Entertainment

Toronto film fest celebrates animation pioneer McLaren

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean will kick off a special screening of works by Canadian animation pioneer Norman McLaren at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday.

Gov. Gen.Michaëlle Jean will kick off a special screening of works by Canadian animation pioneer Norman McLaren at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday.

Jean, her filmmaker husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and festival chair Piers Handling will be among the McLaren fans attending the event. At the same time,the National Film Board will also officially launcha new seven-DVD set that includesMcLaren's entire body of work anddocumentary material about the landmark Canadian filmmaker.

The Governor General is also the NFB's patron of animation, and agreed to participate because of her high regard forMcLaren,NFB chair Jacques Bensimon told CBC Arts Online.

ButJean is just one of McLaren's many high-profile and influential fans, he added.

"When you cover the spectrum from Walt Disney to Picasso to George Lucas to [The Simpsons director and animator David] Silverman saying how much of a genius this man has been and what impact he's had on their lives — either as an artist, a creator or a filmmaker — it is quite heartwarming," Bensimon said.

Presentation to offer best of McLaren

Friday's screening will feature 11 of McLaren's best-known shorts, including Blinkity Blank, A Chairy Tale, the Academy Award-winning Neighbours and Begone Dull Care, which features music by a then-up-and-coming Oscar Peterson Trio.

The lineup offers a taste of several signature McLaren techniques, including stop-motion and his method of drawing, painting or scratching directly onto film stock.

Although McLaren began creating his films more than70 yearsago, Bensimon says the filmmaker's constant innovation and the importance he placed on humour and sending a universal message in his short films make him relevant even in today's world of Youtube.com and Myspace.com.

"In my case, I've put a lot of his films on [my] iPod," he said, adding that the NFB's four-year project of restoring and digitizing of McLaren's work for the DVD set bridges the organization's past and present.

"Every time I start to show people, they stay on. They don't want to give me back my iPod."

A McLaren retrospective and art exhibit that began at the Cannes Film Festival this past May will continue its international tour over the next few years, with stopsat New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the British Film Institute in London and in Berlin at the Arsenal.

Norman McLaren: The Masters Edition hits stores across North America starting Friday.

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