What follows is a brief history of an animation studio that, while never officially recognized as a studio, nevertheless built itself an international reputation!

The program Chants et danses du monde, which Radio-Canada began airing every two weeks starting in 1952, required an enormous number of drawings to illustrate the costumes, architecture, landscapes and lifestyles in the different places visited around the world. With image changes every five seconds, Frédéric Back had to produce 10 to 15 drawings a day. In the course of this work, he began experimenting with cut-outs and requesting camera movements to bring the drawings to life. He soon realized that this could permit them to stay on screen longer and also offer occasional little surprises for the viewers.

[Vidéo] Video clip showing Frédéric Back working on an illustration.
Credit: Radio-Canada, Orientation,1962, 00:35

For the nature series Les mystères de la planète, hosted by Jean-Louis Millette, Frédéric Back created simple animations on film, using an “Animographe,” a rudimentary projector with a hand-operated control for feeding the drawings one at a time. This allowed him to sync the images with the words—an important consideration since the show aired live. The method worked well enough that Fernand Séguin asked him to create 16 mm animated sequences for his series La science en pantoufles to feed the image-hungry medium of television

“In Scaramouche, the animation was shot with a Bolex, frame by frame. The camera was attached to a heating pipe, and the radiator served as our animation stand. These 8½ minutes of animation were made during three crazy weeks of working round the clock,” Frédéric Back recalls.

[Vidéo] Frédéric Back talks about the early days at Radio-Canada and the range of experience he acquired in working for the fledgling broadcaster.
Credit: Radio-Canada, Ciné-Magazine,1977, 02:00

[Vidéo] Frédéric Back explains what an “Animographe” is.
Credit: Radio-Canada, Ciné-Magazine,1977, 00:29