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?
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.