Artist - Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson has been animating and supervising animation since 1994, and teaching it since 1999. He currently leads a team of 8 artists on Season 3 of Nickelodeon's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" at Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver, and teaches part time at Think Tank Training Centre in North Vancouver, as well as dedicating 10-15 hours/week to developing short films.   

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson's Credit list:

"The 8-Bit Cup" (short film, 2014)
"Earth, Video Games, Port Mann Bridge" (short film, 2014)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Seasons 1 and 2 (TV series) (2012,13, 14)
Fanboy and ChumChum: Season 2 (TV series) (2011)
Planet Sheen (TV series) (2010)
Neighbors from Hell (TV series) (2010)
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Season 1 (TV series) (2010)
Kung Fu Magoo (Direct-to-video) (2009)
The Adventures of Little Jake and Many Skies (TV interstitials) (2009)
Pearlie (TV series) (2009)
Edgar & Ellen (TV series) (2008)
The Nutty Professor (Direct-to-video) (2007)
Chaotic: Season 1 (TV Series) (2006)
Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: Seasons 1 and 2 (TV series) (2005,07)
FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: Season 2 (TV Series) (2005)
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: Season 2 (TV series) (2004)
The Buzz on Maggie (TV series) (2003)
¡Mucha Lucha!: Season 3 (TV series) (2002)
 Return to Never Land (DTV Feature) (2000)
Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (DTV Feature) (1999)
Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You (TV special) (1998)
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (TV special) (1998)
Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (DTV Feature)  (1997)
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (DTV Feature) (1996)
Tales from the Far Side II (1-hour TV special) (1996)
Kleo the Misfit Unicorn (TV series) (1995)

Paul's IMDb page:

"The 8-Bit Cup"! A short film sports-themed pixel art video game battle for my Best Job Ever (re-ex). from Paul Johnson on Vimeo.

Regarding "The 8-Bit Cup". I'm a sports fan. More specifically, I'm a fan of sports commentary. I didn't recognize the distinction when I was a kid, but more than actually watching the games, I loved listening to them. Hearing Jim Robson call Canucks games growing up, I assumed that all sportscasters stayed with the same team for 20 years or more. I'm also a sports video game fan. Not so much the hyper-real ones, but the old-school ones that had to make up for lack of graphics and complexity with gameplay and *fun*.

More "8-Bit Cup" Links: http://8-bitxon.deviantart.com

What part of Canada are you from Paul?
Born in Port Moody, BC, lived in and around Vancouver ever since. 

What inspired you to create animation?
Ha, funny story. So I didn't focus on creating visual art much growing up, music was my big thing from grades 8-12 with clarinet and saxophone. After high school I didn't know what I wanted to do, so after a year off I focused on taking courses to teach English in high school, since it was the one thing I was good at other than music. After a year of that, I figured out that music was actually a realistic option and fit into my natural tendencies more, so I spent the next 2 1/2 years focused on that in college and university. It was my one-year full-time data-entry job that really transitioned me into animation though - it was so brain-numbingly tedious that I needed a creative outlet to keep from losing my mind, I started drawing!

...which led me to a one-year animation program in June of 1994, and once I saw those first two images moving in sequence on the line-test machine, I never looked back. It was an awesome moment, to realize that single images created out of my head could tell a story when represented in real time - a childhood of watching cartoons had prepared me for this without me knowing it.

"The 8-Bit Cup" - Hockey Game

How would you describe your artistic style?
Good question. I think it's a combination of historical and autobiographical experience with efficient and simplified motion as much as possible. When I'm working on my short films, I have a general mantra of "good enough" - I work at 100% level until I'm 90% finished, and then I do the minimum required to get on to the next scene, revisiting and improving as time allows. I pay attention to my moods and structure my work accordingly - sometimes I just feel like doing lip-sync or kinetic action for a few hours, and sometimes I just want to give others feedback on their work with a goal of keeping consistency and telling a story. Studio work, teaching, and short films give me a terrific balance right now.

"The 8-Bit Cup" - Screen Captures (Spoilers) - Click for Full Res Version

Can you share a piece of art work or script segment that no one has seen before?
Wow, I had to dig for that one. A drawing from 1993 that kept me from having my brain sucked out by data-entry ("Eckersley") - I didn't know much about drawing, so I employed the classic grid-based method, and drew from sports cards.

What role do you play in the creation of animation?
Professionally, my strength is in animating, combining ideas, and in helping others realize their potential and manage their time to get their own work done. I enjoy the entire film-making process, especially the music - I wouldn't want to do music full-time, but I love creating the soundscapes for my short films.

