First glimpse of ss Great Britain animated film on view

Issue date: 13 May 2010

ss Great Britain A preview of a new animated film about the salvage of the ss Great Britain has been released by the School of Creative Arts at the University of the West of England (UWE).

The release of this short trailer marks the 40th anniversary of the world's media descending on Montevideo, Uruguay, to cover preparations for the last leg of the ship's journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 'Visualising Voices' project is a collaboration between UWE and the ss Great Britain Trust aimed at ensuring the story of the ship's rescue from the Falkland Islands and her homecoming to Bristol reaches a new generation.

The animated film helps bring to life the oral history interviews carried out by the ss Great Britain Trust. It has been designed for use on a variety of platforms, including online, for broadcast, and as part of a new exhibition at Brunel's ss Great Britain entitled 'The Incredible Journey' which opens on 17 July.

The story of the ship's journey is retold in three parts covering the salvage, the voyage on a pontoon across the Atlantic Ocean, and homecoming to Bristol. Each part has a different style, treatment and colour palette. The preview trailer will focus on the salvage operation, including sinking a 3,000-tonne pontoon below the ss Great Britain to raise her from the seabed.

In 1970, the salvage of the ss Great Britain attracted global media attention. It is estimated that 100,000 people lined the River Avon to see the ss Great Britain return, and eight million watched the story unfold on television.

The memories used to inspire the animation include those of divers, technicians and engineers involved in the salvage operation, a Falkland Islander who recalls the ship's previous resting place on the other side of the world and Bristolians who witnessed the return of the rusting iron hulk in 1970.

Chris Webster, Deputy Head of UWE's Bristol School of Animation said, “While most audiences are familiar with animated films, the animated documentary is a rather unusual form of filmmaking. This approach presented us with many challenges throughout production but we also found it was very well suited to this particular subject. In order to fully explore the complexities of this wonderful and rather epic event we have used a mix of very traditional and high tech contemporary digital animation techniques. In doing so we have created a simulation, interpretation and representation of the salvage and return to Bristol of Brunel's ss Great Britain, one that gets to the heart of what is for many a very personal story.”

The full version of the film will be shown to coincide with celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the return of the ss Great Britain in July 1970.

Gill Sandford, Acting Dean at UWE's School of Creative Arts, said, “This project tells the global story of what has become an iconic part of Bristol's maritime history. Access to the ss Great Britain Trust's archive of photographs and recordings has given the project team a wealth of material to inspire them in creating a unique representation of the salvage operation.”

The ss Great Britain Trust's Director of Museum and Educational Services Rhian Tritton commented, “This is an excellent example of what can be achieved through partnership working. The animation demonstrates how creativity and people's memories can combine to make a truly beautiful and moving piece of art. We hope that our contributors, those who gave us their memories and the Bristolians who saw the ship return, as well as younger generations who have previously been unaware of the story, will all enjoy it.”

Ms Tritton added, “It is particularly apt that we will share the trailer for the animated film with the world on the same day that 40 years ago the global media descended on Montevideo to film the crew and the ship as she prepared to set off for the final leg of the trans-Atlantic voyage back home to Bristol.”

Visualising Voices is part of 'The Incredible Journey', a project marking the 40th anniversary of the great ship's homecoming to Bristol in 2010. Visualising Voices is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Knowledge Catalyst award and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To view the trailer of the animated film visit


Editor's notes

• The ss Great Britain is the world's first propeller-driven, iron-hulled, ocean-going ship, designed by Isambard Brunel and launched in Bristol in 1843. She had been in the Falklands since 1886 after being damaged in a severe storm. In the 1930s the ship was scuttled having been used by the Falkland Islands Company as a storage hulk. The hulk was rescued and towed on a pontoon all the way from the South Atlantic, returning to the same dock where she was built, 127 years to the day after she had left it. For more information visit

• Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £112 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,300 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

The AHRC Knowledge Catalyst scheme supports partnerships between universities and non-academic partners such as business, charities, not-for-profit organisations and some publicly funded bodies. The scheme aims to exploit the research base in the arts and humanities for commercial and/or cultural gain and make such activities accessible to organisations for whom the KTP scheme is not appropriate. The scheme works by identifying a project that will significantly enhance the operations of the Enterprise Partner, and employing a recent graduate to work on the project, supported by an academic.

Back to top