Animation pioneer Zoran Janjic passes away

Australia has lost one of its top 2D animation artists in Zoran Janjic, who passed away earlier this week from heart failure.

Described as a “big bear” of a man (in a nice way), Janjic’s best known for being personally selected by William Hanna to head Australia's branch of Hanna-Barbera Productions in the early 1970s.

“He was one of a handful that Bill elected to be ‘the general’ basically and that doesn’t come easily,” remembers former co-worker Deane Taylor.

“All of the guys at that time was of equal talent but Zoran showed something that was a bit special.”

Prior to Hanna-Barbera, Janjic was an animation director at major local studio Air Programs International (API), working on such cartoon masterpieces as A Christmas Carol and Arthur! and the Square Knights of the Round Table, which he directed. The series was syndicated in the US by Twentieth Century Fox and sold to 14 countries, according to Campaign Brief.

Janjic’s other credits include: The Legend of Robin Hood, Treasure Island, The Funky Phantom, The New Scooby Doo Movies, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

After his stint at Hanna Barbera, Janjic went on to create his own company, Zap Productions, which mainly focused on commercials. During this time he experimented with stop-motion and live-action. His credits in later years prove a bit of a mystery, but it’s understood that he worked on commercials before retiring.

Former Zap employee, Kit Devine, says he was a “very inspirational figure and a pillar of the industry”.

“There’s a lot of people out there working today who feel like I do – he will be missed by a lot of people.”

Taylor – director, art director and production designer – says it was sad that another veteran of a different era of animation was gone.

“That bit is sad but on the other hand I’d be thrilled to say that I had the pleasure of knowing him at the time that I did and he was a big influence, an inspiration, on what I do," says Taylor, best known as art director on 1993's A Nightmare Before Christmas.

“He comes from that classic draw-from-the-blank-sheet-of-paper level of talent. But he was more; I think his true talent lay in his directing.

“He was a really good storyteller and he knew how to get the best out of his crew. Everyone just loved him – that’s a pretty rare quality to have in a director.”

Zoran Janjic will be farewelled in Sydney at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium next Tuesday, September 20, at 3pm, followed by a wake at the Sydney Flying Squadron at Kirribilli.