Frédéric Back was born in 1924 in France, where he studied drawing and lithography. He was lured to Canada by Jack London's stories
and Clarence Gagnon's paintings
, as well as correspondence with a Canadian pen-pal
. Back moved to Canada in 1948, married his pen-pal Ghylaine Paquin, and was hired by Radio Canada at the birth of their television network
to create still images for display on and to promote moving pictures. The drawings lead to experiments with animations
, which lead to a series of animated shorts, starting with the wordless short Abracadabra
(9:23, YT) in 1970
. You can read and see more about Frédéric Back on his extensive website
, and see more animations inside.
The follow-up to Back's first short came in 1972, with the Inon ou la conquête du feu
(Inon or the Conquest of Fire
), which is based on the Algonquin legend
about Inon, the God of Thunder, who kept fire from humans. A series of adventures follows with a happy ending
. [No video found online beyond the three clips on Back's website
That same year, Back created a second short based on Native American legends, La création des oiseaux
(The Creation of Birds
) (10:07, YT). The short won best animation
at the 1973 Yorkton Film Festival
, the longest running film festival in North America.
It would be 3 years until Back's next short, ¿Illusion?
(11:31, Tudou), which is a largely wordless short about the miracles of nature versus "magicians of advertising, the promoters of progress and over-consumption."
In 1977, Frédéric Back made a short, Taratata
(8:33, YT), in celebration of the parades that used to be held
on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
) (11:00, YT) is a short from 1978 about the greed of humankind. The short was nomination for an Oscar
, Back's first nomination.
His next short, Crac!
(15:20, YT), was a tribute to Quebec, his adoptive home
. For the short, Back won an Oscar, allowing him to undertake more ambitious projects
. Unfortunately, while working applying a coat of fixative to a Crac! drawing, the fumes got into his right eye
. His eye did not recover, but Back continued to produce art. There is a story-book version of this short, illustrated by Back and written by his wife
The next, more ambitious project was the 1987 animation, L'homme qui plantait des arbres
(The man who planted trees
) (30:03, YT, with English and Spanish captions; previously
). The film would be Back's first that relied on spoken roles to convey the story. The story resonated with Back as he had planted over 30,000 trees, as a member of the Society to Overcome Pollution
, which formed in 1970.
Back's final film, Le fleuve aux grandes eaux
, in French on Daily Motion) (The Mighty River
, 24:02, on Google Video in English, with narration by Donald Sutherland) was about the St. Lawrence River
. The film was won four awards for animation, and was nominated for an Oscar
, but lost to Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers
Frédéric Back is now 87, and is continuing to be recognized for his lifetime of artwork, from his environmental message
to a celebration of his work in Japan
(10:00, Japanese news clip, with interviews of Back who speaks in French), including a display at the Ghibli Museum
(I think -- this part of the Ghibli Museum site is only in Japanese, and the Google auto-translation
may not be terribly accurate or clear).
* Lengthy interview with Back
, year unknown.
* Aother lengthy interview
, in 1996.