Norman McLaren's films added to UNESCO heritage collection

The work of Norman McLaren, the Canadian filmmaker known for his innovative approach to animation, have been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register of the most significant world cultural artifacts.
A scene from Norman McLaren's 1952 film Neighbours, which won an Academy Award. (NFB)
Norman McLaren, the Canadian filmmaker known for his innovative approach to animation, is to have his legacy preserved on the world stage.

The UNESCO Memory of the World Register has selected McLaren's films to be held in its heritage collection of the most significant world cultural artifacts.

McLaren's Oscar-winning anti-war film Neighbours is among 82 films and 52 film tests to be preserved.

McLaren, who made films with the National Film Board, was an influential trainer of young animators and pioneered techniques such as drawing on and puncturing film stock to get unique effects.

Norman McLaren in 1952. His work will be part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. (Evelyn Lambart/NFB)
His works often had powerful political and social messages, including Neighbours, a short parable of a mortal fight over a flower that is an eloquent plea for peace. 

The UNESCO register also includes works such as the Gutenberg Bible, the original manuscript of the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven and the films Metropolis and The Wizard of Oz.

The McLaren collection is just the third Canadian entry into the registry, after the Hudson's Bay Company archival records and the Quebec Seminary Collection, dating  back to 1623 to 1800.

The Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, which protects Canada's film and video heritage, nominated the collection for preservation by UNESCO.

The bid was supported by groups such as the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, the British Film Institute, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Film Studies Association of Canada and the Museum of Modern Art, which holds an archive of McLaren works.

Neighbours and other McLaren classics can be viewed at the NFB's online screening room.