We are very sad to announce that our donor, Robin Allan, died in January this year, aged 79. Robin was the author of the ground-breaking study Walt Disney and Europe and had very generously donated over 1500 items on Disney and animation to the museum, making our collection probably the largest public holding on Disney in Britain.
Robin grew up in Africa and Hampshire and after National Service and Cambridge taught and produced plays and TV Programmes for the British Council in Kuwait, Malta and Iran for many years before settling in the Peak District and working as a lecturer in English and Drama at Manchester College of Adult Education. He was married to Janet Allan MBE, and had three children, Katherine, Clare, and Frank.
In the 1980s Robin started research for his doctorate The European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney, which was supervised here at the University of Exeter, by Richard Maltby. His research took him to Los Angeles, where as his friend, the other great British Disney expert, Brian Sibley, explains, he; “met and instantly endeared himself to many of the legendary artists, animators, designers, directors and voice talents who had been involved in the creation of the classic films”. The interviews he conducted with these talents form a very important part of Robin’s collection at the museum, as are the sketches and animation cels many of them gave him.
In 1998 the PhD thesis became Walt Disney and Europe a book which, as Brian says, “harnessed Robin’s exceptional breadth of knowledge and his considerable critical perception in a pioneering study on the impact that artists, writers and filmmakers from Europe had made on the films of the Disney studio”. A very successful art exhibition in Paris in 2006 was based on Robin’s research.
In 2007 he began to donate his collection and archive of research to The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, visiting us in 2009 to give an inspiring and fascinating lecture. We had hoped that he could visit again last year to deliver the final tranche of material to us and speak at the Dorset County Museum where many highlights from his collection formed part of the Animate! Exhibition. Sadly illness stopped this from happening.
This March Janet kindly brought down the remainder of the collection to the museum. We are immensely proud to be the home of The Robin Allan Collection, an extraordinary resource that is exceedingly well used by scholars and students and is a tribute to Robin’s research, personality and love of the enchantment of Disney and its artists.
In his eulogy at Robin’s funeral, Brian Sibley gave this moving tribute to Robin:
“Robin was a man of great generosity: passing on books (often first editions) that he thought the recipient would enjoy and sharing many of his precious animation treasures with myself and other Disney friends. As a scholar, he was similarly gracious, selflessly believing that knowledge (however hard he had worked to acquire it) was not his personal possession, but something of which he was simply a custodian.
The legacy of his scholarship resides in his book and articles and – for future generations of film students – the bequest of his research papers and animation art collection to Exeter University….
For almost eighty years the world has been fortunate to have enjoyed the presence of this hugely endearing, highly talented, deliciously eccentric and generous-spirited, gentle-man, the memory of whose wit, wisdom and unflagging enthusiasms we have all had the privilege of sharing and which will live on forever in our hearts and memories.”
The picture shows Robin on his visit toExeter surrounded by Disney ephemera.
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