Blinky Bill film-maker and producer Yoram Gross dies aged 88
The Polish-born animator migrated to Australia in 1968 and was also responsible for the groundbreaking animated feature Dot and the Kangaroo.
By Monica Tan
September 22, 2015
Australian film-maker Yoram Gross, responsible for some of the country’s biggest animated hits Blinky Bill and Dot and the Kangaroo, has died at the age of 88.
Guy Gross told Inside Film his father died quietly on Monday by his family’s side. Guy described him as “a wonderfully inappropriate jokester” and said he was “creating until the end”. A fall he took while painting eventually sped his decline.
Gross was born in Kraków, Poland in 1926 and began studying film when he was 20. Guy said his father lived “a blessed life after such a horrid start” in reference to an early childhood spent under the Nazi regime during the second world war. According to his studio bio, his family “was on Oskar Schindler’s list, but chose to make their own risky escape, moving hiding places 72 times”.
His films often starred child characters overcoming adversity and had strong messages of conservation at their heart. “If you watch my films carefully you will see the history of my life,” he once said.
Guy said of his father, “he was always so appreciative of [the] opportunity and luck he eventually had. Always reminding us how lucky we are. No guilt. Just enormous appreciation and surprise.”
It was in Israel in the 1950s that Gross’s directing career first kicked off, with early feature film Joseph the Dreamer (1961) picking up international film festival awards and One Pound Only (1964) finding local box office success.
In 1968 Gross migrated to Australia with his family and shortly after established Yoram Gross Film Studios in Sydney. It would eventually become one of Australia’s most successful production companies.
When Gross made Dot and the Kangaroo in 1977 it was only the second animated feature ever made in Australia, and the first to find commercial success. It led to eight sequels starring Dot, with the last chapter Dot in Space released in 1994.
Gross’s other successful franchise began when he brought Dorothy Wall’s book character Blinky Bill to life on the big screen. Blinky Bill: The Mischievous Koala around $2m locally at the box office and continued on as a long-running television series.
The film-maker died just days after the anthropomorphic koala was given a film reboot in Blinky Bill the Movie. His most recent credit was producing the children’s animated series The Woodlies, which aired in 2012.
In 1995 Gross was awarded the Order of Australia for his outstanding achievements over nearly half a century of film-making and for his contribution to the Australian film industry.
Guardian Australia film writer Luke Buckmaster said Gross was a hugely influential voice in Australian film and television and leaves a wonderful legacy.
He is survived by his wife Sandra, who was executive producer of the original Blinky Bill movie, their children Guy and Karen and five grandchildren.
Born: 10/18/1926, Krakow, Malopolskie, Poland
Died: 9/21/2015, Sydney, Cumberland, Australia
Yoram Gross’ western – graphic artist:
Inn of the Damned – 1975