South Shields artist Sheila Graber’s magical 12 Days of Christmas animation unearthed 50 years after production

Rare footage of an award-winning Christmas animation has been shared with the Shields Gazette – and it was made in South Tyneside 50 years ago.

Sheila Graber’s 12 Days of Christmas became a hit when it was first shown in 1975.

And unbeknown to Sheila at the time, it was the first step on her journey to a full-time career in animation.

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Now we can share it with you once more thanks to the North East Film Archive which sent this superb clip to us.

Sheila Graber and the 70s cine film which became an award winner.

Our thanks go to NEFA and to Sheila who told us all about the film’s history and how it all started at King George School.

"The film came from doing Christmas decorations on the school walls. I drew them and the students coloured them in,” she said.

Sheila then invited the school’s madrigal group to come and sing at her house.

They sang the 12 Days of Christmas and Sheila said: “I recorded it on an old Grundig tape and later made the movie.”

A still from Sheila's original film. Photo: North East Film Archive.

She remembers that the madrigal group was led by Brenda Orwin.

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Just the start for talented Sheila

But that was just the start for this great mini movie. It won a national award and also appeared on the Clapperboard TV programme.

And then, it was spotted by Nicole Jouve who was a French agent and the agent for the Magic Roundabout.

Another clip from Sheila's production of the 12 Days of Christmas. Photo: North East Film Archive.
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Nicole contacted Sheila and it was the beginning of Sheila’s journey to becoming a professional animator in 1980.

Sheila, who won a Lifetime Achievement honour at the Best of South Tyneside Awards earlier this year, told the Gazette: “I made a book of the images I did in the film.”

She said that same book was on sale at venues including The Word, South Shields Museum and Amazon.

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Award-winning animator Sheila Graber.

NEFA has a huge catalogue of more than 70,000 items of original film, video tape, and born-digital material.

Its team has painstakingly taken on the task of preserving, cataloguing, and digitising these vital collections of reminders of our past.

The archive operates over two regional sites: Yorkshire Film Archive, based in York, and North East Film Archive, in Middlesbrough.

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Find out more about its work and collections by visiting the archive’s website online here.