"Earth Video Games Port Mann Bridge" - Screen Captures (Spoilers) - Click for Full Res Version

What is one project that you are proud to have been involved in?
I generally have a sense of loving whatever I'm working on at the time, so TMNT has been a terrific experience with a group of awesome and impressively skilled professionals. The Far Side II in 1996 was a terrific project, as it was the one cel-painted project  I was fortunate to work on, and being lucky enough to meet and work with Marv Newland helped keep me in animation. His rule was "make it funny" - the drawings might be a little off-model, the spacing might be uneven, the silhouette could be stronger - but if it's funny, APPROVED!

Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles - Animated at Bardel Entertainment

What project are you working on now?
TMNT Season 3, the 3d Nickelodeon cartoon. It's awesome fun.

Paul's Cintique setup at Bardel for TMNT, Season 1

Who is one of your favourite Canadian animators?
Whoo, I've worked with so many people that I've been able to look up to and learn from, I'd have a to give a chronological list off the top of my head - Marv Newland, Michael VanDenBos, Dieter Mueller, Paul Boyd, Keith Ingham, Nick Vallinakis, Sean Newton, Ron Crown, Jon Izen, Larry Hall, Joseph Gilland, and Chris Woods. 

What is one of your favourite animation books? 
Love the "Scott Pilgrim" series by Bryan Lee OMalley; terrific artistic inspiration. The character design progression through the 6 books is instructive too. His "Lost at Sea" is also great.

Who is an up-and-coming Canadian animator that everyone should check out?
Tons of talented students at Think Tank right now - I'm working with one phenomenally talented young artist, Chelsea GR -

Chelsea GR on Deviant Art

Are you involved with any animation organizations in Canada?
Not formally, but I volunteered for Siggraph Vancouver 2014 and I am looking to make more socially conscious short films in the future.

Have your films won any animation awards/accolades?
Not yet! At this point, I'm more concerned with people seeing my work, awards are just gravy.

What are some of your animation milestones?

Personal milestones:

5 years working hand-drawn animation, 10 years working in 2d digital animation, 15 years teaching animation, and now working in 3d animation for the past 5 years. Teaching animation overseas has been a great experience as well, I've been to Taiwan and China over a dozen times now because of teaching animation. 

Attending Ottawa Animation Festival in 2013 was a big turning point for me - I returned feeling chastised for not creating films of my own, and have since created two short films, with the goal of creating one every 6 months for the rest of my life :D

Is there a question I should have asked that I didn’t? 

Some thoughts on animation:

I find one thing that often happens to people just starting out, but even to those who have been in the industry a long while, is that people become dependent on their job title for their identity, at least in part. I often hear from students "I can't wait to become an animator!" and from industry vets "I was the director on xxx project", which I consider limiting statements and not accurate. I encourage students to think about animating as an action rather than *who* they are; "I can't wait to animate for a living" or "I can't wait to make short films" are much more positive and realistic statements to me than talking about "becoming" something based on what someone else is willing to pay you to do. On a more meta-level, it comes down to the question "What do you want to do when you grow up?", which is sometimes misinterpreted as "What do you want to BE when you grow up?", which to me is a dangerous game to be playing - because once a project ends or someone is temporarily unable to find work that validates their identity, what does that make them? "I used to be an animator" means that someone is no longer that identity, so what have they become? Could they *be* one again? It's much simpler and realistic in my mind to say "I used to animate" or "I animate for a living" than to confuse the action with the being. 

For me, I'm currently leading a team on TMNT season 3, and animating a partial quota. People can call me a "Lead" if they want, just like they called me a "Director" on other projects or an "Inbetweener" on others. The point is, we're all people, and everyone deserves the same basic level  of respect regardless of what action they may be performing on a given project - and if we stop referring to people as who they are based on their job description, we might have a more equitable and encouraging ego-free workplace. 



- scope creep
- expanding parameters
- moving targets
- changing metrics

∴ "good enough" is usually good enough.


Check out this TEDx talk about careers by Larry Smith:


To see more work from Paul Johnson check out his Vimeo Channel


  1. Hey Paul, I'd love to chat with you about your work. Could you please drop me a line at

  2. im not sure how to contact you other than this, my email is i make music and sell my stuff for commercial, tv show, adverts and film. I will donate some of my best stuff (music) for you cause. i would love to see you use some of my original composers in your animations! If you'd like a taste of things i will send you some hyper links to my master tracks that are up for grabs!! ps i Love your stuff, i hope you keep doing what youre working on and doing what you love to do...i also hope you take my offer. :-) cheers, Sino Brossia.


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