fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, theBrothers Grimm and others.
In 1992 came the release of Blinky Bill, based upon the Australian children's classic by Dorothy Wall. This film introduced the popular Australian koala to the rest of the world as a "real personality", and Blinky Bill, already well loved by generations of Australians, has become Australia's Animated Ambassador to millions of children around the world. Blinky Bill has generated one of the most successful merchandising programs ever initiated in Australia, bringing in millions of dollars in export earnings to the country.
In 1993, Yoram Gross Film Studio diversified into making animated series for television. The first two of the Blinky Bill series,The Adventures of Blinky Bill and Blinky Bill's Extraordinary Excursion, totalled 52 half-hour episodes and achieved significant international success, both as a broadcasting and as a merchandising property and was a major licensing success in Europe.
In the 1995 Australia Day Honours List, Gross was named a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the Australian film industry, particularly in animation techniques.
Following Blinky Bill, Gross co-produced the series Tabaluga (26 half hours) with EM.TV & Merchandising AG, which in 1998 quickly became the top-rated children's show in Germany. An animated series adapting Australia's best-known kangaroo,Skippy, was completed in 1998, whereupon the studio commenced the animation of Flipper and Lopaka. Both series comprise 26 half-hour episodes.
In March 1999, EM.TV acquired from Village Roadshow Limited, a 50% share ownership in Yoram Gross Film Studio. Thus, Yoram Gross-EM.TV Pty Ltd was created. This new partnership marked the transition for YGEM from a family business to a strong player on the world stage. EM.TV and YGEM committed to the production of 10 new series over the next 5 years.
The new millennium cemented Gross and EM.TV's position as the number one family entertainment business in Australia and supplier of quality children's content to the world. The studio completed a second series of both Tabaluga and Flipper and Lopaka, as well as a brand new series, Old Tom.
The Seven Network programmed a dedicated block of television produced by Yoram Gross - a fulfilment of its commitment to screen quality 'C classified' drama for the children of Australia. Gross and EM.TV also launched Junior in Germany.
Gross celebrated his 60th anniversary in the film industry in May 2007. To celebrate the milestone, the New South Wales Film and Television Office honoured him by hosting a special retrospective screening featuring highlights of his career,including the screening of Gross's latest project, Autumn in Krakow, a poignant short film on his home town of Kraków, based on his late brother Nathan's poetry.
Gross's autobiography 'My Animated Life' was released in April 2011. He died in Sydney at the age of 88 on 21 September 2015.
Feature films Edit
- Joseph the Dreamer (1961)
- One Pound Only (1964)
- Dot and the Kangaroo (1977)
- The Little Convict (1979)
- The Seventh Match [also known as Sarah] (1979)
- Around the World with Dot [also known as Dot and Santa Claus] (1982)
- Dot and the Bunny (1984)
- The Camel Boy (1984)
- Epic: Days of the Dinosaurs [also known as EPIC] (1984)
- Dot and the Koala (1985)
- Dot and Keeto (1985)
- Dot and the Whale (1986)
- Dot and the Smugglers [also known as Dot and the Bunyip] (1986)
- Dot Goes to Hollywood (1987)
- The Magic Riddle (1991)
- Blinky Bill: The Mischievous Koala (1992)
- Dot in Space (1994)
- Tabaluga and Leo (2005)
- Blinky Bill’s White Christmas (2005)
- Flipper and Lopaka: The Feature (2006)
- Gumnutz: A Juicy Tale (2007)
- Santa's Apprentice (2010)
- Blinky Bill the Movie [also known as Blinky Bill 3D] (2015)
TV series Edit
- Bright Sparks (1989)
- The Adventures of Blinky Bill (1993)
- Blinky Bill's Extraordinary Excursion (1995)
- Samuel and Nina (1996–1997)
- Skippy: Adventures in Bushtown [also known as Skippy: Adventures in Bushland] (1998)
- Dumb Bunnies (1998–1999)
- Old Tom (2001–2002)
- Fairy Tale Police Department (2001–2002)
- Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Balloon Adventure (2004)
- Tabaluga (1994–2004)
- Flipper and Lopaka (1999–2005)
- Little Hippo (1998-1999)
- Art Alive (2003–2005)
- Seaside Hotel (2003–2005)
- Deadly (2006)
- Staines Down Drains (2006)
- Bambaloo (2003–2007)
- Zigby (2006–2008)
- Master Raindrop (2008)
- Dive Olly Dive! (2006–2009)
- Legend of Enyo (2009–2010)
- Zeke's Pad (2010)
- The Woodlies (2012)
- Vic the Viking (2013)
Short films Edit
- Chansons Sans Paroles (1958)
- Song Without Words (1958)
- Hava Nagila (1959)
- We Shall Never Die (1959)
- Bon Appetit (1969)
- Barry Crocker's Danny Boy (1970)
- Janice Slater's Call It What You May (1970)
- John Farnham's One (1970)
- The Politicians (1970)
- To Nefertiti (1971)
- Seasons (1972)
- Sun (1975)
- Professor Filutek (1999)
- The Naked Tree (2003)
- Autumn in Krakow (2007)
- Fuchsia Ballerinas (2007)
- Young Musicians (2007–2008)
- Don't Forget... (2010)
- Why... (2010)
- Forest Holocaust (2011)
- Sentenced To Death (2011)
- The Liar (2012)
- Kaddish (2013)
- Yemenite Fantasy