Australian film and TV animation pioneer Yoram Gross died on Monday night, aged 88, of natural causes.
The co-founder of Yoram Gross Film Studios with his wife Sandra, his legacy lives on in Flying Bark Productions, the rebranded company formerly known as Yoram Gross-EM.TV Pty Ltd.
It is fitting that a new cinema version of Blinky Bill, his most famous and enduring character, Flying Bark’s Blinky Bill: The Movie, opened in Australian cinemas last week.
Born in Kraków Poland in 1926, he studied music and musicology at Krakow University. He first entered the film industry in 1947 when, aged 20, he was one of the first film students of Jerzy Toeplitz, who founded the Polish Film Institute.
He endured World War II under the Nazi regime. His family was on Oskar Schindler’s infamous list but chose to make their own risky escape, moving hiding places 72 times.
He was a pioneering filmmaker in Israel in the 1950s after working as an assistant to Polish directors Cenkalski and Buczowski as well as the Dutch director Yoris Ivens.
His full-length feature, Biblical story Joseph the Dreamer (1961), received multiple prizes around the world. Comedy One Pound Only (1964) set the local box office record of the year.
In 1968 Yoram, his wife Sandra and young family migrated to Australia after a chance positive review from a Melbourne reviewer for one of his short films.
They established Yoram Gross Film Studios – initially working from home. Yoram made commercials and produced film clips for the popular weekly variety program Bandstand.
Since 1977 he devoted his energies to making feature-length animated films and series, starting with Dot and the Kangaroo, which used a special aerial image technique of drawings over live action backgrounds.
He produced, directed and scripted more than 16 features, including eight which continued the adventures of Dot. To co-ordinate with the release of his films, he published books based on the films Dot and the Kangaroo, The Little Convict and Save the Lady.
The Magic Riddle (1991) was based on an original story by Yoram and mixed fairytales from Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and many other favourites.
In 1992 came the release of Blinky Bill, based on 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 became Australia's Animated Ambassador to millions of children around the world.
In 1996 Yoram Gross Film Studios formed a partnership with Village Roadshow Ltd., which bought 50 per cent of the company and Greg Coote and Graham Burke joined the board. The partners agreed to co-produce 10 animated series of 26 half-hours each over five years at the Yoram Gross-Village Roadshow studio in Sydney.
In March 1999, Germany's EM.TV acquired VRL’s stake in Yoram Gross Film Studios, creating Yoram Gross-EM.TV Pty Ltd, which committed to produce 10 series over the next five years, including Flipper & Lopaka, Tabaluga and Old Tom.
After being a member of the board for twenty years, Yoram’s son, talented composer Guy Gross, joined the company in 2004 as deputy chairman, in charge of overseeing all the production projects for the studio.
In 1995 Yoram was awarded the Order of Australia for his outstanding achievements and for his contribution to the Australian film industry.
In January 2006 Yoram and his family sold their stake to EM.Entertainment and Yoram Gross EM.TV was rebranded as Flying Bark Productions.
Following the sale Yoram and Sandra set up Yoram Gross Films Pty Ltd to continue their commitment to producing quality children’s entertainment.
He is survived by Sandra, their children Guy and Karen and five grandchildren.
Guy said, "My dear dad passed away quietly last night with all his family around him. Such a blessed life after such a horrid start. He was always so appreciative of opportunity and luck he eventually had. Always reminding us how lucky we are. No guilt. Just enormous appreciation and surprise.
"Creating until the end, a fall he took while painting eventually sped his decline. He was a wonderfully inappropriate jokester. Apologies that I proudly carry this mantle. Amongst other pearls of wisdom he would often remark 'Everything is bullshit.' Meaning everything except love and family."