Dennis Connelly


Born c.1891, Dennis Connelly was an Australian illustrator and cartoonist. Living in Melbourne, he contributed to The Comic Australian, a magazine launched in 1911, before embarking aboard the P&O steamer Malwa for London in October 1912, as a student.

After serving through WWI, Connelly sought to establish himself as a Fleet Street catoonist, submitting to several papers, including the Daily Mail, before getting a regular place on the London evening newspaper The Star.

Connelly was intent on making a life for himself in London and had become engaged to Gwendoline Adams, an English war widow a couple of years older than himself, but When David Low, celebrated political cartoonist of the Australian paper the Bulletin was invited to join the Star in 1919, on the strength of a published volume of his cartoons, Connelly was obliged to return to Melbourne as Low's replacement. (The Bulletin was published in Sidney, but both Low and now Connelly worked from the Melbourne office, as Melbourne was at that time the seat of government.)

In May 1920 Gwendoline and her 17-year-old son emigrated to Australia to join him. The same year Connelly joined the Melbourne Savage Club, and published a collection of his cartoons about Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne, and his conflict with the Prime Minister "Billy" Hughes, under the title The Book of Daniel.

Gwendoline and Dennis married in December 1921, the Melbourne weekly magazine Table Talk reporting the event on the 5 January 1922 in their "Weddings" column.

Connelly seems to disappear from the Bulletin after 1921. From 1928 to 1930 he provided illustrations for Table Talk, but with Gwendoline's son Ufton now working on a sheep station, Dennis was once again looking towards London, and in 1930 the couple returned to England, taking a flat in Powis Square, W11, an area in some decline, but popular with immigrants. They returned to Australia in 1932, but Dennis returned to London in July 1933, and by the end of the year, with the backing of Sir George Rowley Hill, baronet, he had established a studio to make animated cartoons, and in April 1934 Gwendoline returned to join him.

Dennis had recruited his largely femail staff from London Art schools. Joy Batchelor was one of these recruits, joining the original soho studio in early 1934. On the successful completion of their first cartoon, Dick Whittington, featuring koalas Billy and Tilly, and the negotiation of a six-film distribution contract with the British arm of MGM, Dennis and Sir George registered Dennis Connelly, Ltd in September 1934, with Sir George as Chairman.

The second Billy and Tilly film, Robin Hood was completed in late 1935, and registered for release by MGM on 4 November, with a preview showing at the Empire Theatre. No review of either film has yet come to light - indeed, Dick Whittington seems not to have been registered for distribution - but it would appear that the returns were never going to justify the expense, and the decision was made to terminate the series. Dennis Connelly, Ltd was put into receivership on 3 January 1936. It seems that the backers of the studio were interested in promoting a new colour processing system, which may have been Ondiacolor. The resulting cartoons had been unsatisfactory, and a new series featuring a boy and girl, possibly model animation, was proposed instead.

Sir George was made chairman of a new company, British Ondiacolour, Ltd, set up in June 1936 to promote productions using the new system. Whether any animation was produced is unknown, but nothing was registered. The company produced a few live-action travelogues, but the process could not compete with Dufaycolor and Gasparcolor, and the more expensive Technicolor was steadily establishing itself as the most reliable system. British Ondiacolour, Ltd went into receivership on 23 April 1938.

Dennis Connelly had made one further foray into animation in 1937 - an arrangement with a new Newreel company, National News, Ltd to produce a weekly topical animated cartoon insert, apparently to be done in an economical manner, and the first National News newsreel was shown in the second week of October. The whole project may have been overambitious - after technical problems and the concerted opposition of the established Newsreels, the newsreel was suspended "to permit reorganization": it was cancelled in February 1938.

While the Billy & Tilly cartoons were in production the Connellys had been staying, along with Sir George, at the St Georges Hotel, West Bolton Gardens, Earls Court. When the series was cancelled this arrangement came to an end: Sir George moved into quarters in the old Brompton Road and Dennis and Gwendoline took a flat in nearby Drayton Gardens.

The Connellys remained in London throughout WWII, and finally retired to Australia in 1948.

No reviews of the Billy & Tilly cartoons have yet surfaced, let alone any sign of the films themselves.


Dick Whittington(unreleased, 1934) Producer, Director, Designer, Animator
Robin Hood(Dennis Connelly Ltd 1935) Producer, Director, Designer
National News (cartoon insert)(Sound City 1937) Animator, Director

Links to Other Sites

Back to top of page

Peter Hale
Last updated 2015