Hélène Tanguay, a long-time champion of Oscar-winning Canadian animation who worked at the National Film Board of Canada for 37 years, has died. She was 70 years old.
Tanguay died on Jan. 7 according to the NFB, Canada’s public filmmaker, which did not specify a cause of death. Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’s award-winning 2022 animated short, The Flying Sailor, now shortlisted for the Oscars, has been dedicated to Tanguay, the NFB added.
“Hélène Tanguay was an outstanding and unwavering ambassador for animated films. Everywhere she went, she left her mark, always with a human touch,” Julie Roy, NFB director general, creation, distribution and marketing, and chief programming officer, said in a statement. “Both professionally and privately, she tirelessly traveled the world presenting and viewing films. She forged relationships and helped build an active community of animation enthusiasts. 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.”
Born on Sept. 2, 1952, in Montreal, Tanguay joined the NFB’s festivals unit in 1970 at the age of 17. Early on, she worked with all film genres, but soon developed a preference for animated film, a key content coming out of the NFB as it has won over a dozen Oscars as a film producer over the years.
In a 2017 interview with The Concordian, Tanguay praised the NFB for allowing its animators from all diverse Canadian backgrounds to be experimental and creative, unlike the private sector where commercial product is prized.
“In contrast with the private sector, NFB only produces film d’auteur (animated films). It provides a space for experimentation, collaboration work, and constant learning. NFB is also very important because it seeks to represent all cultural groups through out Canada,” she said.
In 1979, Tanguay began volunteering for ASIFA, the International Animated Film Association, working with the organization’s Canadian and international representatives. In 1984, she was named marketing manager for the NFB’s English Program Animation Studio in Montreal. She would serve as a pre-selection jury member for the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival in 1998.
Tanguay retired from the NFB in 2007 while continuing to maintain her ties to the international animation community. She served on the competition juries for international festivals like Cinanima Animation Festival in Portugal and the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan.