Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Frederic Back (1924 - 2013)

Christmas is usually a time of joy and cheer. After all, we are celebrating the birth of Christ, who came down for our sins. Unfortunately, sometimes those are times of sadness, as those are the days of passing for some people. Men like Charlie Chaplin and former Rangers manager Billy Martin died on Christmas Day, while Kurosawa regular Toshio Mifune and former Rangers manager Johnny Oates died on Christmas Eve. Well now we can add another figure to those that died around this time: the great French Canadian animator Frederic Back.

Frederic Back was born and raised in France, but he emigrated to Canada in the 1940s. He was hired by Radio-Canada to be an illustrator, and remained with them for over 50 years. He went into animation in 1970, and soon created moving works driven by humanist and environmentalist ideals combined with his distinct deceptively simple art style with colored pencil. His film Tout rien was a brutal look at the selfish destruction of the environment and won him his first Oscar nomination, although he lost the award to A Legy (The Fly). He moved on and received another nomination for the touching film Crac. This time he was able to win his first Oscar. He did not rest on his laurels, and in 1987 made what many consider to be his masterpiece, the inspirational fictional documentary The Man Who Planted Trees. His final nomination was in 1993 for the more conventional (except for the fact it was animated) The Mighty River. As one of the few multiple Oscar winners in this category*, he leaves behind a legacy that still stands as one of the greatest in animation today.

Enough blabbering from me. Let us honor his life and career with his four Oscar nominated films.

*The list includes executives from the Studio Era, led by Walt Disney with 12, followed by Fred Quimby with eight, Edward Selzer with four, and Stephen Bosustow with two. In the post-Studio era, John and Faith Hubley and Nick Park have each won three. Meanwhile, Frederic Back won two. And...I think that's it. If Chris Landreth can get nominated and win for Subconscious Password he'd join the club, but it's still much too early to tell. Yeah, so this is a very exclusive club.

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