howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part IX – One Open Door Leads to Another – The Move to Hamilton

In this section we are going to talk about the events that led up to Lynn and Doug moving to Hamilton from Vancouver. We will discuss after the cut.

Page 60


Shortly after the trip to Los Angeles, Doug lost his job at the CBC to spending cutbacks. The prospects in Vancouver were bleak, so he left for Ontario, where work in his field was more readily available. He landed a job at CHCH TV in Hamilton, a steel town on the shore of Lake Ontario. “We made plans to go east, just for a while, to find temporary work.”


This story directly contradicts the story Lynn tells about this in her 10th anniversary collection which says:

I continued to work at Canawest, and was learning, bit by bit, to animate. I thought that my career in animation was set in stone (or acetate). In 1969, the bottom appeared to fall out of the Vancouver broadcasting industry. Spending cutbacks affected every facet of the business. CBC had massive lay-offs, and people were dismissed in order of seniority. Because he was a new recruit, Doug knew that his job was on the line.

We made plans to go east, just for awhile, to find temporary work. When the situation improved, we’d go back to Vancouver.

Hamilton, Ontario, is a steel town. Dominated by factories and smelters, the harbor – once a vacationer’s paradise – was now an ugly line of warehouses and industrial sites. It was a far cry from postcard-picturesque Vancouver.

As newcomers, not planning to stay, we criticized Hamilton with west-coast arrogance, not knowing how good to us she was going to be.

Doug got a place on the camera crew of CHCH-TV and I, lost without my job at Canawest, searched for something to help pay the rent.


In this version Doug is definitely laid off and lost his job, and this is the first time I have ever seen Lynn be exact on this. In other prior versions it was usually a story about Doug predicting that something maybe could possibly happen to his job, and so he took the job in Hamilton before CBC could lay him off. I have been through many different websites discussing CBC history and 1969 was not a period of layoffs. If anything, it was a period of massive expansion because color TV broadcasts resulted in a huge increase in business for television. I cannot find anything to support Lynn’s outrageous claim that Hamilton, Ontario, of all places, had more jobs for TV cameramen than a giant TV market city like Vancouver.


Lynn would have liked to continue her apprenticeship, but there were no animation studios in Hamilton. There were a few in Toronto, but distance was not her only obstacle; she didn’t have the proper training or the equipment to take on freelance work yet.


At the time I was learning how to animate, busy animation studios would farm out shows, or even parts of shows, to smaller, satellite studios. A studio in Toronto might get a contract to do part of a show for Hanna-Barbera, for example. This could be a storyboard, just the backgrounds, or a few specific scenes from one show. Several animators could work on one scene, which then allowed some experienced animators to work from home.


This is the first time Lynn has ever indicated in her history that she had the idea that she could move to the Toronto area and if she had enough experience and the proper equipment, an animation studio would allow her to work on freelance animation at home. This is the first reason I have heard her give that would explain why it is they would move to Hamilton, Ontario outside of Toronto. She wanted to be a freelance animator for Hanna-Barbera through some Toronto animation studio. Lynn is obsessed with the idea of supporting herself through freelance work, possibly because it means you don’t have to work with or for anyone.  However, it is odd that Lynn would have reached this point after such a short time with Canawest.  She has told us that she was a poor employee at McMaster University and the packaging plant, so there is no reason to expect she would not have had similar issues at Canawest.  I would have expected that working there would be different because animation was something she wanted to do.

Lynn iterates in both in this book and in the 10th anniversary collection how the Hamilton move was going to be a temporary one. Whenever she makes a big deal about something like this, it means it is important to her to say that she never intended the move to be a permanent one. However, history has shown that the exact opposite is probably true. Temporary work is not the kind of work where you move everything almost completely across the country. Temporary work is when you work in another industry in the same town and don’t move across the country. Moving is expensive and painful, and you don’t do it for temporary work.

My impression is that the Hanna-Barbera work at Canawest dried up after Hanna-Barbera got their one year Abbott and Costello show out of them, and Lynn wanted to continue working in animation. Maybe the animation industry was better in Toronto and a “temporary” move could be tried with the understanding that if you didn’t find work, you would move back. My impression is that the statements about “temporary” could be used to placate someone who really doesn’t want to move. After their divorce, Doug made a beeline back to Vancouver, so most likely he was the someone.


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