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  home > news > People Friday, December 2, 2005 
Animator sets down roots in Bellingham
Nickelodeon showed Michel Gagne's 'shadow puppets' over Halloween

Bellingham animator/artist Michel Gagne's whimsical cartoons of what he calls "insanely twisted shadow puppets" are rapidly becoming cult favorites for downloading by college students.
After nearly two decades of work for animation studios, Gagne, 40, and his wife, Nancy, moved to Bellingham three years ago so he could pursue his own artistic vision as a producer of videos and picture books. He has published 12 fantasy books, which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
He is also an accomplished artist, working with acrylics to produce fine-art paintings for sale.
Michel Gagne welcomes the opportunity to speak to local groups. He can be reached at

To see his work, go to

For his short, animated films, see

Gagne's picture books of fantasy, filled with whimsical images, can be ordered through Village Books or Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
Question: I heard your cartoon videos appeared recently on the Nickelodeon cable TV network.
Answer: My "insanely twisted shadow puppets" did appear over Halloween, ranging from 25 seconds to 3 seconds. There are 12 of them. They have built up a lot of fans on the Web.
Q: Why do you call the shadow puppets "insanely twisted?" They seem pretty harmless.
A: It just refers to something alien, bizarre, crazy or different, like my latest picture book, "Odd Numbers." It's just not your usual take on things.
Q: When you were working for animation studios, did you work on your own projects, too?
A: I always have. I began by producing a 3-minute short film, "Prelude to Eden," a fantasy centered on the Big Bang. It took me four years to produce, with 7,000 hand-produced drawings in classic animation style. My cartoon became a demo piece for Animo, a firm that produced "ink and paint" for software for animators.
Q: How did you get your start in animation?
A: I was born in Roberval, Quebec, about three hours north of Quebec City, and I attended a trade school with a big animation program. I had loved cartoons and comics as a kid, and 20 years ago I began working for an animation studio in Ottawa after two years at the school. I got to work on (Canadian cartoonist) Lynn Johnston's first TV special of her comic strip "For Better or For Worse." I drew the dog!
Q: What followed?
A: I spent more time at the animation school, then I flew to California to apply for a job at Don Bluth Animation Studios. I worked in Van Nuys and then in Ireland, where I met Nancy when she was working for the same animation studio. I worked there six years, on six feature films in all, including "An American Tale." Then my cartoon "Prelude to Eden" led to Animo and several job offers.
Q: And that led to Warner Brothers?
A: Right. I worked there for seven years, through 2000, and became the head of special effects animation. Some people thought I was crazy to give up that job, but I had always dreamed of working entirely on my own projects. Gagne International Press has now produced 12 hardcover books. They are books for all ages, cute with an edge. We started with print runs of 1,000 and now we're up to 5,000.
Q: You've also produced six issues of "Zed," your comic book for older readers.
A: Jack Kirby's famous work for Marvel Comics in the 1960s on titles like "Fantastic Four" and "Thor" was my earliest inspiration. I didn't see the originals, but rather French reprints in graphic novels. It started when I was 8-years-old and in the hospital with asthma. I didn't even know they started in English! Then I discovered Steve Ditko on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. I just loved all those Marvel characters.
Q: And now you're working on ...
A: I'm planning a three-volume set of books devoted to preserving Kirby's work on romance comics. He and his partner, Joe Simon, created the genre for comic books in 1947 and did some truly great work.
Q: What drew you to Bellingham?
A: We moved here for the weather - green, wet and beautiful. Half an hour after I arrived from Burbank, I knew we would move here. We love it!
Michelle Nolan is a freelance writer. For questions or story ideas, contact Neighbors editor Dean Kahn at or 715-2291.

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