Saturday, 6 October 2012

Norman McLaren

Norman McLaren
Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Animator, Composer

Scottish-born Canadian animator and film director known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), whose film career spanned more than 50 years, and who was considered an artist, film-maker, scientist, inventor, musician and technical expert as well as animator.  His films are masterful creations designed to provoke an aesthetic response, although they also inform, amuse and entertain.
He was a pioneer in a number of areas of animation and film making  including drawn on film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixalation and graphical sound.  McLaren developed a number of ground breaking techniques, experimenting with image and sound, combining and synchronizing animation with music. 

Begone Dull Care

Begone Dull Care was a result of his collaboration with the Oscar Peterson trio  "(Oscar Peterson and Norman McLaren) worked together for four days developing the music.  At times Peterson would play variations enabling McLaren to visualise colours and movements, and other times McLaren would describe specific music he wanted for a special effect." (from Valerie T. Richard's book Norman McLaren, Manipulator of Movements).

Blinkity Blank

Arguably McLaren's most important film, Blinkity Blank is a hypnotic dizzying experience - a perfect expression of McLarens affinity for rhythmic interplay.  He carved, scratched or coloured images directly onto almost every frame of the filmstrip, leaving between one and four blank frames between drawings, Maynard Collins (author of Norman McLaren, a major book on the filmmaker) explains McLaren’s pioneering theory on film and movement: “(Mc­Laren) discovered that, if shown three or four frames, the eye retained the last image the longest, the first image next and the middle image the least. With this knowledge, he used the intervening blank spaces to create movement... The motion within the film is an illusion .. The story is not so much told by the drawings as implied by the blank spaces between the drawings.”


Neighbours is McLaren's probably most famous Oscar winning anti-war film from 1952.  For this film McLaren used a technique known as pixilation, an animation technique using live actors as stop-motion objects.  The National Film Board of Canada distributed for some years a version of the film that excluded the two shots of a violent attack on the wife and child, but in 1969 the original version was reinstated and is now the only one in distribution.

Creative Process: Norman McLaren

In 1990, a few years after McLaren's death, Donald McWilliams made this documentary, a journey into McLaren's process of artistic creation.  A gold mine of experimental footage and uncompleted films, this documentary explores McLaren's innovative and experimental methods, the ways in which he dealt with music and visuals, and his celebrated pixillation technique.  You can see the full documentary here:

Full archive of McLaren's oeuvre can be found here:

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