Will Spencer's Obituary from The Times Newspaper, London, 2nd May 2002

 

Bestselling cartoonist who created the Animal Crackers and a landmark advertising slogan for Hovis

A GRAPHIC artist with a light touch, Will Spencer drew the daily pocket cartoon, Animal Crackers, which was published in the News Chronicle from 1954 onwards, and then, when that paper folded in 1960, in the Daily Mail until 1971. With its endearingly depicted animals and birds, as often as not portrayed with gentle humour in comically disastrous situations, Animal Crackers was a great favourite with a generation of newspaper readers. Like many graphic artists, Spencer had begun his career in advertising where his slogan and artwork for the Hovis advertisement, "Don't say brown, say Hovis", became one of the best-known food-and-drink catchphrase~ of its era.
Will Spencer was born in Canning Town, East London, in 1921. He trained at his local art school in West Ham and with the advent of the Second World War enlisted in the RAF. He qualified first as an aircrew wireless operator and then as an air gunner. He was 
commissioned in 1943 and became a signals leader.

 

 For most of the war he flew in Transport Command as a wireless operator, as part of the ferry service which brought back across the Atlantic American aircraft for the RAF. Among these were the Liberator and Hudson maritime patrol bombers and the Dakota transport. On one occasion Spencer received a commendation for picking up a signal from a distressed United States Army Air Force aircraft, which was in trouble. His speed in sending the signal on was crucial to the aircrew's survival.

Spencer was demobilised in 1946 with the rank of flying officer, and returned to civilian life to ply his craft as a graphic artist. He was soon making a living in advertising, and it was while working for an agency in London that he created in the 1950s the famous Hovis advertisement "Don't say brown, say Hovis", which commended the company's celebrated loaf to Britain's housewives from hoardings up and down the country.

In 1951 Spencer submitted a strip cartoon to the News Chronicle, which featured endearing aliens in amusing situations as they experienced life on planet Earth. However, the proprietors of the Chronicle, the Cadbury family who were Quakers, could not bring themselves to approve of the cartoon on religious grounds. Nevertheless, they liked Spencer's work and asked him to submit 
other ideas.

He came up with Animal Crackers, which was to run for the next 20 years. Another series, Moments with Mama, appeared in Woman's Own during the 1960s.

In 1959 Spencer's work caught the eye of Joseph Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards. Both Spencer and his wife, Roberta, whom he had married the previous year, were taken on a whirlwind trip to Kansas City, the American headquarters of Hallmark Cards, where he worked on greetings card designs for the company. Many of these became bestsellers. Later his animal cartoons were 
syndicated to America and Europe. Towards the end of the 1960s he became a friend of the late Idries Shah who made him an honorary Sufi. It was Shah's influence that was instrumental in his having the first of his two books of cartoons published: Animal Crackers (1969), and Animal 
Antics (1985).

From 1970 Spencer ran the Orchard Studio gallery in Chichester, selling his own silk screen printed, framed cartoons directly to the public. A well-known landmark in Chichester for many years was his giant wooden giraffe, which he designed and made, loftily surveying customers when they visited the gallery.

He is survived by his wife Roberta. There were no children.

Will Spencer, cartoonist, was born on April 23, 1921. He died on April 20, 2002, aged 80.

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