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Flip Johnson made his first commercial with Boston's Olive Jar Studios in 1987, and after more than a decade of freelancing with the animation company he's finally broken down and joined it as a full-timer. "I'd never wanted to make the commitment before," says Johnson, 43, "but now it seems right."

As does the Olive Jar reel, which is sweeter these days than a pimiento. "The company has been pushing the look and cultivating a wide spectrum of styles," for years now, notes Johnson, and it's clearly paid off. Nowadays, Olive Jar is into everything from cel, CG and mixed media to old-style stop motion, led by Johnson's hilariously tacky recent campaign for Wieden & Kennedy and ESPN's X Winter Games, in which Santa and his elves get creamed by snowboarders.

Can Boston really become a hot spot for national animation work? Johnson thinks it can. "It's not an industry town, but there are quite a few art schools in the area," he points out. Johnson himself was on the faculty of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts till '94, where he got a BFA earlier. "A lot of animation people find their way to this studio and we have a large, vibrant freelance community. Not everyone around here has the same resume." And now Johnson can put his away. "We've been dating for 11 years," he says of Olive Jar. "It's about time we got married!" (TK)

Extracurricular Activities: Joanne Ungar Waxing Artistic

Joanne Ungar is a digital compositor at Post Perfect in New York, but she's also an analog fine artist -- she melts wax. "As a girl, I wasn't supposed to touch the Sabbath candles," she says. "They were like God to me. They radiated a sacred, glowy warmth." And they still do in mixed media works that have been seen in group shows in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, including a 1995 Entertainment Weekly cover. "Pure beeswax dries into a luminescent and creamy surface that is almost opaque," she points out. But don't get the idea that melting wax is a menorah-lighting party. "Sometimes I have studio fires," says Ungar, 38. "The fact that the art is produced by something potentially dangerous and uncontrollable feeds into the metaphor. This art contains dark secrets -- neglect and violence." A far cry from most Quantel Henry commercials work. But just as in compositing, Ungar notes, "multilayering is integral" to her art. "The layers trace a history, with the surface as the present," she says. "Post Perfect makes it possible for me to be two kinds of professional artist, and they deserve a lot of credit for this unusual policy. I'm very grateful to them." Seen here is "Plashless," wax, foam and spraypaint on cardboard, 1997.

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