THE MAN BEHIND JOHNNY CANUCK, ADAM MACKAY SMITH BRINGS THE CARTOON SUPERHERO TO LIFE
With the launch of the Vancouver Canucks NHL season now underway, you are likely to find Adam MacKay-Smith greeting and high fiving fans throughout Rogers Arena. The Kamloops raised, West Vancouver-based film director has been moonlighting as Johnny Canuck since 2011. The Vancouver Canucks were named after Johnny Canuck, a Canadian political cartoon superhero created in the 1950’s.
“I remember seeing the Johnny Canuck logo on the front of a jersey in 2011,” Adam recalls, “I thought ‘I kind of look that guy’ and realized no one had ever personified him.” Adam knew this was a task he would want to take on, given his years of experience in TV, film and video game industries. This was right up his alley.
“I created this character, and assumed the role of Johnny Canuck,” Adam laughs, “I wanted to lift the emotions of the fans.” And over the course of ten days, Adam produced a short movie called “My Name is Johnny Canuck,” with a group of friends from high school. “I didn’t tell anyone,” Adam recalls uploading the video online, “it went crazy and the movie was shared 65,000 times on Facebook and was seen millions of times after that.”
The Canucks would go on to play the movie at home games and the fans went crazy. “In 2012, the Canucks approached me to officially get me on board,” Adam shares, “and working with them over the past 5 years have been amazing.” Adam now creates original movies for the team throughout the year, including 10 second ‘Call for Noise’ clips. He also attends home games, where he meets with fans who reach out to him through social media.
Adam’s love for the Canucks first began as a child, when his father introduced him to the team. “My dad worked at Labatts Brewery and we were attending one of the company’s events. Players like Harold Snepsts and Richard Brodeur were there,” Adam remembers. “One of the players told me I looked tough – ‘I do I said? I was 5 years old and that comment changed the way I walked! I think about that all the time.”
Adam’s father passed away 20 years ago, and spending time watching the Canucks were some of the last memories he has of his father. “He would be freaking out (knowing that I’m Johnny Canuck),” Adam smiles, “I do it in honour of him.”
Adam also shares with us the story of his charming 98-year old grandmother Polly Hill, who he credits with fostering his creativity. “She’s my icon and hero,” Adam reveals, “she taught all her grandkids how to be creative and now we all work in the arts.” Hill hosted a radio show called ‘Ages and Stages’ on CBC in the 1950’s which discussed the topic of children and creativity. In 1997, she was awarded the Order of Canada. “She was a cheerleader for children,” Adam adds.
Creativity emanates throughout Adam’s life, including inside his West Vancouver home. “Most of my house is filled antiques,” Adam shares as he shows off his collections. Inside the home we spot art deco pieces, Canadian and First Nations art, instruments, jukeboxes, 1960’s video games, his Great Grandmother’s goblets and of course, Johnny Canuck memorabilia. Perhaps his most striking antique is the black vintage 1965 Pontiac Parisienne you’ll find Adam driving around town in. “I’m not a traditional car guy,” Adam says, “I find beauty in things that are aged and old.”