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5 Mind-Bending, Pioneering Short Films By Norman McLaren
March 19, 2014
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On this date in 1952, pioneering Canadian animator Norman McLaren's short film Neigbours won an Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Interestingly, the National Film Board movie was also nominated for a Short Subject (non-documentary) Oscar that year — proof that the film really does defy categorization. It's a movie about two neighbours having a fight about a flower, and it uses the stop motion techniques usually associated with animation to film live actors (who act like cartoon characters throughout the film). Neighbours is McLaren's most famous work, and the most notable example of Pixilation, the term he coined to refer to these unusual animation techniques. In honour of the film's big win 62 years ago, we've embedded the whole movie in the video above.

And if it whets your appetite for more of McLaren's work, here are a few more notable films for your viewing pleasure. 


This two-minute film from 1944 is one of McLaren's (and the NFB's) earliest animated works. It was produced with fellow filmmaker René Jodoin for a sing-along series called Let's All Sing Together, and illustrates the song "Alouette, gentille alouette."

Ballet Adagio

McLaren was fascinated by ballet for much of his career. This film, from 1972, explores classical ballet's pas de deux adiagio. The film shows choreography by Asaf Messerer performed by David and Anna Marie Holmes.

Begone Dull Care

In this short from 1949, McLaren and  animator Evelyn Lambart painted directly on the film to produce the animation. Also, the incredible jazz music is performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio. 

A Chairy Tale

This film, made with Lambart, was nominated for an Oscar in 1957. It's about a chair that refuses to be sat on, which leads to a provocative dance set to music by Ravi Shankar and Chatur Lal. 

And if you're really curious about stop motion and McLaren-esque animation, the NFB just released a pretty cool app called StopMo Studio, which helps budding filmmakers animate everyday objects.


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