howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part VIII – Cecily Sell and Those Darn Husbands

I am going to talk about Lynn’s friend Cecily after the cut.

Page 58


One of the best things to come from Lynn’s time at Canawest was her lifelong friendship with fellow cartoonist and illustrator Cecily Sell, from Los Angeles. She was newly wed to a Canadian and had moved to Vancouver to be with her husband, who worked at a local radio station. Lynn was also newly married, having wed in 1967. She’d met her husband, Doug Franks, through mutual friends in broadcasting; he worked as a television cameraman. Lynn and Cecily shared a love of comic art, and both lived with ambitious men whose fields were fiercely competitive, which would prove a deterrent to Lynn’s and Cecily’s opportunities in animation.


As a side note, this is how the romance, courtship, and marriage to Doug Franks is discussed in the book. The only addition is a picture showing Doug and Lynn cutting their wedding cake. It is a lot shorter than her description in the 10th anniversary collection.

While Cecily Sell is called a “lifelong” friend, there is a note beside a comic strip that says: (below) Lynn and Cecily lost touch once Lynn moved to Ontario. They reconnected when Lynn, trying to find her friend, put her name into the comic strip, and they have remained close ever since.

It was this comic strip from 1991, which means that there was a 24 year gap before they reconnected.

Then there is another caption (right) Cecily and Lynn near Cecily’s home in Seattle, WA, 2005. In the Illustration Credits, it says, “The photo on Page 59 of Cecily Sell and Lynn Johnston is used by permission of Cecily Sell Mitchell.”  They have remained friends for at least 24 years, so it evens out to half a lifelong friend.

The addition of “Mitchell” tells that her marriage to the radio guy did not last.


Canawest was coming to the end of their contract with Hanna-Barbera. There was also a rumour that Doug’s job at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) might become part-time. With nothing to lose, the two couples decided to drive to Los Angeles to visit Cecily’s parents, Alpine and Cecil Beard – the “knew all kinds of people in the animation and film industry and were willing to make some connections for us.”


The little tidbit I notice here is that since Lynn’s work at Canawest was tied to the Hanna-Barbera contract, it may have been her job that was coming to an end. Lynn has never said this before. One of the main problems with my argument that Lynn was the motivator behind her and Doug’s move from Vancouver to Hamilton was if Lynn had a job as an animator at Canawest, a career she left art school to take, then why would she leave it? This comment finally tells me. The career was going away.


Lynn recalls Alpine and Cecil Beard as charming comic characters. Alpine was talkative, open, and oblivious to the chaos around her. Cecil, who spoke with a thick Texas accent and sported a white Santa beard, was gregarious, theatrical, and kind. He has worked for many years for Disney as an animator on great projects such as Fantasia, where his ability to animate crashing waves and rushing water gained him admiration in an era when everything was done by hand. Once retired, Alpine and Cecil wrote stories for comic books such as Scrooge McDuck and Gyro Gearloose. Lynn notes that Alpine wrote under Cecil’s name because, at the time, Disney Studios refused to buy anything written by a woman. “Cecil turned in an enormous amount of work, and Disney just thought that he was incredibly prolific.”


A nice story, but this website tells a different story and mentions how credits for story-writing were not including in comic books during that time, so technically the only thing under Cecil’s name was his salary paycheck.


Through Cecily’s well-connected parents, she and Lynn were given an opportunity to show their portfolios at Jay Ward Studios. Lynn remembers it was located as the best and most innovative animation studio in Los Angeles. The presented their folios and were both immediately offered jobs in the background department – to start as soon as possible.


Jay Ward was famous for George of the Jungle, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and my personal fave, Super Chicken! All I had to do was get a Green card, Cecily could move home, and the guys could find something, we were sure! Not so. Radio announcers and television cameramen were everywhere in California. There was no need to hire from out of the country. Both men refused to take “just anything” so their wives could become animators. The four of us drove back to Vancouver. This was heart breaking, but we followed our men.


I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t rehash much. In 1967 Jay Ward studios were on the verge of dropping out of the Saturday morning animation game to go to animation for strictly TV commercials. Whatever Lynn and Cecily were offered would not have been much and they probably would have lost their jobs within a year. It wasn’t that heart-breaking. It sounds like a smart move.

In case you were wondering about Cecily Sell Mitchell, she published her biography and you can see her reasoning behind leaving the world of animation does not quite match Lynn’s description. Also, the website shows Cecily’s art and she shows an incredible range.

About Cecily Mitchell

I was born into a family of artists. My father was an animator. He worked on Snow White and Bambi, WAY before I was born.

I began my own artistic journey when I was two; I drew a 'portrait' of my father.
It was a full figure that included a body, to which the arms and legs were attached. Apparently, this was a first for a child my age, as children that young who draw people will draw limbs protruding from a head. They don't, normally draw a body. My drawing was taken to a meeting of child psychologists who proclaimed me to have ' extraordinary abilities of observation'.

All I know is, I have been obsessed with all things art ever since. I studied at Chouiard Art Institute in Los Angeles in the 1960's. Here are some highlights of my artistic journey since then:

I worked for a while in the animation industry, and decided it wasn't for me. Then in 1978 designed a line of miniature dolls and began a cottage business. They were marketed through a Los Angeles distributer, Nation-wide under the name; SMALL PEOPLE BY CECILY. These little dolls supported my family for several years. Eventually, after cranking out about 15,000 dolls, I burned out.

A few years after dumping SMALL PEOPLE, I wrote and illustrated a children's book featuring the dolls, entitled; CECILY SMALL AND THE RAINY DAY ADVENTURE (Andrews & McMeel 1995)


I notice that Cecily's publisher is also Lynn's. Coincidence?

About Cecily Mitchell

Around the same time, I began sculpting more elaborate art dolls. I sold them to several stores in the Seattle area. Eventually, I got commissioned by Nordstrom to make 100 Christmas Angels for sale in their Northwest stores. I continued with the art dolls for a few more years, consigning to galleries and sculpting them on special commission.

These days, I have the luxury of going wherever my muse takes me. My work is extremely eclectic. I constantly experiment with different and unique media and methods to achieve my vision of the day. I sculpt, paint and draw, both with conventional materials as well as freehand digital. Often times, as you can see with the art I offer for sale here, I employ combinations of some of these media.

There are no rules for me in art, except these ; Always be original and authentic. My motto is, CREATE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!


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