Norman McLaren, C. C., C. Q. (b. April 11 1914 - d. January 27 1987) was a Scottish-born Canadian animator and film director known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
McLaren was born in Stirling
, where he studied set design at Glasgow School of Art
. 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 pixillation 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.
After finishing his studies in Glasgow
and making a few films in London
, McLaren moved to New York City
in 1939, just when World War II
was about to begin.
At the invitation of John Grierson, he moved to Canada 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 UNESCO in the 1950s and 1960s on programs to teach film and animation techniques in China and India. His five part "Animated Motion" shorts, produced in the late 1970s, are an excellent example of instruction on the basics of film animation.
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 that Norman's mind may have been elsewhere. It seems that Norman 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 mutual admiration as well as purely platonic.
Awards and achievements
McLaren is famous 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 Montreal head office building the Norman McLaren Building. The Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent, 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.
Awards for McLaren's films
Academy Awards (USA)
- (1953) Oscar - Best Documentary, Short Subjects for Neighbours (1952)Annie Awards (USA)
- (1975) Annie Award: Winsor McCay AwardBAFTA Awards (England)
- (1969) BAFTA Film Award Best Animated Film for Pas de Deux (1968)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 DeuxColumbus International Film and Video Festival (USA)
- (1984) Honorable Mention for NarcissusDance on Camera Festival (USA)
- (1984) Gold Star Award for NarcissusFestival international de cinéma de court métrage (France)
- (1985) Special Mention for NarcissusFestival international du film romantique
- (1985) First Prize - Madame de Stael Prize, (France, May 1985) for NarcissusGenie Awards (Canada)
- (1984) Special Achievement GenieGolden 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 NarcissusItinerant - American Film and Video Festival (USA)
- (1984) Honorable Mention - Visual Essays for Narcissus
Academy Awards (USA)
- 1953 Academy Award (Oscar) Best Short Subject, One-reel for Neighbours (1952)
- 1958 Academy Award Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects for A Chairy Tale (1957)BAFTA Awards (UK)
- 1960 BAFTA Film Award Best Animated Film for Short and Suite (Shared with Evelyn Lambart)