23 April 2024

Yoram Gross: best Aus children's films

Yoram Gross (1926–2015) was born in Krakow Poland, to a Jewish family. He lived during WW2 under the Nazis, with his family on Oskar Sch­in­d­ler’s list of humans rescued from slaughter in 1944, but the Grosses survived by moving hiding places dozens of times.

Dot and the Kangaroo, 
1977, yoramgrossfilms

The Camel Boy
1984, IMDb

Yoram’s first love was music, studying at Krakow Uni post-war. He then studied film under Jerzy Toeplitz at the Polish Film In­stitute. In 1950 he moved to Israel, working as a newsreel and docum­entary cameraman, and later as an independent film producer and dir­ect­or. His first full-length feature, Joseph the Dreamer 1961, be­ing successful at a number of international film festivals. His com­edy One Pound Only 1964 set the box office record of the year. 

Thanks to newscom.au, we know that in 1968 Yoram, Sandra and the children migrated to Sydney. They est­ab­lished Yoram Gross Film Studios which became into a respected prod­uc­er of animation for cinema and television. Then he produced film clips for my best weekly tv mus­ic show,  Bandstand. At Sydney Film Festival in 1970 he won an award for The Politicians in the Best Austral­ian-Made Film category. Realising that there were no Australian films for child­ren, he decided to fill that gap.

In 1977, Gross made his first animated feature. Dot and the Kangaroo used an aerial image technique of drawings over live action backgrounds, filmed in NSW’s Blue Mountains. Although the film was much like other animated children's musicals starring animals, the film was essentially Australian in its use of symbols and accents eg it referenced Indigenous Australian culture in scenes disp­lay­ing anim­ation of cave paintings and aboriginal dancing.

In 1992, Yoram continued his interest 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. 

Blinky Bill
1992,  yoramgrossfilms

Gross acknowledged his animation style was old fashioned and had been superseded by computer-generated imagery. But the Australian Cen­tre for the Moving Image said Gross’ animations were dis­t­inctive and offered a freshness and simplicity that could be lost in the more com­plex visual world of computer-generated imagery. And I say his animal characters are more lovable.

In The Camel Boy (1984), young Ali and his camel-driver grandfather Moussa were part of an expedition through the Australian Outback. Aus­tralia has had camels since the mid-C19th but now they were faced with prejudice. Luckily Moussa's knowledge and the hardiness of his camels in the horrible desert conditions quickly proved vital to both the success of the expedition and the survival of its members.

Dot helped her native animal friends in Dot and the Koala (1984) when Bruce the koala told her of plans to build a massive dam that would destroy their environment. But the local farm animals believed that the creation of the dam would catapult their small country town into the C21st. With both sides fighting for what they believed was right, Dot's plans to wipe out the dam were jeopardised by the mayor Percy, a pig and local detectives Sherlock Bones the rat, and his mate Watson the cat.

In 1992 Gross' Blinky Bill film which quickly became a global success, and was soon awarded the prestigious Order of Aus­tralia for his contribution to the nation’s film industry. [Local woodlanders were carrying on with their life as normal.. when two men cleared the entire forest with their tractor. The an­imals evacuated as the trees fell down and homelessness continued. Bl­inky rescued the young female koala Nutsy from the fallen trees. They both run into Mr. Wombat who explained to him about his life].

Through their Yoram Gross Film Studios in Sydney, Gross had made 16 animated features and 12 TV series, bringing to life characters such as Dot and the Kang­ar­oo and the lovable Koala, Blinky Bill. Alas for me, my sons thanked me for taking them to the cinema for years, then said they'd be going by themselves from 1992!! 

Only in 1992 did Yoram Gross Film Studios start making animated TV ser­ies and in 1996 he sold a 50% stake in the company, with a view to expansion, to Australian exhibition and distrib­ut­ion comp­any Vill­age Roadshow Ltd. As his TV series and feature films sold in­ter­nat­ionally, German company EM.TV acquired the Village Roadshow stake in 1999, buy­ing out the founders in 2006 and renaming the company as Flying Bark Productions. Flying Bark continues to make films and TV series based on Gross creations.

Yoram Gross in Sydney, 2007

Australia's leading animation producer and director died in Sydney in 2015, aged 88. He was survived by his wife, 2 children and 5 grandchildren, a rare outcome for a Holo­caust sur­v­ivor. His legacy will live on with the Sydney Film Fest­ival’s annual award for the Best Animated Feature, named for Yoram Gross.


roentare said...

What a great story about this gentleman's life. I have seen the cartoons somewhere in the distant memory. I am going to google the series out

Anonymous said...

