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Published May 2nd 2011
Be inspired and draw strength from the journey of life experienced by Yoram Gross. Australia's animation pioneer, the creator of Blinky BIll and Dot and the Kangaroo, tells his story of surving Nazi occupied Poland as a young jewish boy.
Yoram Gross and Blinky Bill cel.
I bet you thought that Blinky Bill was just a cartoon character. In fact, his mischievous spirit lives inside his creator, prolific film-maker Yoram Gross. After 45 years of entertaining generations of children worldwide with his quintessentially Australian characters, Gross now tells his own story of survival, adventure and overcoming evil in his autobiography, My Animated Life.
There are echoes of Gross' life in his unique characters, including Blinky Bill and those in Dot and the Kangaroo. The lively koala Blinky Bill's home was destroyed, he lost his father and embarked on a search for his mother, just as Gross did in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.
Sandra Gross, Yoram's wife and business partner, says that there isn't a film he has made that doesn't contain elements of his life. "Blinky Bill is very cheeky, brave and ready for adventures – certainly Yoram's character is as well."
Blinky Bill the Mischievous Koala
During the War, Gross played many roles to disguise his Jewish identity. He became an organist in a church and hosted a séance. His memoir reads like an adventure story. Disguised as a Polish Army officer, he escorted friends to safety and even smuggled cheese and vodka for a wedding.
Sometimes I behaved foolishly, and sometimes like a complete idiot. Sometimes I behaved like Tarzan. Other occasions were more suited to a James Bond story," he writes in My Animated Life. Gross and his family were on Oscar Schindler's List but his mother didn't trust the industrialist and the family were forced to separate. Yoram hid in 72 different places in the four years of the war.
This book will make you cry and will also make you laugh as you marvel at his comic wit and mischievous spirit, his ability to survive through atrocious times. His story is reflected through the cheerful characters which have delighted children in over a dozen feature films and in television series. "I make films for children and children understand them, and that is for me the main thing. I don't much mind if some adults don't appreciate them," he says.
Gross' story spans three continents: growing up in Poland; his award-winning film-making career in Israel, when he shared a festival prize with Roman Polanski; and becoming a pioneer of live action and animation in Australia.
Yoram Gross the filmmaker.
Schindler's Ark author Thomas Keneally says that Yoram's vivid book has a force of its own, "combining all the brio of youth with all the knife-edge perils of being a Jewish man hiding out and on the run. Although he had to lie, he reached out to truth. Although surrounded by evil, he reached out to goodness. Despite the surrounding horrors, the book is surprisingly cheerful," Keneally continues.
My Animated Life
From his Woollahra studio in his 84th year Gross is constantly creating; from an upcoming photography exhibition, producing his latest children's TV series, Art Alive, and entering his short film The Forest Holocaust into international film festivals.