Jun 11, 2010

Women in animation: Joanna Quinn

Born in Birmingham in 1962, Joanna Quinn, since her debut, Girls' Night Out (1987), Joanna Quinn has established herself as one of Britain's most distinctive animators - as much for her vivid, often raucous depiction of women's issues as for her instantly recognisable, highly detailed hand-drawn artwork with a strong sense of visual rhythm and movement.

She completed a rough version of Girls' Night Out for her graduation show in 1985, completing it two years later after obtaining funding from Channel 4 and S4C. She entered the film for the Annecy Film Festival, where it won three awards and also exposed her to a wide range of international animation for the first time.

She then formed Beryl Productions with writer and producer Les Mills, who had previously been one of her college teachers. Named after the middle-aged central character of Girls' Night Out and its successor Body Beautiful (1990), Beryl's remit described as "to produce high quality, accessible animation which is observationally based and explores significant aspects of the contemporary human experience, often using humour as an essential element".

The latter included Body Beautiful, Elles (1992) and Britannia (1993). The first saw her character Beryl competing in a beauty contest with fellow factory worker Vince in what ends up as a delightfully honest paean to the female body. Another milestone came in 1997 with Famous Fred, a half-hour animation for children based on the work of Guardian cartoonist Posy Simmonds, the closest she has come to mainstream popularity. She also contributed The Wife of Bath's Tale (1998) to BBC Wales' animated adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, broadcast in both modern and Middle English versions.

Quinn's latest production, a short film entitled Dreams & Desires - Family Ties, was completed in 2006, and returns to the world of Beryl, whose attempt at a video diary has, according to Quinn, "unforeseen and sometimes disastrous consequences".

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