Top Welsh directors: Joanna Quinn

Photograph of Joanna Quinn

Last updated: 05 March 2010

Joanna Quinn (1962-)

Cardiff-based Joanna Quinn has enjoyed a spectacularly successful career since landing triple awards as an 'unknown' at the world's greatest animation festival in Annecy, France, in 1987.

The triumphs of this 2D artist responsible for fluid, expressive drawing and amusing characterisation culminated in 2005 when she won the European equivalent of the Oscar, the Cartoon d'Or.

Browse a photo gallery of a collection of Joanna Quinn's work.

She landed the prize for Dreams and Desires - Family Ties, the latest work featuring her much-loved roly-poly south Wales valleys housewife Beryl, heroine of her Annecy hat-trick winner Girls' Night Out. The film, skirting the borders of bad taste at times, created a riotous mosaic of vulgar or unprepossessing characters and incidents with Beryl sucked into the mayhem of a family wedding.

Detail from Joanna Quinn's Dreams and Desires - Family Ties.Detail from Joanna Quinn's Dreams and Desires - Family Ties. Image © Joanna Quinn.

Beryl first burst onto the animation scene when she left her hubbie watching TV at home to join a hen party ogling male strippers and the vivid drawing, with Beryl and her strident friends sometimes filling the whole frame, captivated audiences.

Quinn was the first to give a Welsh working class woman a genuine voice in animation - traditionally peopled mainly with the middle class.

Beryl, increasingly assertive over the years, has continued to gain popularity and in Body Beautiful (1990), a much admired feminist comedy she proved more than a match for Vince, a mouthy, narcissistic male bodybuilder. In Dreams and Desires, the first Beryl film for more than a decade, she even became an embryo filmmaker, enjoying mixed fortunes in the chaos of her sister's nuptials.

Birmingham-born Quinn provided a short, Elles (1992), for an anthology film of Toulouse-Lautrec's 1896 lithographic series of drawings set in a brothel, but even then her busty naked courtesan in an animated reproduction of Lautrec's drawing looked suspiciously Beryl-like.

A stalwart of the Chapter Film workshop in Cardiff from the 1980s, Quinn also worked closely for more than 25 years with her business and life partner, writer Les Mills, whose flinty humour and grasp of colloquialisms and raw valleys vernacular have helped Quinn's films to maintain an authentic edge. The couple's company Beryl Productions has given many of Wales' promising young animators a valuable grounding in animation technique and storytelling.

The flexibility and exuberance conveyed through drawing skills have ensured that each Quinn film is an event. The filmmaker's Wife of Bath's segment in S4C's Canterbury Tales (1998) with its cheerful vulgarity and striking imagery in creating a memorable old crone won an Oscar nomination.

Detail from Joanna Quinn's 1992 satirical short Britannia.Detail from Joanna Quinn's 1992 satirical short Britannia. Image © Joanna Quinn.

Many consider Quinn's pure, virtuoso line work in Britannia (1992) the apogee of her creative achievement and love the wit and mordant satire on Victorian values and Britain's Empire-building, drawing analogies with the rampant insensitivity of the Thatcher era.

Certain images of miniature natives fleeing from under the skirts of Victoria were unforgettable and each viewing of Britannia discloses new delights and subtleties of content and execution.

Quinn learned her skills with Mills as tutor at the then Middlesex Polytechnic, started Girls' Night Out in London and finished it in Cardiff, becoming the most influential figure in the First post-war Wave of Welsh animation, developed and showcased by S4C executive Chris Grace, work which soon earned the nation a national screen reputation.

Quinn gained her first Oscar nomination for Famous Fred (1997) based on a Posy Simmonds Guardian cartoon strip and made for Channel Four, S4C and TVC Productions. It featured a mellifluous moggie with an insatiable appetite for nightlife.


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