White creates world class animation from his deck at Marsh Lake

If you drive slowly around Marsh Lake, you might catch sight of Jay White sitting on the deck of his high-speed-internet-connected cabin tapping away…

If you drive slowly around Marsh Lake, you might catch sight of Jay White sitting on the deck of his high-speed-internet-connected cabin tapping away on his laptop.

White is a modern Dr. Frankenstein, of sorts.

Using machines, electricity and a jolt of imagination, he brings two-dimensional drawings to life.

“My dream was always to live in a cabin and do animation, and that’s what I’m doing,” says White.

Although his office is currently overlooks the Whitehorse wilds, White is working on collaborations with a rock band in Toronto, a theatre company in Vancouver and the National Film Board, based in Ottawa.

“It’s quiet,” he says. “I don’t really go into town much. It’s perfect for me.”

He uses the same 3-D animation software as major studios like Disney and Pixar, but White puts his own spin on it.

“I think my work is pretty innovative in that way. A lot of the people who know the 3-D software go into the entertainment industry and usually they do it to make big bucks,” he says.

“When you’re looking to make money you can’t take risks and that’s what I like to do with the medium.

“It’s not often that people go outside that and make their own short films using that same software.”

It takes White one month to create a 30-second to one-minute animation, so a six-minute film would take almost a year.

Because it’s such a time-consuming process, you have to plan carefully before you begin.

White starts by writing a script and creating a storyboard. He sketches out his characters and his backgrounds in his chosen medium — watercolours.

Then he scans them into his laptop PC and “sculpts” the characters virtually on the computer by laying the drawings over three-dimensional forms.

“You can go to work and talk about cartoons with people,” he says with a laugh. “And you don’t get in trouble for watching cartoons online.”

The job pays well, but it used to pay better.

Like manufacturing, a lot of animation jobs are being shipped overseas from the US and Canada, where they can pay skilled animators lower salaries.

“Now that thousands of people all over the world know how to use the software, they’ll just take it to the cheapest place they can,” says White.

“When I first came out of school people said: ‘If you know how to use that software, you’ve got a job for sure,’ but it’s definitely not like that anymore.”

He started out with a degree in civil engineering and thought he wanted to get into architecture.

By the time he’d finished the four-year course, he decided he didn’t want anything to do with building.

He was looking for something more creative.

So he enrolled in the Vancouver Film School for a one-year intensive course in computer animation.

He spent eight years after graduation designing animation for kids’ TV shows.

He worked in Germany for a year on a show called Stevie Stardust; then he worked on another show called Beast Machines.

Recently, he art directed on a show called Dragon Booster, an anime cartoon where a teenager teams up with a dragon to save the world from war.

But he still wasn’t satisfied; he wanted something more creative.

“It was more business that art,” he says. “They were basically big TV commercials, and people were concerned whether the toy was in them enough.”

So far White has created four original animations.

His short, dark comedy Boar Attack bagged the award for favourite Made in the Yukon professional film, and second place in the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Dawson City International Film Festival.

It tells the story of a man sitting alone in his house worrying that his father may have been attacked by a wild boar on his way home.

He got the idea while living in Germany and locals would constantly tell him to be careful while walking through the forests because he may be attacked by a wild pig.

“It’s just different things that come together and I think are funny so I’ll add them to the story.”

The story is bleak, but surprisingly funny.

“I default to dark, it takes other people to tell me to make it a bit lighter,” says White.

“I think it gives the work another level — adults can read a lot into them, but kids really like them too.

“You need that darkness sometimes to make it deeper than a regular happy cartoon.”

Per capita, the Yukon has a lot of professional animators. White counts four in the territory, which is something when you consider there are only 30,000 people here.

“There’s still a misconception of what animation is, and you see that up here more than in other places,” says White.

“People think that I draw cartoons and that’s something that’s easy to do.”

But it’s not just entertainment; it can be art too, he says.

And the opportunities for professional animators in the territory are building.

Daniel Janke, of Northern Town Films, is looking to set up a studio in downtown Whitehorse that would open June 1.

And he’s hired White to work as an animator in the studio.

Their first project is to animate a film, How People Got Fire, which was shot in Carcross last winter using a technique called rotoscoping, where live action shots are drawn and painted over, frame by frame.

While White is juggling a lot of projects, it only seems to be building, he says.

Recently White was awarded a mid-career Canada Council of the Arts grant to work on his next film, titled Perfect Detonator.

He plans to work on it for the next year and a half.

When he’s finished, he’ll show his work-up sketches and watercolour drawings alongside the finished animation in art galleries across Canada.

In the spring he packed up his equipment and hosted an NFB-sponsored animation workshop for youth in Teslin.

White is also collaborating with a Vancouver-based theatre company, Boca del Lupo. They’ve already created a theatre performance where live actors interact with animation projected onto a screen dubbed The Perfectionist.

And, over the winter, White animated a music video for The Diableros, a Toronto-based band.

The video for the song Sugar Laced Soul begins with a couple riding a bicycle built for two through an idyllic park, suddenly they’re swept away by a flock of softly animated blue birds carrying long red ribbons in their beaks.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read