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Quinn, Joanna (1962-)

Director, Writer, Animator

Main image of Quinn, Joanna (1962-)

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.

Born in Birmingham in 1962, Quinn became attracted by animation during her first term at what was then Middlesex Polytechnic, where she studied graphic design after a childhood spent drawing obsessively. 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 - and also the medium's general lack of strong female characters.

That same year, she moved to Cardiff, attracted by the activities of the Chapter Film and Animation Workshop. 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". Like most animation companies, Beryl Productions alternates between rent-paying commissions (the long-running campaigns for Whiskas cat food and Charmin toilet paper were particularly memorable) and more personal work.

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 - even when it's several sizes larger than the supermodel yardstick. Britannia shifted her concern from gender politics to imperialism in an animated history of the political cartoon. 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".

Further Reading
'Joanna Quinn on Animation, an interview with Stella Papamichael' for Film Network (25 May 07),
Joanna Quinn with 'Dreams and Desires', an interview with Taylor Jessen (11 July 2006), The Animation Show

Michael Brooke

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