Famed Winnipeg filmmaker and animator Grant Munro dies at age 94

The National Film Board says famed Winnipeg filmmaker Grant Munro has died at the age of 94.

Munro was born in 1923 in Winnipeg

Winnipeg filmmaker Grant Munro has died at the age of 94, the National Film Board said. (John McMillan )
The National Film Board says famed Winnipeg filmmaker Grant Munro has died at the age of 94.

Munro was born in 1923 in Winnipeg, where he attended the Musgrove School of Art and the Winnipeg School of Art.

He earned a diploma at the Ontario College of Art where his teacher Franklin Carmichael, one of the Group of Seven painters, helped him get a job at the NFB.

Munro was known for his animated paper cut-outs and, although he left the film board several times during his career, he always returned.

At the NFB, he was involved in the Oscar-award-winning film Neighbours — one of the film board's best-known productions.

In an interview for Making Movie History that's posted on the NFB's website, Munro recounted how Carmichael had arranged for Norman McLaren, the future director of Neighbours, to interview Munro's college class.

Munro said he was offered a job making titles for films, and that he initially told McLaren he didn't want it.

"I said, 'I'm very sorry but you've come to the wrong person. I hate lettering.' Anybody else would have walked out. Not Norman. He said, 'Well, depending on the director of the film, you might not have to do white lettering on black card. You could perhaps do the main title in pipe cleaners,"' Munro recalled.

"I didn't say anything. He said, 'Or plasticine.' I just sat there. 'Or sugar. Or salt."'

Munro said his first assignment was the title for a film called Salt of the Earth. The shot had the words etched into a block of salt.

Neighbours, the 1952 Oscar-winning anti-war film which used live-action that was shot in single frames, featured Munro and Jean-Paul Ladouceur playing amicable neighbours who resorted to barbarism over a flower.

"We always collaborated. You never worked for Norman. You always worked with him," Munro said.

In the late 1950s, Munro departed the NFB to pursue an animation career in England. After working with George Dunning, the future director of Yellow Submarine, Munro rejoined the NFB in 1961.

He worked on two other Oscar-nominated films — My Financial Career, a funny take on the Stephen Leacock short story directed by Gerald Potterton, and Christmas Cracker, a project with Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale and Gerald Potterton that Munro also starred in.

Munro made the film Toys, a stop-motion film featuring children and war toys, and the anti-smoking comedy Ashes of Doom for which he once again played the leading role.

He collaborated with McLaren again from 1976 to 1978 on the Animated Motion series, a five-part introduction to basic film animation techniques, and also directed several documentaries. Munro retired from the NFB in 1988 and was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.