Norman McLaren

Constantly innovative, McLaren tried techniques such as drawings scratched directly on film, cutout animation, painting directly on film, etc.
McLaren, Norman
Innovative filmmaker Norman McLaren was Canada's leading director of animated films (courtesy Library and Archives Canada).

McLaren, Norman

 Norman McLaren, director of animated films (b at Stirling, Scot 11 Apr 1914; d at Montréal 26 Jan 1987). He followed John GRIERSON to the NATIONAL FILM BOARD in 1941 and remained there, except for 2 UNESCO missions (to China in 1949 and to India in 1952). He participated in the series Chants populaires (1944-46) and produced Begone Dull Care, set to the music of Oscar PETERSON (1949).

Constantly innovative, McLaren tried techniques such as drawings scratched directly on film, cutout animation, painting directly on film, etc. During the COLD WAR in 1952, using a technique of stop-motion cinematography called pixilation, he made Neighbours, a political fable on the futility of using violence to resolve conflict. After this - his ultimate ideological statement - his films concentrated more on aesthetics and technique than on content. His work earned him increasing international recognition, and for over 30 years he produced roughly one film per year. Some of the more interesting examples are Blinkity Blank (1954), the didactic Rythmetic (1956), the absurd humour of Il était une chaise (1957) and the fantasy of Le Merle (1958).

Many of McLaren's films were co-directed by Evelyn Lambart. In Lines Vertical (1960), Lines Horizontal (1962) and Mosaic (1965), he opted for an austere, abstract style and exercises in which technology took precedence. He began a series of films about BALLET(seeDANCE AND THE MEDIA) and the beauty and harmony of movement with Pas de deux (1967); it was followed by Ballet Adagio (1972) and Narcissus (1983). He also produced more didactic films on the art of FILM ANIMATION, such as L'Écran d'épingles (1973) and Animated Motion (1977).

McLaren's creative genius made him Canada's leading director of animated film. His life work of 72 films was donated in 1985 to the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles. In 1988, the Association internationale du cinéma d'animation in Canada (ASIFA-Canada) created the Norman McLaren Prize.

Suggested Screening: Creative Process: Norman McLaren (Don McWilliams, 1990).

Further Reading

  • NFB, McLaren (1980); Richard T. Vallière, Norman McLaren: Manipulator of Movement (1982).

External Links

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