It's Raining Pegbars! A Profile Of
Animation In Vancouver

by Leslie Bishko

"Sick, demented and lewd" are the words used to introduce the Vancouver animators in the recently published Cartoon Capers: The History of Canadian Animators. Author Karen Mazurkewich presents the Vancouver scene as an outgrowth of the underground comic movement of the 1960s and 1970s:

"…Vancouver boasts…animators with attitude. The West Coast practitioners parallel the grunge music scene. They are nihilistic and draw violently."

Danny Antonucci with his brain childs Ed, Edd and Eddy. © 1998 Cartoon Network, Inc. A Time Warner Co. All Right Reserved.

She is referring, of course, to Danny Antonucci of Lupo the Butcher fame. Antonucci got his start with Marv Newland, director of the cult classic Bambi Meets Godzilla. It is entirely his fault.

Al Sens Animation Ltd. is the keystone in Vancouver’s animation community. © Al Sens Animation Ltd.

Al Sens was the first to establish an animation studio in Vancouver. Sens began as a comic strip artist in the late 1950s and made his way into animated shorts that have a decidedly left-wing political slant. He has produced 18 shorts throughout his long career. Today, his studio is the only remaining facility in Vancouver with an Oxberry camera stand, aside from the NFB. Lynka Belanger, long-time camera operator for Sens, bought the studio when he retired. You'll find Al Sens' studio and Belanger's name in the credits of almost every independent film shot in Vancouver.

Marv Newland founded the International Rocketship studio in 1975. While the studio produced commercial work to pay the bills, Newland directed his own shorts or produced the work of his animators (Antonucci, J. Falconer, Mike Grimshaw, Dieter Mueller, Deb Dawson and others). He also directed the collaborative Anijam (1984), starring Newland's Foska character, who was given to 22 animators internationally to animate. The studio also worked with Gary Larson on a one-hour Far Side TV special.
Anijam by Marv Newland stars his own Foska character. ©International Rocketship.

In 1968, the animation department got rolling at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (ECIAD). John Taylor, the program's first instructor, was also involved at the NFB Pacific Centre. Some of the early animated films produced by the NFB are The Twitch (1973) by Sens, and Citizen Harold (1971) by animator Hugh Fouldes, whose political themes mirror the work of Sens. Fouldes went on to make the animation department at ECIAD what it is today -- a program for independent animators. A charismatic man who passed away unexpectedly in 1992, he has influenced several generations of indies. Among his crowd of proteges are Montrealers Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, whose NFB film When the Day Breaks was recently nominated for an Academy Award, and won both Annecy and Cannes.

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