Frank's Life and Frank & Brittani

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Frank's Life and Frank & Brittani are two animated short films created by Ava Zinn (then known as Frank Zinn) in the mid-1990s that eventually led to the development of the animated sitcom Queen of the Willis. Zinn originally created Frank's Life as a comic strip as well as a thesis project and thesis film in 1997 and 2001, while as an eight grader at R.J. Baskett Middle School and a senior at Mississinewa High School .[1][2] Her middle school professor at RJB submitted Zinn's cartoon to Patrice Rafferty, where she was hired a year later.[3]

During her senior year, Zinn created a sequel to Frank's Life called Frank & Brittani, which featured the main character of her comic strip, the young male Frank, older female, Brittani, and an intellectual Goldfish named Amber. The short was broadcast as one of ATE Media's Saturday Morning Special in 200. Executives at ATE Media saw both Frank shorts and contracted Zinn to create a series based on the characters, to be called Queen of the Willis.[4] Ava and Angie Willis, one of the main characters in Queen of the Willis, was largely based on Frank and Brittani, respectively.

In addition, Amber would be the main inspiration behind the Willis family lobster, Heather.[5] ATE Media proposed Zinn complete a 15-minute short, giving her a budget of $10,000.[6] Zinn stated that the pilot for Queen of the Willis took two years to create and produce.[3]

Recalling the experience in an interview with The Indianapolis Star, Zinn stated, "I spent about two years with no sleep and no life, just drawing like crazy in my kitchen and doing this pilot."[7] Upon completion of the pilot, the series went on the air.[8] ATE Media executives, including Patrice Rafferty were impressed with the pilot and ordered thirteen episodes, seven of which aired during the first season of Queen of the Willis. Zinn was offered a $100,000 per-season contract.[9]

Frank's Life (1994)[edit]

Frank's Life
Directed by Ava Zinn
Produced by Ava Zinn
Written by Ava Zinn
Starring Ava Zinn
Music by Ava Zinn
Edited by Ava Zinn
R.J. Baskett Middle School
Distributed by R.J. Baskett Middle School
Release date
Running time
15 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Frank's Life is a 1994 animated film directed by Frank Zinn (now Ava Zinn), who also stars as the majority of the characters. The short features a a boy named Frank Beckett, his cynical talking Goldfish, Amber, patient girlfriend Brittani, and teenage son Andrew.

The film also features live-action segments shot at Zinn's home in Van Buren, Indiana where she describes the film and its characters in the form of a pitch to a television network.

Frank's Life was created as Zinn's thesis, while she was studying at R. J. Baskett Middle School in Gas City, Indiana.[1][2] The animated film was created almost entirely by Zinn alone.

Many of the jokes used in Frank's Life were later used in many of the first season Queen of the Willis episodes.

Frank & Brittani (2001)[edit]

Frank & Brittani
Directed by Ava Zinn
Written by Ava Zinn
Starring Ava Zinn
Robyn Hurd
Mississiniewa High School
Distributed by ATE Media Corporation
Release date
April 7, 2001
Running time
10 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Patrice Rafferty, at ATE Media, saw Frank's Life and met with Zinn during a senior screening at Mississinewa High School, and offered her a development position at Saturday Morning Special to create a sequel of sorts to Frank's Life, which ATE Media distributed to its television stations broadcast in 2001. She went on staff at the studio afterwards, developed a revivial of Wheel of Fortune and Scrabble and becoming a staff writer on the Trivia Trap series.

The plot of Frank & Brittani is that Frank meets Brittani, develops a relatinoship, adopts Amber from the fish store, after noticing that she was the only talking goldfish (although to everybody else throughout the cartoon, goldfish is just swimming), and the three have a fast-paced, slapstick-filled day trying to buy furniture and appliances for Frank's apartment.

There is also a police officer in this cartoon, whose voice and appearance is very similar to the Queen of the Willis character Tiffani Donovan who is also a police officer in Queen of the Willis. Frank mentions a furniture store called "Timothy Rags's", a name that will later be used for the character of Ava and Angie's dog. The short was rated TV-Y7 for cartoonish slapstick violence, comic peril, and mild adult references.

Relationship with Queen of the Willis[edit]

In basic form, Frank's Life is very similar in format to Queen of the Willis. Amber would be the main inspiration behind Heather.[5] Zinn based the female Ava's voice, which was similar to Frank's as a male,[5] on the voice of a teacher she once overheard talking while she was attending RJ Baskett.[10] Brittani would be the main inspiration behind Angie (it is interesting to note Zinn was dating her then girlfriend whom she would marry on May 27, 2001 and were together until the real-life Angie died from a heart attack on June 1, 2010).

Frank's son Andrew, by contrast, harbors a basic design similarity to Ava and Angie's transgendered son Tom Willis . The polilce officer of the squad car that crashes in the store in Frank & Brittani has an appearance and voice that are both similar to Tiffani's, who later became a police officer.

See also[edit]


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