Saturday, 24 March 2012

Animator Profiles: Norman McLaren

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Norman McLaren said, "With characteristic modesty, as 'an innovator of new techniques, some of which led to a few distinguished or interesting films"
A master in experimental film manipulation, Norman McLaren pushed the boundaries of moving images.
He has created a number of films that play with colour and form to create motion pictures to portray an image. As Marcel Jean states,"painting directly on a frameless filmstrip as if it were a long, thin canvas." Jean, Marcel. ONF NFB Key Film Makers. Norman McLaren Overview of Work.
Fig 1: Norman McLaren
 He was born in the year 1914 in Scotland and attended Glasgow School of Fine Arts. His work appears to be highly influenced by the works of Einstein as his films include the mixing of different chemicals to react with film in order to produce patterns that create images. He went to Spain during the Civil War to film the events that occurred.

McLaren's films Colour Cocktail (1935)and Polychrome Fantasy(1935) were films that are examples of his experimentation with pixillation effects, superimpositions and animation. Jamie Sexton describes this as "(A film) which interweaves dancing with colour abstractions." Sexton, Jamie. (2003). Mclaren,Norman (1914-1987)
His film 'Animation Motion' which is a film in five parts, is a work that showcases the basic principles used in animation.

In 1939, McLaren moved to America where he created films for The National Film Board of Canada. He was lucky enough to have a liberal artistic license to create the kinds of films that he did. This gained him a great reputation as an artist. He collaborated with a man named John Grieson, who provided McLaren a job opportunity with the GPO in London. He was recognized worldwide when he won an Oscar award for his short film The Neighbours (1952)

Fig 2: Pas de Deux (1967)
In 1968, Mclaren created a film that involved a ballet dancer whose dance was affected with a reduced frame rate and multiple exposures to create strange effects. As Graeme Hobbs states in his article ‘Every Film is a kind of Dance’: The Art of Norman McLaren, "From constant movement, showing what movement looks like at different speeds – 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 frames a second for example, they then take in accelerating, decelerating, zero and irregular motion as well as change brought about through colour and lighting." Hobbs, Graeme. (2010) ‘Every Film is a kind of Dance’: The Art of Norman McLaren. 

Fig 3: Colour Cocktail (1935)

Noran McLaren considered animators to be artists who controlled every bit of their production. His works such as Begone Dull Care(1949), Blinkity Blank (1955)are examples of his experiments with creating images directly on film. Rhythmic(1965) and Le Merle(1959)  consist of stories portrayed using paper cutouts whereas La-haut sur ces montagnes (1945) contains a series of drawings made in chalk.


Sexton, Jamie. (2003). Mclaren,Norman (1914-1987) Available online:

Jean, Marcel. ONF NFB Key Film Makers. Norman McLaren Overview of Work. Available online at:

Hobbs, Graeme. (2010) ‘Every Film is a kind of Dance’: The Art of Norman McLaren. Available online at:

List of Illustrations:
Fig 1:

Fig 2: McLaren, Norman. (1967). Pas de Deux.

Fig 3: McLaren, Norman. (1935).Colour Cocktail.



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