Chuck Jones and John Needham discuss the filming of Tex Avery - King of Cartoons over lunch. Picture: Geoff Mulligan.
John Needham began his television career as a film editor at the BBC's Ealing Film Studios where he worked mainly for the Music & Arts and Drama departments. He left film editing to become the Deputy Series Edtor of the BBC's flagship arts series Omnibus. After three series of Omnibus, the second of which won a BAFTA award, he produced the special feature-length version of Ballet Rambert's Cruel Garden created by Lindsay Kemp and Christopher Bruce and for which he won BBCtv's very first Prix Italia for Music. He also won an ACE award in the United States for the same programme.
Ballet Rambert's Cruel Garden created by Lindsay Kemp and Christopher Bruce with Christopher Bruce as the Poet and Yair Vardi as the Bull. Music by Carlos Miranda. Costume design: Lindsay Kemp, Set design: Ralph Koltai. Director of Photography: Nat Crosby, Produced by John Needham and Directed by Colin Nears. Copyright BBCtv
With Miguel Angel Perez Campos he produced Lindsay Kemp's highly acclaimed A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Celestino Coronado with music by Carlos Miranda - for Television Espanola. Shown by Channel 4 in the UK, it was distributed as a feature film by Mainline Pictures.
He produced and directed four programmes in the much praised Central Television anthropological series Village Earth which took him to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the Australian outback, sub-Saharan Africa and up-country Cameroun.
Picture: Donald Cooper.
Above left: Village Earth. John Needham on clapper board duty in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Centre: Lucy Burge and Christopher Bruce in Cruel Garden. Right: the specially commissioned RadioTimes cover promoting Omnibus: Bugs and Daffy and Chuck and Porky which John Needham produced and directed.
He has had a lifelong fascination with animation and has collaborated on a number of documentaries about the history of animation with five times Oscar winner Chuck Jones, the celebrated Warner Bros. animation director. Below is a short extract from their Tex Avery documentary for Turner Broadcasting.
Copyright: Turner Broadcasting
For the BBC he produced Andrew Piddington's highly acclaimed feature-length dramatised documentary about German caricaturist George Grosz, Enemy of the State. He produced and directed Chuck Amuck: The Movie for Warner Bros. to accompany the publication of Chuck Jones' autobiography Chuck Amuck. For ten years he was in turn the Managing Editor and Controller of Programmes of Mentorn Films which was repeatedly voted the UK's leading independent production company during the nineties. He was instrumental in raising the $35m funding for Gerry Anderson's 26-part sci-fi series for American television, Space Precinct. During his time at Mentorn he was responsible for overseeing literally hundreds of productions for all the UK's leading broadcasters as well as a number foreign broadcasters. He also produced and/or directed many programmes for Mentorn including You Are, Are You Not, Russell Harty? for which he won a Royal Television Society award for light entertainment.
Above left: Publicity for the Japanese anime series Firestorm. Centre: Officer Podley from Space Precinct discusses policing with two of Nevada's finest. Right: Kenneth Haigh and Mike Gwylim in George Grosz - Enemy of the State.
After leaving Mentorn, he formed Anderson Entertainment with Gerry and Mary Anderson with offices at Pinewood Studios. He and Gerry developed and produced a number of live action and animation projects but none more challenging than creating Firestorm, a 26 x 22 min anime series for Japanese television and supervising its production in Tokyo.
Concept art by Steve Begg.