Internationally Renowned Animation Team Talk to Visual Arts Students

Oscar-nominated animation team Joanna Quinn and Les Mills gave a special presentation in the Campus Center Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 29.

Galloway, N.J. – What does a short film featuring an older woman snatching the cheetah-print thong off an erotic male dancer and an advertisement for toilet paper that stars a red bear have in common?

Well, not much, except that the United Kingdom-based and Oscar-nominated animation team of Joanna Quinn and Les Mills wrote, produced and animated both. The team, in a special presentation for selected Visual Arts classes, showed clips of their different projects, discussed their creative process and more on Thursday, Feb. 29, in the Campus Center Theatre.

Quinn and Mills first worked together on the aforementioned short film, “Girls Night Out,” in 1987, which follows a quiet Welsh housewife named Beryl who decides to celebrate her birthday with a night on the town with her girlfriends. At the time, the film was a passion project for Quinn, who, in her words, still needed to pay rent.

After a friend suggested that she submit her short film to a film festival, Quinn decided to travel to France for the Annecy Animation Festival, one of the biggest animation festivals in the world. It was that experience — and winning three awards that night — that opened her eyes to the immense world of animation, and the rest is history. 

Les Mills and Joanna Quinn
Quinn had never attended a film festival that centered on animation until attending the Annecy Animation Festival in 1987 and didn't realize how major it was until she recieved her badge. 

“Of course, it was the first time that I'd seen real animated films because up until then, as I said, I thought there was just Disney and me, you know, like that was it. That was the world of animation,” Quinn shared with a slight chuckle. “Then, I went and saw beautiful animation, you know, wood prints and moving art. I suddenly realized that animation isn't cartoons; it is actually a beautiful, beautiful art form, and you can make anything move.”

This led to more films by the team, including one where housewife Beryl challenges (and wins against) a bodybuilder in a bodybuilding competition; a short film inspired by a painting of two women lounging by Toulouse Lautrec; a short about a bulldog playing with a ball that is meant to symbolize British imperialism and much more.

In addition to showing students the original sketches and character designs that she created over the years, Quinn introduced students to the world of animation before computers — she hand drew, traced and painted every single frame in all of her films on celluloid paper.

To complete the Lautrec-inspired short “Elles,” Quinn had to do the above in a little under three months with no light testing. She also had to use her own body as a reference. As the audience balked at the time crunch and the amount of work expected from her, Quinn beamed as she said:

“When I got back to Britain, and I tested it all, everything worked, and I didn't have to redo anything. And I thought, ‘Well, there's a lesson. If you just draw from life and copy it, it'll work, you know!’”

She also shared funny stories, such as the time that a San Francisco-based company that hired the team to work on a commercial for candy was so impressed with them that they wanted to travel to the UK for a formal tour of their animation studio. Quinn laughed as they revealed that their “studio” was their apartment and Mills hid behind his hands as she recounted the ruse that they tried to pull. 

Joanna Quinn holding up one of her illustrations

Some of Joanna's illustrations/sketches

Some of Joanna's illustrations/sketches

“We got a friend’s au pair who was a Spanish girl who spoke no English and we said, ‘You can be the secretary, just making coffee and things and pretend that you work for us,’ and we got a photocopier and put it in the hall. We thought that would make it look like a studio or an office,” Quinn shared. “They came, and they sat in the living room with our cats on their laps, and it was just torture!”

But amidst the torture came fame. Quinn and Mills were soon tapped to direct another short film, “Famous Fred,” (that ended up earning an Oscar nomination) and then had an opportunity to design and animate a bear for Charmin’s British campaign. For 13 years, the pair worked with the toilet paper company and eventually were able to expand the team from two to 40 with the addition of animation students.

“Because we both like to teach, it was a really good opportunity then to bring people in and to teach them,” Quinn said. “I was doing this because we were able to give students a really good experience. We had a big space and lots of students there basically learning loads and even making their own films.”

The pair is still teaching and inspiring students. Visual Arts students Sandy Hanna of Egg Harbor Township and Luke Lallo of Galloway both felt the program was valuable since they plan to pursue animation after graduation and were glad to be a part of it.

“I have this dream of opening my own animation studio,” Hanna said. “I feel like I’m learning a lot. I didn’t know anything about cel animation before I came here, and I learned a lot about the thought process behind everything. I feel inspired by them.”

“This type of animation is more work than I thought it would be. Computer animation definitely goes a little faster, but this is pure art. What incredible talent and discipline it must take to do this,” Lallo said.

Four Students Bring Color to the Boardwalk in CRDA Project

August 30, 2023

These chairs were designed and hand-painted by four Ospreys: (L-R) Ian Lawrence, Faeryn Meza, Caitlyn "Frenchy" Hroncich, '23, and Camryn Wilson.
These chairs were designed and hand-painted by four Ospreys: (L-R) Ian Lawrence, Faeryn Meza, Caitlyn "Frenchy" Hroncich, '23, and Camryn Wilson.

Atlantic City, N.J. –Before taking a seat on one of the many colorful and vibrant Adirondack chairs on the Boardwalk outside of Kesselman Hall, Ospreys should take a moment to see if one of their peers is the artist behind the art. 

Four students created original themes and hand-painted one of the chairs, which were installed along the Boardwalk in August.

The students – Caitlyn “Frenchy” Hroncich, ’23, Faeryn Meza, Ian Lawrence and Camryn Wilson – were tapped for the project, which is part of a public art installation spearheaded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). 

Both Jackson and Ueno expressed their gratitude to Rick Santoro, executive director of the Special Improvement Division of the CRDA, and his team for helping support the project by providing the chairs, transporting them to and from campus and installing them on the Boardwalk.

According to both, this project should be the first of many with the Visual Arts program and the Atlantic City campus. 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Susan Allen