Longtime NFB ‘Animation Champion’ Hélène Tanguay Dies

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has shared the news that longtime employee and “animation champion” Hélène Tanguay died on January 7. In honor of her career legacy and marking the relationships she built with artists through the years, the NFB’s Oscar shortlisted animated short film The Flying Sailor has been dedicated to Tanguay.

“Hélène Tanguay was an outstanding and unwavering ambassador for animated films. Everywhere she went, she left her mark, always with a human touch. Both professionally and privately, she tirelessly travelled the world presenting and viewing films. She forged relationships and helped build an active community of animation enthusiasts,” said Julie Roy, NFB’s Director General, Creation, Distribution & Marketing, and Chief Programming Officer.

“Her sense of humor, generosity, countless anecdotes, extensive understanding of the field and immense knowledge of animated film made Hélène an extraordinary individual. She was driven by one desire: to spread the word about these artists and their work.”

Tanguay joined the NFB’s Festivals unit in 1970 at just 17 years old. In 1979, she further enmeshed herself in the animation scene when she was elected to the board of directors of ASIFA Canada, where she also served as the Canadian delegate to the ASIFA International Council for six years. In 1984, Tanguay was named Marketing Manager for the NFB’s English Program Animation Studio in Montreal.

Tanguay retired from the NFB in 2007, after almost 40 years of distinguished service in bringing the work of NFB creators to an ever-wider audience through her impassioned work and warm presence at festivals around the globe. However, she remained deeply engaged with the animation world — and with the countless artists and artisans who loved her.

“Though filmmakers and producers generally get the attention, today we want to shine a spotlight on someone who dedicated her career to promoting creators, whom she so fervently respected and admired,” Roy added. “To this extended family, she bequeaths her unconditional love of animated film, for which we are eternally grateful.”

Across social media, Tanguay is being remembered by both the Canadian and international animation communities. The Annecy festival, which Tanguay attended every year from 1975 to 2008 (serving on the short film jury that year), described her as “the finest ambassador the NFB ever had. She was charming, funny, playful, colorful, and strong willed. She loved animation, films, directors, Annecy and other festivals, and in return she too was much loved and appreciated worldwide.”

The Ottawa International Animation Festival, which hosted Tanguay as its Honorary President in 2007, noted that she “touched the lives of many with her humor and delight. Her impact on the animation community will not be forgotten.” You can see some photos of fond memories with Tanguay at OIAF in this Twitter thread shared in memory of pioneering NFB pinscreen animator Jacques Drouin‘s passing in 2021 — one of the many celebrated creators Tanguay supported throughout her career.

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