We recently asked the fans on our Facebook page to pose some interview questions for Lynn. Here’s the second set of questions and answers. (Read the first series here and the second set here):
Jason Young: Having your strip brought to the small screen was a massive undertaking on your part, what were some of your fears and hopes for that undertaking? All the best.
Lynn: I was honoured to have had the opportunity to see my work animated. This is an overwhelmingly costly and time consuming art form and the number of people involved is amazing. The first show, “The Bestest Present”, was one-off and written by me. I was able to work closely with the artists: storyboard, layout, background, key, and in-between. I chose the voices and directed the recording and I worked with the camera crew and musicians as well.
It was a huge amount of work, but an exciting and fulfilling experience and the result was one really nice show. Even with all the attention to detail, however, mistakes were made (no wheels on a moving toy train, for example!) but the show won a Gemini Award for children’s programming, and all of us were proud of what we had accomplished.
I’d hoped to continue to do one show at a time, but this studio went out of business and I was approached by another. Specials were/are not as easy to sell as a series. I agreed to a series of six, and when you do a number of shows at once, problems arise. I needed writers because I couldn’t oversee a series of scripts and produce the strip at the same time. I worked with superb writers, but even so, the speed with which the shows had to be done meant farming out sections of each show to other studios, some as far away as India.
Work would be returned with some big errors – no fault of the animators. I would find this out after the show had gone too far into the system to make necessary changes, and these errors went into the finished shows. Budget problems were often announced in the middle of a process, so we might have to omit some music or sound effects–and sometimes big areas which should have been animated were done badly, or left out altogether. Budget was a constant problem. Speed, too, was a huge problem, and the result was a series of average shows which never really went anywhere. If we had been able to do one at a time, we would have been able to do some artfully animated, worthwhile shows.
I have refused to allow my work to be done in a fast and careless way again, so no shows have been done in a long time. Still, I have been captivated by, in love with animation for as long as I can remember. Like every other artist who works in the industry, I’m willing to work my heart out for a good show! Who knows. Maybe I’ll be able to collaborate with a good studio again some day! Never say never.
Me: It's all about the creative control for her. All this talk about slipshod this and budget that is a smokescreen for her not liking to be told that no, they can't interlard everything with puns that would tank the show in foreign-languages markets. Also, howtheduck is probably right to assume that she'd thrown a tantrum or twenty along the way.
Patrick Verdant: What made FBorFW exceptional is the fact that characters are aging, evolving into time. It surely help you providing new ideas and new challenges for the characters. Was there a moment you regret it and would have prefer to keep them still in time ?
Lynn: Once the characters began to age in real time, I was happy to have the challenge. I never wanted to halt the aging process, but there was a time when I really missed having a baby in the strip, so April was “born”. She provided me with the chaos, the added responsibility, the baby talk, and the action I needed.
Changing the characters was interesting. I had height charts. I had books on child development. I had my own kids, but cartoons are a species unto themselves, so aging a cartoon is tricky. You can’t change a character too much or you lose the “essence” of the character.
In real life, people change in dramatic ways. Sometimes we don’t recognize a good friend, just because she’s had her hair cut and coloured, now wears glasses, or has lost or gained weight. A cartoon character must always have a very recognizable look, so the changes I made were subtle, like height or a slight alteration in hairstyle. Even the behaviour and speech patterns of the comic strip characters had to be gradual and hardly noticeable.
The adults were easier to age. I added glasses and eye bags, and extended the neckline. I was often asked to change Elly’s hair, but to cut her hair would have been to remove the essence of the character, so she always had a rather dowdy hairstyle!
No, I never wished I’d kept the characters the same age, even though it would have made licensing them easier. Having them age made the strip more interesting for me to write and draw…and I grew up with them!
Me: At least she didn't try to pass off her inabilty/refusal to keep track of things as her deliberate intention this time. Too bad she doesn't admit that characters' heights simply HAVE to vary to fit in walls of texts.
Erica Forrest: How would you deal with some of the people who were negative about the storyline or content?
Lynn: Anyone who wrote to me with good criticism was appreciated. We work for an audience, and sometimes my “negative” readers caught some serious errors and made some great observations. I responded to every letter worth responding to. It was the abusive and rude stuff that I ignored. These people never got a response. What’s the point?
I once met one of my “trolls” at a book signing. I couldn’t believe that after all the garbage she had thrown at me, she was there to have a book signed! I asked her why she worked so hard to hurt my feelings if she liked the strip. She said she and her co-trolls were doing me a favour. Really? Go figure!
Me: She really doesn't understand that criticism can be constructive, does she? She's seventy-odd years old and it's never occurred to her once in all that time that a person can say something she doesn't feel like hearing and not be a monster trying to tear her apart. I hate to keep harping on the fact that she's always going to be this sad, angry little girl who confuses her hurt feelings with the intent of others but here we are, watching her get pissed at one of us for trying to make her not embarrass herself.
Lee Williams: Lynn, was I your favourite Animation Co-Director you’ve ever worked with? Let’s pitch a live action sitcom of FBorFW. Who plays you?
Lynn: Lee…I miss you! We should talk! …A live action show has been pitched a number of times, but when you think about it, the FBorFW story is about an average Canadian family. Not too exciting by today’s standards. The last group to make an offer was a US production company and they wanted the “Patterson family” to live in the states! Not possible.
I can see working on a show that covers the story from the time the strip ended. You never know. Some day, that might happen….but it would have to be a Canadian company wanting to do a Canadian show in Canada!
ME: Good luck with that. You ain't going to be able to escape foreign money or influence, Lynn.
