Joanna Quinn – Guest Speaker

Joanna Quinn is a renowned designer and animator. She has created numerous works of hand-drawn animation and says that despite its inherent inefficiency, there is a living quality to it that is difficult to recreate in digital animation.

Her first major work, Girl’s Night Out, was completed in 1987 by Beryl Productions. It tells the story of a group of women who visit a male strip club, the piece was highly controversial and designed to be so. The piece was created with knowledge of the context it would appear within. In 1987 Margret Thatcher was Prime minster and represented a prudish sensibility.

This piece wasn’t shown to us in the conference, but I watched it in my own time and found it very interesting. It’s in keeping with Joanna Quinn’s style of exaggerated life that she bestows on all her works. Objects bounce and deform in a very cartoonish manner. The behavior of objects  is entirely unreal but in some contradictory way, this lends them more realism. Since its release Girl’s Night Out has received multiple awards and most recently was voted 33 in the 2010 ASIFA 50 best animated films.

The work Quinn is most renowned for, however her 1993 animated film Britannia, which was nominated for an Oscar 1995. This was the main focus of her talk. The 5 minute short is a comment on the history of British imperialism. Britain as an entity is depicted as Bulldog which follows the direction of what can be assumed is the Queen. The Bulldog scours the surrounding lands and dominates until the entire world is at its feet. Before morphing into a lapdog as Britain’s grip on the world lessened to the point of losing all of its colonies.

This film struck me for several reasons. Firstly the message it conveys is of a dark portion of British history which tends not to be represented in such a stark and honest light. Arguably, challenging views and creating controversy is one of the roles of art & design and this film certainly achieves this, it pulls no punches. The bulldog symbolizes tyranny and greed.

This film taught me a lot in the use of visual metaphor, the viciousness of the dog simplifying the ruthlessness of a Kingdom at large. The hundreds of years of colonial rule compressed into a few minutes with scenes of murder and pillaging of the African continent for example. We were told she wanted to include far more and that this is one of he issues with animation. It’s very difficult to know how long a particular scene may play out until you’ve begun working on it. Only around 10% of Quinn’s original idea ended up being animated.

In the space of a couple of hours my perceptions of animation have been changed somewhat. The issues of timing and the possibilities animation gives with regards to the use of visual metaphor. The last thing I want is a simple story board that details the issues I’m trying to illustrate one after the other. It needs to be a richer visual experience than that.



Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do

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