Beginnings of a professional animation studio

In 1965, Hubert Tison, a visionary young animator, convinced Radio-Canada management of the need to establish an animation studio where artists could devote themselves full-time to the medium, creating high-quality opening credits, promos for upcoming episodes, and creative films to be included within the different programs.At that time, almost no television stations had in-house animation departments that would let staff make personal films too. The project became a reality in 1966. For administrative reasons, the unit was called the animation department or section; it was never officially a studio.

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[Illustration] Cartoon drawn by Frédéric Back showing Hubert Tison trying to get his studio up and running.

The following year, Hubert Tison obtained permission to buy a 35mm Oxberry animation stand and hire a cameraman with the necessary expertise to operate it. He recruited a number of artists who had been employed as illustrators, and took on the role of producer to oversee their work and keep standards high. He invited Frédéric Back to join the unit in 1968, and the young illustrator jumped at the chance, hoping one day to make animated shorts based on his own scripts. “Knowing Hubert’s work and training and the fact that his team consisted of talented artists with a wide range of experience, I was sure I would learn a lot about the latest techniques. In that kind of environment, each film becomes a learning experience.” F.B.

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[Illustration] Cartoon in which Frédéric Back pokes gentle fun at Paul Webster, the studio’s first animation cameraman.

The new unit produced very original work, primarily opening credits and promos, which was something new for television. They used a wide range of animation techniques and invented numerous special effects. Frédéric Back tried his hand at a variety of techniques and appreciated having access to a specialized camera and cameraman, as well as an editor, which made the work much easier. The atmosphere was very dynamic and stimulating. Foreign visitors to Radio-Canada would be given a tour of this unconventional animation studio, and some even tried to lure away its staff. Hubert Tison soon convinced the international animated film association ASIFA to include a section for promotional films in its festivals. In 1968, he showed two of his own works at the international animated film festival in Mamaya, Romania, launching Radio-Canada on the international animated film festival circuit.

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[Photo] Left to right, Graeme Ross, Frédéric Back, Raymond David and Hubert Tison with the award won at the Barcelona International Animated Film Festival in 1972.