Birgit K. O’Connor: I love your strips. I wonder have you meet any deaf people in your life….
Lynn: I have met very few deaf people in my life. When we were kids there was a “School for the Deaf” in Vancouver. We would watch their soccer games from the sidelines and the students who attended the school would talk to each other in sign language. It was fascinating. The signing kids were able to speak in a different language and we hearing kids were left out! It was one time when kids with a “disability” ruled!
Much later, when I was doing speaking engagements, people would be there on stage with me to sign for the deaf. They were amazing. During my talk, I would list off a series of things in the “Museum of Dirt” (yes, it exists) and talk so fast they couldn’t keep up. This would always end in a lot of laughs, some serious hugs and an opportunity for me to introduce my signing companion to the audience.
I have always been fascinated and impressed by this dramatic and emotional way of speaking. People who sign wear their hearts on their sleeves. They act, they express themselves profoundly and they story tell. What a wonderful skill to have.
Me: Eh....even though she doesn't realize that the school is still a going concern, this isn't TOO condescending or ignorant so whatevs.....
Michelle Wood: I loved how you wrapped up your strip….I was sad to see it end but I did understand. I am curious…..in your creative mind did you know how the rest of the characters’ lives played out???
Lynn: When I ended the story, I had a good idea of where the characters’ lives would lead them. I wrote some text on the last strips, to say what eventually happened to everyone. Still, life never follows a script, so what happens next is anybody’s guess! It was this very question which allowed me to write and draw the strip for almost 30 years. I confess, I don’t think about the characters at all now. It’s as if I’ve let them go. I’ve allowed them to live without the strings I attached to them. They’re free! Yup. And so am I.
Me: Lynn doesn't think about what happened to the Pattersons after Liz got married because she lost interest in their life after that. Personally, I think that she should tell people it's the story of Liz on her inevitable trajectory to Jim's bedside so that she and Anthony can get their title-dropping benediction from Iris in order to silence them but you know how she'd react to that!!!
Sam Pazen: Thank you Lynn. April was born around the same time my son Josh was and it was nice watching them grow up. i also rooted for Liz and Anthony. How is Francoise doing with Liz as her stepmom and is her mom involved at all? i guess i ask because you made the characters so real.
Lynn: Thanks for your question, Sam. I often meet people who say they were born when April was and I feel a special kinship to them all! Again, I confess. I haven’t stayed in touch with any of the FBorFW characters. Please continue the story in a way that makes you happy. It’s quite an experience, being “in charge” of someone else’s life!
Me: Again, she thinks that she's done telling the Pattersons' story so is throwing it open to people to continue in a way she would like. (That means having marrying April off to the Continental and having Liz whine about how That Weird Frenchy Girl Never Even Tried To Love Her.)
Ann Stearns Rawson: Most of your characters were similar to your family members. Did any of your family object at any point?
Lynn: There were times when my husband objected to the way I portrayed him. I said some harsh things. Still, when I re-read all my work, I can now see that I told some raw truths. I let people into my real world–because that’s all I knew. John Patterson was a great character to work with. So was Elly. I took the worst and the best of both of us and I put those features into the strip.
For many reasons, it was really “For Better or for Worse”. My kids and I are great friends. They didn’t pay much attention to the strip when they were little, but they are reading it now, and it’s fun to hear them say they are learning more about our family, and their childhoods. It’s been an interesting journey, and it affected us all in different ways.
Me: This tends towards the disingenuous as it seems to me that the kids had to join Rod in wondering how they were perceived. After all, Aaron begged her not to make Mike wear glasses as well for a reason Lynn doesn't admit to here.
Peter Partridge: Did a North Vancouver childhood inspire your creativity in your comics? We wonder if the West Coast weather whet your wilder inspirations.
Lynn: Yes! The west coast played a huge role in the strip. I relived my childhood in North Vancouver every time I worked with the comic strip kids, and many of the auxiliary characters were based on teachers, family, and friends on the North Shore. Memory played a huge role in my writing, so the west coast of Canada was as much a part of the strip as Ontario was.
Me: Lynn is great at telling people what she's seen but not so good at explaining why things happen so I have no problem with this rather candid answer.
Kathleen Duggan: If you were still drawing the strip, what would become of Lawrence and his partner? And also the same with Gordon and Tracey?
Lynn: My guess is that Lawrence and his partner have a thriving landscaping business, and their biggest concern is that their company might become too large to control. The same might be said for Gordon and Tracey. They had an excellent business as well. Success isn’t always easy to manage, so I hope they are all doing well and staying together.
Me: Lynn might not want to speculate too much on what side characters are up to but she does know about losing control of things.
Danielle Brown: Hello Lynn. How did you keep your enthusiasm, your motivation, and the belief in yourself for the many years of FBorFW ? I love the characters and the story lines. I just wonder how you handled niggling doubts.
Lynn: I kept my enthusiasm for FBorFW because everyone in the strip was real to me, and I wanted to know what was happening in their lives. I felt I was telling their story. The only time the work became difficult was after my divorce. For a couple of years, I had to write and draw the strip as if nothing had happened. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do! I’m lucky to have such a good mind for fantasy.
Me: Given that she used the post-divorce strip as a means of bashing Rod, I think she's got a great mind for revenge fantasies. As for losing interest, one of us posted an interview about her getting tired of the characters and there's the Diller letter so that's a lie. Also, at least the ugly picture of her and Laura and Name Escapes Me gives most of them a jaw line; most of her recent stuff has the Pattersons lacking chins.