Classic early age Animators/cartoonists – Norman McLaren


Norman McLaren (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish born British/Canadian animator, director and producer known for his work for the national film board of Canada. He was a pioneer in a number of areas of animation and film-making, including hand-drawn animation, drawn-on-film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixilation and graphical sound.

These videos are great because they have interviews from people who worked with him and also his animations and films as well. (These videos feature Norman films that i post later in this blog post as well)

From the videos description:

A retrospective I curated about Norman McLaren for TAAFI (Toronto AnImation Arts Festival International) 2014. I have produced new interviews with NFB veterans Kaj Pindal, Gerald Potterton and Bob Verrall who knew and worked with McLaren. Their terrific insights help us know McLaren personally and gain a deeper appreciation for his films.
Jane Gutteridge of the NFB has helped us greatly with access to the classic films and the permission to have them online as part of the program. Be sure to visit the NFB’s Norman McLaren page:

I was reading about Norman (here: and decided to have a look at a few of the films he made that were mentioned.

Hell Unlimited (with Helen Biggar), an anti-war film, a melange of live action and drawn and object animation. This film, full of the heat of idealistic youth, became celebrated outside the amateur film community.

I thought that this film would be interesting as its really early in his life and it was about the wars, stuff that was affecting him and everyone at the time, so it was a film and a message that was important to him.

He also made three experimental films, Polychrome Phantasy, Colour Cocktail and Hand-painted Abstraction (with Stewart McAllister). The last two were first attempts to use film for abstract motion. Hand-painted Abstraction was also McLaren’s first essay into painting directly on the surface of the film stock.

From the video description:

by Norman McLaren — 1959

A color cocktail by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, translating into moving patterns of color and light the moods of music written for a jazz ensemble by Eldon Rathburn. Inscribed and colored directly on film.

Production : National Film Board of Canada (

I kept reading and saw ‘electric vibra-drill’ so i had to check that out obviously.

In 1959, McLaren made three more etched films – the mostly figurative Short and Suite, the totally abstract Serenal on 16 mm film (with an electric vibra-drill) and Mail Early for Christmas.

From the video description:

by Norman McLaren — 1959

A gay fantasia of patterned sound in which Norman McLaren salutes the West Indies, painting the spirit of fiesta on film to the lively beat of an island tune by Trinidad’s Grand Curacaya Orchestra.

Production : National Film Board of Canada (

During the second half of the fifties, McLaren would also do three films with paper cut-outs. Rythmetic (with Evelyn Lambart) was an arithmetic game film for children; Le Merle, a folk song, featured the only white blackbird in creation losing and regaining his body parts on a travelling colour-pastel background; Wonderful World of Jack Parr (with Evelyn Lambart) were the titles and credits for a NBC television program.

Rythmetic – This is really satisfying for some reason..

Le Merle – I didn’t even realise that Le Merle was made with paper cut outs when i watched it earlier in that documentary. When i re-watched i noticed the background movement was beautiful in a way, really precisely done and added a ton to the animation as a whole while the bird while falling apart was still totally alive. I really like this song and the French singing as well! 🙂 

This video gives a lovely overview of Normans work:

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