Letter to a young animator

Like any other young person, I was fascinated by animation, an art of movement that opens the door to a world of unlimited fantasy. Animation is an escape from daily reality. Given life through sound, music, and words, the endless forms invented by animators are our passports to imaginary worlds. Certain masterworks have brought animation to the level of high art, and today it occupies a special place in the world of film production. Many technical innovations first created by animators are used by the film industry.

To be honest, I never thought I would have the opportunity to do animation. I received traditional art training at the École des beaux-arts de Rennes, where I studied painting, fresco, architecture, interior design, composition, modelling and above all, drawing from life. In this I was encouraged by a master, Mr. Méheut, who had an exceptional talent for capturing human and animal movement. And so I began my career as an artist with book illustrations, mural painting and works on canvas. Because of my training, I could adapt to whatever work was offered, but I also embarked on personal projects involving works of fiction on subjects that interested me. In 1952, I began working for Radio-Canada television. I moved quite easily between illustration, set design and animation, gaining experience and making progress in each field. When, in 1968, Hubert Tison suggested I do animation full-time, I agreed with pleasure, knowing that I could learn from him—and I had a lot to learn.

This is the message I wish to pass on to young people who dream of making animated films. All too often, young people limit themselves to technical training without first (or at the same time) acquiring the kind of artistic education that opens their eyes and minds, freeing them to be creative with their animation—or to choose another line of work if they find it doesn’t suit them!

‘To have more than one string in your bow’ may be an old saying, but it’s every bit as relevant in this, the atomic age.

Frédéric Back