by Darryn Hall
Wednesday, 3 July 2002

MIAF Director Mr. Malcolm Turner (left), and PythOnline's Darryn Hall (right) stare into the camera pre-screening

The scene was the Melbourne International Animation Festival, an annual event to celebrate and screen the best-of-the-best animation short films of the year.

This year, however, had a special meaning for Australian Python fans. As part of the festival, this year's honoured past-animation great was none other than Terry Gilliam. This meant that, for 3 nights, selected highlights of Gilliam's wonderful Python-based animation work was screened to the festival crowd.

I had the privilege of attending the screening as guest of Festival Director Mr. Malcolm Turner, who not only made the Gilliam event a reality, but spent many hours editing choice selections for the festival screenings.

Mr. Malcolm Turner, MIAF Director, introduces the Gilliam retrospective

“I must give the greatest thanks to Roger Saunders from Python (Monty) Pictures and indeed to Terry Gilliam himself for making this possible,” said Mr. Turner prior to the start of the screening. “I asked for some material and 45 cans of film turned up!”

Needless to say, the screening showed Gilliam-animation at it's greatest. Even though the man himself now claims to remember little about how he was able to create such off-the-wall animation, and despite publicly down-playing the significance of his past work, there can be no doubt that Gilliam's work is timeless and classic.

To be honouring such work, many of the pieces being over 30 years since inception, is praise indeed for the former Python cartoonist. The effect of those cartoons over 30 years has hardly been diminished as the cinema rippled with laughter and gasps of amazement, (and mock revulsion), from the Arts Student strong crowd during the entire screening.

Some of the many attendee's await the call to enter the cinema for the Gilliam screening

Prior to the screening of Gilliam's animation, there were many modern short animation films shown, all vying to be to be judged as this years award winner. And to me, despite the obvious skill and work that goes into these flashy, computer-driven films, I couldn't help but wonder if any of these current shorts will be remembered in 30 years time. I suspect not.

As one impressed young man was over-heard to remark to his lady friend as they walked out at the end, "How bloody good was that!?"

How bloody good indeed. Viva le cutouts. Viva le Gilliam.


Melbourne International Animation Festival
25 - 30 June 2002

The Monty Python's Flying Circus
Animation Collection

Thursday 27 June 9.45pm
Friday 28 June 11.15pm
Saturday 29 June 9.45pm

  • Airborne renaissance courtiers land on a roadway to cut their heads off
  • Roving head in a pram becomes involved in a civil war with naked trumpet fetishists
  • A policeman tries repeatedly to confess as his chair is pulled out from under him
  • A lady patient pulls a doctor's head from his pants so she can hear him more clearly
  • A little girl emerges from a sporran to walk through a forest of leafy hands
  • A man wearing antlers is hit on the head with a hammer for refusing to relinquish Masonism
  • An ambulance rushes to the scene of emergency frog burping
  • The Python's slide into a stomach where they are joined by vegetables
  • Sir William is plucked from the table of The Last Supper and deposited on a cloud
  • Teddy and Neddy go hunting piggy banks
  • Dinner is prepared from slices of samurai warrior and cabbage
  • Sexual warriors bounce past the window of a topless Mona Lisa
  • …..and much, MUCH more!

Legendary really is the best word to describe the animation created by Terry Gilliam for the Monty Python's Flying Circus series. There can be very few animators whose individual work and style is so universally recognised and cultishly loved.

The Gods of animation colluded to create a moment in history in which Gilliam's genius for utilising - but monstrously subverting - very simple, recognisable images collided head on with the unique demands of creating animation for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Gilliam's brief was to create animated sequences which would link the impossibly implausible live action sketches. Often with less than a week in which to do this, he would disappear to his flat returning with the completed film under his arm. None of the other Pythons ever knew how these animations had turned out until they saw them on the day the show was being taped. Occasionally, in a last minute rush, a hapless - but no doubt thoroughly willing - Python would be pulled aside and required to make a sound like a chicken-headed balloonist being struck by a chocolate pudding.

These animated sequences can be enjoyed on any level. They are absolutely timeless and remain laugh-out-loud hilarious. But look a little deeper and you will see frame after frame of richly detailed imagery. You will see the work of an artist who can use very simple, recognisable images to paradoxically create extremely complex, tightly woven mini dramas. Instead of tapping the willingness of an audience to suspend belief so they can accept a mouse that talks, it relies on ambushing an audiences' sensibilities by presenting them with utterly recognisable objects that did utterly unpredictable (often dark and macabre) things.

So if you want to be turned on your head for a little while, relive the fantastical world of Monty Python, see some impossibly implausible animation or if you just think it's time for something completely different - this is definitely the program for you.

Source: the Melbourne International Animation Festival website (