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Magna Carta

About the film

An experimental account of the historical growth of personal freedom and civil rights in Britain using prints, animated sequences, and re-enactment.


Release year
Production company
Gaumont-British Animation, Gaumont-British Instructional
Running time (minutes)
05 mins 32 secs

Original Description

The Story of Man’s Fight for Liberty
None Available.


  • Magna Carta was put into production in 1942, but was still unfinished in 1944 when the driving force behind it, Phillip Guedalla (Chair of the British Council Film Committee), died. It is not thought that the film was ever completely finished or distributed. This copy of the film is thus believed to be an unfinished experiment, and the title credits state it to be “An Experimental Treatment”.
  • Though there are no definite individual credits for Magna Carta, the British Council were considering actor Cecil Trouncer to be narrator and historian George Trevelyan to write the script. Mary Field was also involved in production.
  • Phillip Guedalla, himself a historical writer, was keen to produce a film on this topic, but had opinions on its format from the outset. He wrote to another member of the British Council FIlm Department, “It might be necessary to reconstruct the signing of Magna Carta itself, though I hope this could be done with a minimum of false beards.”
  • The animations in Magna Carta were produced by Gaumont-British Animation, a studio set up by J. Arthur Rank in order to challenge Disney’s supremacy in the animation market. Magna Carta is thought to be one of the earliest examples of its work. Famed animator David Hand, supervising director on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Bambi (1942) also worked on Magna Carta.