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Cartoon director Ridd Sorensen, who works on Atomic Betty, an all-Canadian animated children's series produced in Vancouver, is nominated for a Gemini award. Sorensen grew up in Yellowknife, but now lives outside Vancouver. - photo courtesy of Ridd Sorensen

Mild-mannered cartoonist by day

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 18/05) - Ridd Sorensen developed his cartooning skills as a boy growing up in the capital.

He salvaged stacks of Spider Man and X Men comics from Yellowknife junk shops and brought the heroes to life in the margins of his school notebooks.

Atomic Betty - graphic courtesty Atomic Cartoons Inc.

Sorensen is nominated for a Gemini award for his work on Atomic Betty, an all-Canadian animated children's series produced in Vancouver. The honour is the highest industry recognition for excellence in English-language television in Canada.

Sorensen, who now calls Vancouver home, directs the two-year-old cartoon series, working off story boards like the ones used by directors of live action features. He also writes for the show, occasionally.

"Basically, I'm there to make sure the show looks good and works in terms of continuity, timing and editing," he said.

"We want high quality stuff here and we have a minimal budget, so it's tough at times, but it turns out pretty good."

Atomic Betty is a half-hour program divided into two 11-minute episodes. The stories centre on the title character.

"Betty is just a regular little girl, not too popular, but she's quite smart and she saves the galaxy during school," Sorensen said. "She prefers to be in space because she's more accepted there."

Betty is often conflicted as she leaves her friends in her hometown of Moose Jaw Heights, to fight villains in the far corners of outer space.

Sorensen joined the production team at Atomic Cartoons Inc. six years ago. They hired him before he graduated from the animation program at Capilano College in Vancouver.

He worked on Atomic Betty for a few years until networks picked up the show two years ago. It is shown on the Cartoon Network in the U.S. and TeleToon in Canada, as well as internationally.

"It took a while for people to 'get it'," he said.

"Then the look of the show attracted a lot of buyers. It's a combination of this old style of cartoon as far as characters and location go, with computer generated special effects added. We didn't know how people would respond to that look, but when we saw the finished product we knew it worked."

Sorensen looks at his success as evidence that Canadian kids can follow their doodles to achieve their daydreams in the industry.

"I've gotten a lot farther than I thought I would in this business," he said. "I wanted to do TV animation and I never had aspirations to do a feature length film, but if that's on the horizon I'd love to do it. We might get that chance here."

Atomic Betty is also nominated for Best Animated Show for the pilot episode, titled Toxic Talent.

The Gemini winners will be announced tonight during the awards gala broadcast on the Global television network.

Sorensen's sisters, Jodi Sorensen and Ernestine Doucet live in Yellowknife. His parents, Lynda and Art Sorensen, live on Vancouver Island.