John Ryan was a British animator and cartoonist. Born in Edinburgh in 1921, Ryan showed a great passion for drawing very early in life. After serving as an officer with the Lincolnshire Regiment in Burma during the Second World War Ryan studied art at the Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster. In 1948, Ryan was appointed assistant art master at Harrow School, where he remained until 1955.
Whilst teaching at Harrow, Ryan first created the famous Captain Pugwash character in the form of a comic strip for The Eagle, a children’s comic, in 1950. Ryan contributed several other characters to the publication, but his seafaring character would prove to be one of his most enduring works. Shortly after the first appearance of Captain Pugwash, the character appeared in the Radio Times as a regular comic strip running for a total of eight years. In 1957 the artist was commissioned by the BBC to produce a series of innovative real-time animated short films featuring Captain Pugwash, which continued to be broadcast from 1958 to 1966. In 1974 he was commissioned to revive the character for a second animated series, this time in colour. Several children’s books were produced to coincide with the series, along with a further series of comic albums in the 1980s. Ryan created several other animated series, using his distinctive real-time animation technique, for the BBC which ran between the years of 1969 to 1972. The artist presented a television series for ITV in 1981, guiding and drawing the audience through the story of Noah’s Ark. Alongside the 24 books created in the Captain Pugwash series, and 11 books illustrating the story of Noah’s Ark, Ryan wrote and illustrated a further 20 children’s books. The artist died in 2009.