FBorFW News

Lynn Expresses Her Love For Animation

In the front row at the Odeon Theatre in North Vancouver, I'd sit and wait through the newsreels and cowboy movies for the cartoons. I laughed till I cried at Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Heckle and Jeckle, and all of the old black and white animated shorts that were part of the Saturday afternoon matinee.

Playing With Pictures

Fascinated and enthralled by animated cartoons, I began my animation experiments with one sheet of paper folded in half. I'd draw a face, and make the eyes blink by drawing open eyes on one half, closing the paper, and drawing closed eyes on the other. It was impressive to see how much movement could happen with just two drawings: tongue out, hair standing up, ears wiggling...it was magic.

I graduated from using one sheet of paper to using the edges of textbooks at school. Hoping to avoid detection, I drew tiny stick figures on the bottom right corner of each page, then flipped the pages to see the figures jump and turn and run away. Once, when I was caught, I was made to erase each image before I could leave the class; a small price to pay for the fun of seeing a pencil sketch come to life.

An FBorfW comic about computer animation vs. old-style flipbooks

Animation Education

The Vancouver School of Art was a fine arts college in 1965, so the class in commercial illustration was rudimentary. I was thrilled when, in my second year, an animator from the National Film Board came in to show us some animation techniques—particularly the use of the "pinboard" for pinscreen animation, a new and innovative way to animate beautiful images. This time-consuming art was something to behold, as was the crazy work of Norman McLaren, who pioneered a number of animation techniques, including drawing on the actual film itself. I was the first in line to sign up for the course, and in no time I was hooked. I wanted to be an animator.

One of Lynn's earliest animation experiments.

My third year at art school was difficult. There was nothing, other than an outdated commercial art course, to keep my interest—and those of us who took the course were called "the hacks" because we were hoping to make money from our art. Heaven forbid one should make a living as an artist!

Working as a Professional Animator

Halfway through the year, I left and took a job at Canawest Films. This odd little company was an offshoot of KVOS TV, an American company which produced advertisements and relayed American TV shows into western Canada. They had been using some rudimentary animation techniques, and were beginning to take on piecework from studios like Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers.

My job was in the "ink and paint" department. Xerox had just been invented, and studios were taking advantage of a new concept: xeroxing images onto acetate, so inkers in animation studios didn't have to trace pencil images over and over again. All of the movements were reproduced on acetate, so the inkers just had the mouth and eye movements to do. These cells were later turned over and coloured on the back, leaving the blackline clear on the front. I learned to do both the inking and painting, and became adept at painting explosions! I had found my calling.

I worked with 15 other women, lined up in factory style, turning out some of the worst animated cartoons on the network. Saturday morning cartoons had proven to be an economic windfall because of the newly-popular phenomenon of 12-hour-a-day, family-focused television. The studios couldn't produce animated content fast enough. Terrible stories, combined with the cheapest of animation techniques, made for some of the most forgettable material ever produced.

"Abbott and Costello" was the show I cut my animation teeth on. It was a terrible series from every point of view. The stories were bad, the soundtrack was horrible and the animation rudimentary and repetitive. Throughout the studios, we could hear the grating sounds of "Aaaabottt!" as the technicians timed the frames to match the dialogue. Everyone hated the project. Other than that, it was the best experience for a new and untrained animator. This discarded cell was on the "ink and paint" room floor.

Issues aside, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn the business. I was able to begin a kind of apprenticeship with the head of the department, Barry Helmer, who taught me the basics when he had time. I could see a future here. I was good at animating figures; all I needed was a place to start and Canawest Films wasn't it!

A Couple Of Career Changes

Another artist from the studio and I decided to go to Los Angeles and seek our fortune. We drove with our (then) husbands to the City of Angels and took our folios to various animation studios. Jay Ward, of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame (along with "Super Chicken" and "George of the Jungle"), offered us jobs right away. We were ecstatic. We couldn't believe our luck. All we had to do was to convince our spouses to get jobs, too, and move to Los Angeles. Both men worked in broadcasting. They knew, as Canadian citizens, they would be unlikely to find equivalent work in LA. We begged them to take anything. This was such a big opportunity for us! Sadly, the men refused and the four of us drove back to Vancouver. I was miserable, but determined to find a way to get into animation. If nothing else, I could draw cartoons. I could also get a job in advertising. Something was going to happen!

Cereal Box Lynn Designed
Medical art for McMaster University

Lynn did, in fact, find work in commercial art, as well as for McMaster University as a medical illustrator.

The Bestest Present and Other Animated Adventures

Years later, that "something" was the opportunity to see For Better or For Worse animated. Had I stayed in Los Angeles, I would likely have had a career animating other peoples' work. I'd have been working on Disney shows, or creating special effects for Pixar. The chance to see my own characters come to life would likely never have happened. With the success of For Better or for Worse came the opportunity to create an animated special. "The Bestest Present" was a joy to work on, and something to be proud of. I had the pleasure of collaborating with a wonderful team of artists, musicians, actors, and technicians. The year it was released, it won a Gemini award for best writing in the children's entertainment category. Sadly, Atkinson Film Arts went out of business, and the next FBorFW shows and specials were not as easy to do, or as satisfying.

An Animated E-Greeting

I asked my friend, Greg Ford, to make us a short, animated Farley themed "greeting card" and this is what he came up with!

No, You're Not Imagining It

When the strip had been running run online for awhile, we wanted to do something to sparkle it up a bit. I wondered if a slight bit of animation would be possible. A comic strip would not be easy or inexpensive to "move", so we settled on eye blinks to give the characters some life. The result was an eerie "did I just see what I thought I saw?" kind of thing. Readers were both confused and annoyed by the intrusion of blinking eyes on static figures, so this experiment was short-lived. Some ideas shouldn't be implemented!

The For Better Or For Worse Characters, Animated Again

My affinity for animation will always be strong. Despite ups and downs in the industry, I am honoured to have a number of shows "in the can". I have friends who are talented animators; people who have added to our website by contributing short animated sequences, starring my characters. What a privilege!

Greg Ford is a talented animator living in New York. I met him through a friend in Toronto. Greg graciously agreed to do some short pieces (called Giphys) for us. Randi Hamel is a Vancouver-based animator, recently graduated from the Emily Carr School of Art. For awhile after graduation, she was able to do some Giphy work for us as well. She is now working full time for an animation studio in the city; she is another wonderful talent.

Get Your Giphys!

If you use Facebook Messenger, you can send FBorFW Giphys to friends: click the Gif icon and type "fborfw" in the search box to see all of them. Apple users can read instructions here for using Giphys.

Find all of our Giphy animations here, in our channel on the Giphy site.

graphic that shows how to use Giphy animations in Messenger

I still like to draw on a folded piece of paper to show my grandkids how exciting it is to make a drawing move. And I still love the cartoons I saw at the Saturday afternoon matinee. These wonderful films will never go out of style. Laughter never gets old. It just gets better with time.