Joanna Quinn Joanna Quinn
Artist of the DayIllustration

Artist of the Day: Joanna Quinn

Joanna Quinn

Millions of people are likely to be familiar with the colorful cartoon bears that savor wiping their butts with softer than average toilet paper. Joanna Quinn is the character designer and animator behind the original commercials that feature the hand drawn versions of these characters. The Charmin bears have recently been transitioned to CGI, arguably resulting in less charm. There’s nothing wrong with the new ads, but they just can’t supply the human element that the graphite smeared drawings of the originals carried with them directly from Joanna’s pencil to the television screen. The production company responsible for the new approach is not Joanna’s, although she is credited as a creative consultant.

I’m curious about the progression that the designs took from Joanna’s pencil animation to Joanna’s animation cleaned up and colored in a slicker fashion (see the “new look” commercials on her website), to CG characters, and what the driving forces behind the decisions to change the art over time could have been.

If the original designs had been created with a slick commercial sheen from the beginning, like your average cereal mascot ad, then there would be nothing to discuss here. But because they started with the distinctive pencil work of Joanna Quinn, it seems strange to buff out the roughness and individuality over time until eventually removing her unique stamp from the work entirely. Is it simply an inevitable progression? An example of typical corporate decision making? Does slicker work sell more rolls?

Dreams and Desires by Joanna Quinn

Fortunately, besides creating commercials, Joanna’s larger interest is undoubtedly creating her personal, funny, and expressively drawn films. Above are stills from her short film Dreams and Desires: Family Ties which she directed and animated with additional animation by Andy McPherson.

Joanna Quinn

On her Beryl Productions website you can see a selection of production art from some of her films such as the above layout drawings from Famous Fred, which is also available there to watch in full.

Joanna QuinnJoanna Quinn
  • nick

    What an amazing artist….!

  • BJ Crawford

    One of my favorite artists. Thanks for posting!

  • jhalpernkitcat

    The original Charmin bears were really fun to watch–especially the very first commercial. The expressions on the bear’s face were perfectly done, and cute.

  • Matt Jones

    Joanna has always had incredible draughtsmanship- check out the drawing her Canterbury Tale ‘The Wife of Bath’

  • Mac

    She’s got to be one if not the best animators ever. She doesn’t use Disneyified structural components, she’s really drawing, really animating. Amazing, humbling. Artist with a capital A.

    • Riu Tinubu

      ‘Really’ drawing? ‘Really’ animating?

      Well, yeah, she’s great, incredible – but I’m not sure what you mean.

  • stephen

    even as a kid i knew there must be a masterful artist responsible for those beautiful pooping bears. her work is really amazing.

  • Jerold Howard

    Joanna Quin is one of my all time favorite animators! An incredible talent.

  • Can it be that the new bear sells more rolls? The original Joanna’s commercial was one of the most memorable talked about ads at the time, I doubt anybody is excited about the blue 3D version. The unique warm natural feel of the original has evolved into synthetic slick, cold-colored thing. Is that the right direction for a product boasting of ultra-softness?

  • Jamaal Bradley

    Joanna Quinn is definitely one of my favorite animators. Her work has always stood out from the crowd. The line work pulls you in immediately and her artistic sensibility is beautiful in the execution.

  • It means no CalArts…in a positive way

  • John Musker

    brilliant draughtswoman…

  • MRKid

    Love her work too, but I don’t think it’s hard to know why they switched to CG. Most marketing heads are looking for trends, not tradition or taste particularly.

  • Michael Sporn

    I’m with Steve. The toilet paper commercials took a turn years ago and lost their charm then. They were always designed to pay Joanna’s bills, and she smartly put everything into the independently produced short films she did. I wonder if she thinks this loss of income would mean it’ll take longer for the next film to be completed. That would be the loss – our loss.

    She’s undoubtedly the finest draughtsperson in the business, and together with her husband are producing some of the finest films on the market. More power to them both.

    • Thanks for recommending additional films for people to seek out. Toilet paper commercials are obviously lesser work than an artist’s personal films. However, using illustrated examples of the style changes in the commercial work I was able explore what is special about Joanna’s animation in the first place and raise questions that I’m interested in. The bears are likely to be what most people are aware of so it makes sense to connect that awareness to her other work, as I did in the post.

  • Arguably I know Joanna more for those short films over her ad work myself, though I did enjoy what she could put on the screen for a half-minute at a time when she was doing those.

  • TKeen

    “Is it simply an inevitable progression? An example of typical corporate decision making? Does slicker work sell more rolls?”

    … Just saw the CGI bear ad the other day. It’s as though all ad agencies and studios on this continent have passed laws banning hand-drawn animation.

  • Nicham

    YES. Been a fan of a Joanna for a large percentage of my life but I just DID not know her name! Thank you. Her chalky, whipsy style has always been appealing to me, and she has an incredible sense of timing, comedic timing even. Love it love it love it… thanks for “Reconnecting” me with her.