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Gerald Potterton, “Heavy Metal” Director and Animator, Dies at 91: Cause of Death Explained

British-Canadian director, producer, writer, and animator Gerald Potterton passed away on Tuesday at a Quebec hospital. He was 91 years old. Read on to know how did Gerald Potterton die, what happened to him, and what was the cause of his death.

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Potterton was best known for directing 1981’s animated cult favorite “Heavy Metal.” He also contributed to the memorable “Liverpool” sequence in the 1968 Beatles film “Yellow Submarine.”

The tragic news of his death was announced by the National Film Board of Canada. “Gerald came to Canada and the NFB to be part of a new wave of storytelling, one that was fresh and irreverent, and he brought great wit and creativity to every project,” the statement by Claude Joli-Coeur, NFB Chairperson and Government Film Commissioner said.

“He was also a builder, helping to lay the foundation for today’s independent Canadian animation industry with Potterton Productions…He was an exceptional artist and a truly nice man,” it adds.


How did Gerald Potterton die?

Gerald Potterton passed away on Tuesday, August 23, 2024, at the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville, Quebec. He had spent most of his life in the city where he took his last breath.

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The statement by the National Film Board Canada which confirmed Potterton’s passing didn’t reveal the specific cause of his death. His family was by his side at the time of his death.

What was the cause of Gerald Potterton’s death?

It’s speculated that Gerald Potterton died of natural causes as he didn’t have any prior major illness. He was only struggling with the issues related to old age as he was 91. The family admitted him to the Quebec hospital when his condition worsened.

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The veteran director and animator then took his last breath on Tuesday and left for his heavenly abode. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.


Gerald Potterton Early Life and Career in Films

Gerald Potterton was born on March 8, 1931, in London. He attended the Hammersmith Art School in England and later emigrated to Canada in 1955. He lived in Cowansville where he started working on live and animated motion pictures to start his career in film.

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Potterton directed a number of live-action films in the 1960s like “The Ride” (1963) and “The Railrodder” (1965). The latter featured Buster Keaton in one of his last starring roles. Later, he started his own indie studio, Potterton Productions.

His studio produced a number of films and TV projects, including his Oscar Wilde adaptation “The Selfish Giant” (1972), which also earned him his third Oscar nomination. He was nominated three times for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

His best work, Heavy Metal, came in 1981. Potterton also collaborated with the NFB on his second Leacock adaptation “The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones” (1983) and co-created the animated children’s series “Smoggies” which ran for four years till 1990.

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Potterton wrote and illustrated a popular children’s book about Joseph-Armand Bombardier, “L’homme des neiges” in 2020. He was honored by the World Animation Celebration in 1998 as one of “Ten Men Who Have Rocked the Animation World.”


Fans paying tribute to Gerald Potterton

Fans, industry colleagues, and friends have been paying tribute to Potterton ever since the heartbreaking news of his passing emerged. The legendary director and animator gave this world a lot of artsy works to remember him forever.

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“R.I.P. a real one, and a Canadian king. Heavy Metal is the damnedest thing, a stupidly entertaining joy for the 12-year-old in all of us, and he had quite a career beside it, from NFB shorts to animating on Yellow Submarine,” wrote William Friedkin Truths.

“RIP Gerald Potterton. Thank you for the work on @thebeatles‘ Yellow Submarine, collaborating with Buster Keaton, and of course, the 1981 cult classic, Heavy Metal. It was the film that introduced me to Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, and Devo. Say hello to Ivan Reitman for us,” wrote Zachary Nathanson.

Canadian International Picture also paid respect to the departed soul. Their statement said:

“We’re very sad to learn Gerald Potterton has died. In the short time we knew him, he was always full of enthusiasm and vitality. He generously contributed to our Buster Keaton Blu-ray and our upcoming RAINBOW BOYS disc (which is almost complete) should serve as a fitting tribute”

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