Yoram Gross, animation, producer & director, died at 88

  Dead Famous

Yoram Jerzy Gross, born October 18, 1926 and died September 21, 2015, he was an Australian producer of children’s and family entertainment.

His company is best known for producing Blinky Bill and Dot and the Kangaroo.

Yoram was an animation producer and director. Internationally acclaimed for his films and television series, Yoram established a worldwide reputation for the adaptation of children’s characters from books and films to animation that win the hearts of children worldwide.

He was known as a storyteller whose distinctive, non-violent films and series possess a contemporary charm that crosses all international barriers.

Yoram had a rich personal history and used the mediums of film and television to share his life experiences.

Born in Kraków, Poland, to a Jewish family, Yoram endured World War II under the Nazi regime.

The son of film director Natan Gross, his family was on Oskar Schindler’s famous list, but chose to make their own risky escape, moving hiding places 72 times.

Yoram 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.

Yoram 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, Yoram became one of Jerzy Toeplitz’ first students.

Toeplitz founded the Polish Film Institute (he also founded the Swiss Film Institute and set up, at the invitation of the Federal Government, the Australian Film and Television School).

Yoram commenced his career as an assistant to Polish directors Cenkalski and Buczowski, as well as the Dutch director, Joris Ivens. He studied script writing under Carl Foreman.

In 1950, Yoram 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 film festivals all over the world.

His full-length feature, Joseph the Dreamer (1961), a biblical story, received special prizes in many countries all over the world.

His world famous 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. Yoram won more than 80 international awards for his various films.

In 1968, Yoram , his wife Sandra and young family migrated to Australia and lived in Sydney.

They established Yoram Gross Film Studio – initially working from home. Yoram 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 the Sydney 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, Yoram 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.

Yoram 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 and Television Awards.

After that, Yoram 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 1986 American Film and Video Festival.

To co-ordinate with the release of his films, Yoram also published books based on the films Dot and the Kangaroo, The Little Convict and Save the Lady. In addition, ranges of merchandising products have been released.

Yoram ‘s 1991 animated film, The Magic Riddle, has a more international flavour than his previous children’s films made in Australia.

It is based on an original story he came up with, and is a mixture of fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and many other old time favourites.

In 1992, Yoram continued in animating Australian children’s classics, with 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 Blinky Bill’s two series, The Adventures of Blinky Bill and Blinky Bill’s Extraordinary Excursion, totaling 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 1995, Yoram was named a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s New Years’ Day Honours List for his services to the Australian film industry, particularly in animation techniques.

Following Blinky Bill, Yoram 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 Yoram 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. Yoram and EM.TV also launched Junior in Germany.

Yoram 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 – from his early days of experimental film making in Israel, through to excerpts from his box office successes.

One of the highlights of the tribute was the screening of Yoram ‘s latest project, Autumn in Krakow, a poignant short film on his home town of Krakow, based on his late brother Nathan’s poetry.

Yoram’s autobiography ‘My Animated Life’ was released in April 2011.

Yoram Gross died at age 88 on September 21, 2015.