Blinky Bill was a lot of fun back then. Do young children still admire those stories today?

jabblog said...

The drawings are quite 'old-fashioned' I suppose, but they are charming and I can imagine the films being delightful.

Fun60 said...

What a wonderful story. I am not familiar with Yoram Gross and his animations. I'll have to check them out on youtube.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I have never heard of Yoram Gross, but what a life he had and of course I know of Dot and the Kangaroo and Blinky Bill

Andrew said...

Very impressive and rather a fun matter to read about.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, I would like to see these movies. So many children's stories these days are either pure whimsy or are about children focusing on their personal problems. These films seems to show the children and animals taking part in improving the world, helping others, or acknowledging what is happening on a global scale. Plus, they look cute!

River said...

I shamefully admit I have not seen any of those movies and I think also that many children of today's times wouldn't appreciate them.

Margaret D said...

I hadn't heard of the gentleman, it's so interesting to read about him and his doings.
Thank you Hels.

Mandy said...

Gosh, I remember Dot and the Kangaroo but I can't recall whether I saw it in England or when we moved to South Africa. Nevertheless, it had global reach! What a wonderful life he had

Hels said...


Did you grow up in Australia? You may well have read the Australian books that were written often years before Yoram Gross produced and directed his films, based on those books eg Dot and the Kangaroo, written by Ethel Pedley. Blinky Bill (1933) and Blinky Bill Grows Up (1934) were written by Dorothy Wall.

Hels said...


I hope so.. because these classic books and films tell stories that have been loved by Australian children for ages. They revive memories of my childhood but to be honest, my grandchildren have never mentioned them.

Hels said...


I suspect that children nowadays think of themselves are far more sophisticated than their parents and grandparents were. So oldfashioned and charming might both be good descriptors.

Hels said...


excellent idea. Have a young child or two with you, when you see the films.

Hels said...


same here. I knew of all the Australian children's books and films ages ago, but I didn't know of Yoram Gross until relatively recently. His characters were friendly and not at all violent.

Hels said...


sometimes memories of our childhood pop up into the brain, usually creating fond memories that had apparently disappeared when our Grade Four teacher waved us goodbye decades ago. I don't even know if my primary school still stands in the same redbrick building in the same tree lined street.

Hels said...


I have no clear idea about children's stories these days. I personally would not like children focusing on their personal problems, or on using violence, or on the deadly crises across the world. But just because I loved animals, forests and adventures, it doesn't mean young children will find these themes riveting today.

Now there are lots of relevant questions to be asked.

Hels said...


not shameful at all. But I agree with you that many children these days wouldn't know about his films, or appreciate them if they did know about them.

Hels said...


Yoram Gross had an appalling childhood in Germany, one that did not strike me as an ideal preparation for a career based on love, support, importance of animals, preservation of nature and simplicity. But perhaps his successful films specifically emerged from his internal sensitivity to loss and violence.

Hels said...


When we lived in the UK, spouse and I saw films from all over the British Commonwealth and felt very much at home. These were not children's animated films, of course, but Walkabout,
Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock were packed out with Commonwealth ex-pats.

Luiz Gomes said...

Boa noite de quarta-feira minha querida amiga. Muitos desenhos, não chegaram no Brasil.

Hels said...


I was certain that would have been true, before computers spread around the world in the 1990s.

But can your children get Yoram Gross films from Netflix or something similar?

My name is Erika. said...

Wow, I can't imagine getting through the war in hiding. One of my great-grandfather was from Krakow, and I realize how little I know about people from that city. These books sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing them Hels.

hels said...

Hopefully we continue learning later in life, especially family related history. School-based education is a great start to our learning, not an end. Even blogs are greatly helpful :)

retirementreflections said...

Hi, Hels - I love reading bits of history like this that are sadly not always widely known. Thank you for sharing Yoram Gross with us. He is an incredible example of the power of true resilence.

Rachel Phillips said...

What an interesting post. Thank you. I read every word.

Hels said...


Yoram Gross was amazing, wasn't he?
For people of our generation, it is fascinating to know what young people read or watch these days. I know what my own school set for English classes, and I know secondhand what my children read and saw. But my youngest grandchildren barely read, and watch films that I might think are totally unsuitable.

Hels said...


thank you. I too will go back and read what education experts have written about Gross' work in, say, the last 24 years.

Handmade in Israel said...

I have not heard of Yoram Gross but what a wonderful success story.

hels said...

The people who knew him best were those whose children were at the right age to watch Yoram's best works. Children were his most adoring fans :)