In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.
This week’s subject is Oscar-nominated Canadian animator, illustrator, and author Janet Perlman.
In a paragraph: Whether featuring pugs, penguins, alien lobsters, or boatloads of kitsch, Perlman’s vast body of work offers endless comic relief from our nutbar world. Sometimes the comedy is just utter nonsense, other times it’s used to tackle tricky subjects like conflict resolution, mortality, and bullying.
Where to start: Why Me? (co-directed with Derek Lamb, 1978). A brilliant fusion of comedy and tragedy that tells the life of one Nesbitt Spoon, who learns that he has only five minutes to live (coincidently that’s the length of the film).
What to watch next: My Favorite Things that I Love (1994). This winner of the Best Bad Taste award at the 1994 Ottawa International Animation Festival (no, this was not an official award; the jury created it) is an unabashedly kitsch classic in which Perlman displays her love of all things cheese.
Other key works: Lady Fishbourne’s Complete Guide to Better Table Manners (1976), The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin (1981), Dinner for Two (1996), Sorry Film Not Ready (2010).
Influences: “It is hard to narrow down to two or three since there are really thousands. But I would say the films of Jacques Tati, Bullwinkle cartoons, and the artists of Raw magazine, especially Art Spiegelman. But many many animators, too.”
Says: “I truly didn’t understand animation at all [when I was a student]. For the first assignment, I drew a pan. I drew the same character over and over and over again. It just floated across the screen. I just didn’t get it. I mean, you know, I just didn’t even understand it.”
Currently working on: Perlman’s latest film, The Girl with the Red Beret (2023) is currently playing the festival circuit. She also just finished Janet Perlman’s Pinocchio for Joan Gratz’s latest compilation of one-minute films.
Pictured at top: My Favorite Things that I Love