Vale Bruce Petty, filmmaker and artist

Bruce Petty (Image: Australian Media Hall of Fame)

Oscar-winning animated filmmaker and satirist Bruce Petty has died aged 93.

He is known for his short Leisure, an exploration of the history of work and leisure, which won an Academy Award in 1977, as well as 2006 documentary Global Haywire, for which he received the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Director.

A renowned cartoonist, Petty’s work has featured in The New YorkerEsquirePunchThe BulletinThe Australian, and The Age.

His family confirmed he died peacefully on Friday morning and would be “sadly missed”.

Born in Doncaster, Melbourne, Petty had his first taste of animation at age 19 when he got a job working for the Owen brothers’ animation studio in Box Hill, where he did fill-ins for shorts and advertisements.

After taking up further study at RMIT, he became inspired by the work of Polish painter Feliks Topolski, going on to parody some of his work in his own drawings.

A stint in London, where he was published a handful of times in weekly magazine Punch, was followed by a stopover in New York and sales of cartoons to Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, and the New Yorker, before he eventually came back to Australia.

Petty continued his career as a cartoonist at The Daily Mirror, after which he became the first-ever daily cartoonist at The Australian, a role he held from 1964 to 1976. In that time, he also published political cartoon book Australia Fair, an irreverent take on Australian society. From The Australian, he moved on to The Age, where his work would appear across the next four decades.

It was in the 70s that he began to transfer his skills over to film, with Leisure followed by 19-minute art exploration The Magic Arts in 1978 and Megalomedia, a satirical inquiry into the origins of media, in 1981. His last film, 2012’s Utopia, combined live-action sequences with animation to cotemplate how we perceive the future.

Speaking on the filmmaking process, Petty told quarterly journal Artist Profile in 2015 that while it was difficult relying on “editors and commissioning bodies”, there were “so many tantalising things to do”.

“I’ll be battling away with some dopey idea until they drag me away to the clinic,” he said.

“I’ll be amazed if some of the kids that know this digital stuff and can paint and can think and have ideas, don’t come up with something.”