Saturday, March 15, 2008

Great Canadian Animators in Canada?

I attended the opening of the exhibit of Frédéric Back at the Alliance Française de Toronto last night. I highly recommend it to anyone who can attend. Back's artwork is exquisite and I was surprised at how small and delicate much of it is. Many scenes were animated with characters fitting into a 5 field or 6 field. It takes great control (and courage) to work that small knowing that the art will eventually fill a theatre screen. You can find details here on the various Back exhibits currently in Toronto.

It also got me to thinking about the nature of animation in Canada. Are there many animators born and educated in Canada who did their most successful work here? During the glory years of the NFB (the 1940s-'70s), a great many NFB artists were immigrants to Canada: Norman McLaren, Kaj Pindal, Caroline Leaf, Ishu Patel, Lotte Reiniger, etc. During those decades, there was no animation education available that I'm aware of.

Since the '70s, there has been animation training available and certainly there has been a thriving commercial business. However, there has yet to be a break-out hit animated feature or TV series to originate in Canada. Dozens, and probably hundreds, of Canadian artists have worked on successful and award winning films made in the U.S.

So my question (and it's not rhetorical) is whether there are any Canadian animators who have done their most successful work while in Canada. Grant Munro of the NFB is one possible answer. I'd be curious to know if there are others.

5 comments:

T. Benjamin Larsen said...

Well, if you only measure success in money and big feature-productions I have no idea.

If you look at the short animation films however I find Canada's track record to be second to none. Chance would have it that I just yesterday wrote a piece about "The Big Snit" on my blog - and you won't have to go further back than last years Oscar to find a Canadian/Norwegian co-production one the award for Best Animated Short Film.

Michael Sporn said...

Sheldon Cohen did several films for the NFB that were quite successful. "The Sweater" being the most famous. (Who else but a Canadian would do an animated film about Ice Hockey?)

Mark Mayerson said...

I don't measure success only in money and big feature productions, or I wouldn't have mentioned the NFB.

You're absolutely right that Richard Condie (and Cordell Barker and Sheldon Cohen) fall into the category I'm talking about. I'm not trying to keep anybody out, I'm trying to determine how big the category is.

On the commercial front, where money and big features count, there's no question that more Canadians have been successes in California than in Canada. I'd be curious to hear if anyone has any names to suggest in this part of the animation field.

T. Benjamin Larsen said...

Just for the record: I didn't mean to suggest that you only measured success in cash/big feature productions. (Although I see in hindsight that it can easily be interpreted that way).

I was simply trying to pay my compliments to Canadian animators. I really don't have any emotional attachment to the topic, being a born and bread Norwegian never having sat my feet in neither Canada nor the US.

I think however that Kanuck's success in California can be subscribed to the size of the industry there. If you're ambitious you want to reach the biggest possible audience and that's certainly easier through Hollywood than anywhere else.

Jean Pilotte said...

Pierre Hebert ("Le renard et le corbeau" "Pere Noel Pere Noel")and
Chris Hinton come to mind.