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Norman McLaren, CC, CQ (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish-born Canadianmarker animator and film director known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

Early life

McLaren was born in Stirlingmarker, Scotlandmarker and studied set design at the Glasgow School of Artmarker. His early experiments with film and animation included actually scratching and painting the film stock itself, as he did not have ready access to a camera. His earliest extant film, Seven Till Five (1933), a "day in the life of an art school" was influenced by Eisenstein and displays a strongly formalist attitude.

McLaren's next film, Camera Makes Whoopee (1935), was a more elaborate take on the themes explored in Seven Till Five, inspired by his acquisition of a Ciné-Kodak camera, which enabled him to execute a number of 'trick' shots. McLaren used pixilation effects, superimpositions and animation not only to display the staging of an art school ball, but also to tap into the aesthetic sensations supposedly produced by this event.

Professional career

After finishing his studies in Glasgow and making a few films in Londonmarker, McLaren moved to New York Citymarker in 1939, just as World War II was about to begin in Europe.

At the invitation of John Grierson, he moved to Canadamarker in 1941 to work for the National Film Board, to open an animation studio and to train Canadian animators. During his work for the NFB, McLaren created his most famous film, Neighbours (1952), which has won various awards around the world, including the Canadian Film Award and the Academy Award. Besides the brilliant combination of visuals and sound, the film has a very strong social message against violence and war. In addition to film, McLaren worked with UNESCOmarker in the 1950s and 1960s on programs to teach film and animation techniques in Chinamarker and Indiamarker. His five part "Animated Motion" shorts, produced in the late 1970s, are an excellent example of instruction on the basics of film animation.

Personal life

McLaren was gay. His longtime companion was Guy Glover, whom he met at the ballet in London in 1937. The two were together until McLaren’s death.

In spite of the allegations of his monogamy and faithfulness, it appears McLaren's mind may have been elsewhere. It seems that he wrote a series of letters to Willard Maas. In those letters it appears that Norman may have used many metaphors and double entendre to express, as well as share mutual secrets of concerning both of their being homosexuals. It is unknown as to if there was any physical relationship between McLaren and Maas or if this correspondence was merely a purely platonic mutual admiration.

Awards and achievements

McLaren is remembered for his experiments with image and sound as he developed a number of groundbreaking techniques for combining and synchronizing animation with music.

The National Film Board honoured McLaren's genius by naming its Montrealmarker head office building the Norman McLaren Building. The Montreal borough of Saint-Laurentmarker, which is home to the NFB, has also honoured McLaren by naming a borough district after him.

Lifetime achievement awards
In 1968 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and promoted to Companion in 1973. In 1982, he was the first anglophone to receive the Prix Albert-Tessier, given to persons for an outstanding career in Québec cinema.

2006 retrospective
In 2006, the Film Board marked the 65th anniversary of NFB animation with an international retrospective of McLaren's restored classics and a new DVD box set of his complete works.

In 2009, McLaren's works were added to UNESCOmarker's Memory of the World Programme, listing the most significant documentary heritage collections in the world, joining such works as the Gutenberg Bible and The Wizard of Oz.

Awards for McLaren's films

Academy Awards (USA)

Annie Awards (USA)

BAFTA Awards (England)

Canadian Film Awards (Canada)
  • (1949) Special Award for Dots
  • (1950) Special Award for Begone Dull Care
  • (1952) Special Award for Around is Around
  • (1952) Special Award for Now is the Time
  • (1952) Special Award for After the Storm
  • (1953) Special Award for A Phantasy
  • (1953) Special Award for Neighbours
  • (1958) Arts and Experimental for A Chairy Tale
  • (1962) Arts and Experimental for Lines Horizontal
  • (1965) Arts and Experimental for Canon
  • (1968) Special Award for Pas de Deux

Columbus International Film and Video Festival (USA)

Dance on Camera Festival (USA)
  • (1984) Gold Star Award for Narcissus

Festival international de cinéma de court métrage (France)
  • (1985) Special Mention for Narcissus

Festival international du film romantique
  • (1985) First Prize - Madame de Stael Prize, (France, May 1985) for Narcissus

Genie Awards (Canada)

Golden Sheaf Awards / Short Film and Video Festival (Canada)
  • (1984) Golden Sheaf Award - Best Experimental Film for Narcissus, Short Film and Video Festival (Canada, October-November 1984)

International Film Festival (India)
  • (1984) Golden Peacock for the Best Short Film of the Festival for Narcissus

Itinerant - American Film and Video Festival (USA)
  • (1984) Honorable Mention - Visual Essays for Narcissus

Award nominations

Academy Awards (USA)
BAFTA Awards (UK)
  • 1960 BAFTA Film Award Best Animated Film for Short and Suite (Shared with Evelyn Lambart)

See also


External links

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