Footrot Flats by Murray Ball
Footrot Flats by Murray Ball Supplied

Creator of Footrot Flats Murray Ball has died aged 78

ICONIC New Zealand cartoonist Murray Ball has died aged 78.

Ball was the creator of the famous Footrot Flats cartoon strip, that was made into a movie in 1986. Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale was New Zealand's first feature-length animated film.

Ball reportedly died after a long battle with Alzheimer's at his home at Gisborne on the North Island.

His friend and colleague Tom Scott told The New Zealand Herald, he received a call on Sunday afternoon to say Ball had died.

"I know he had been ill," Scott told the newspaper.

"He was being nursed at home for a terrible illness."

"(He was) funny and goofy and generous, and incredibly serious about inequality".

"He mourned the New Zealand he remembered being fair, and I guess if he had his life over again, Murray would rather have been an editorial cartoonist."

He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002.

The cartoon strip that celebrated farming life, sold millions of copies in Australian and New Zealand at the height of its popularity in the 1980s.

The protagonist of the cartoon was a sheepdog owner by Wal Footrot called The Dog that lived on a farm called Footrot Flats, who had a number of alter egos including The Scarlet Manuka and the the Grey Ghost of The Forest.

Two of his most colourful sayings were: "Ye Gods! and "The blood of Grey Ghost flows in these veins".

A border collie, The Dog had a real name he didn't like and never let anyone reveal. He was cast an intelligent, devoted, and competent if somewhat cowardly canine who could only take through thought bubbles.

Wal was a simple farmer, with a more than simple love of rugby union who ran a large farm with a variety of animals.

The series also spawned a musical and a theme park in New Zealand.

The movie's soundtrack featured music by Dave Dobbin and its theme song Slice of Heaven was a hit single in Australia and New Zealand.

The news comes days after famous Australian cartoonist Bill Leak died.

President of the Australian Cartoonists Association Jules Faber paid tribute to Ball.

"It is with great sadness that the ACA received the news of the death of Murray Ball," he said.

"It is always heartbreaking when a cartoonist of such standing and with such a contribution to popular culture passes away.

"However, we are left with his enormous legacy to cartooning from his childrens' book to his books for adults through to his so well-beloved series for everyone, Footrot Flats.

"Murray was a great influence to many Australian cartoonists and will be long remembered by his friends across the sea here in Australia.

"On behalf of the ACA I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Pam, and children."

- News Corp Australia Network

News Corp Australia

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