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Creator / Norman McLaren

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"A work of art has to have cohesiveness and consistency, but not so much cohesiveness and consistency as to become boring, and not so much non-cohesiveness as to fall apart. It has to be organically linked, and yet it must have surprises in it that you don't expect, but surprises that are relevant to the whole work."
Norman McLaren

William Norman McLaren (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish-born Canadian animator famous for being a pioneer in a variety of experimental techniques from the late 1930s, and then his series of films from The '40s up to his retirement in 1983 for the National Film Board of Canada.

Specifically, he created new techniques like Drawn on Film animation (Animation drawn directly on film stock), pixiliation (Stop Motion with actors) and optical printing techniques to create surreal visual experiences. He even helped to pioneer Electronic Music with his use of graphical sound.

He won an Academy Award for the 1952 pixiliation short, Neighbours, and a 1968 BAFTA Award for the surreal ballet short, Pas de deux.

Selected filmography:


  • Deranged Animation: He was an animator famous for his innovative animation techniques that looked like nothing else in their time.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: His pre-1940 films tended to be hodgepodges of techniques with little direction or variation of each individual one. By the mid 1930's, he was hired by the GPU film studio and was forced to learn how to structure his films better by making nuts and bolts documentaries.
  • Minimalism: Most of his films are centered around one central technique, with many variations built around it. For instance, "Synchrony" is a film built around the visual representation of a soundtrack, with only very basic geometric shapes and colors representing the animation.
  • Mickey Mousing: Many of films, such as "Le Merle" and "Boogie Doodle", are planned directly around a soundtrack. Some of his drawn on film experiments, such as "Boogie Doodle", "Pen Point Percussion" or "Synchrony" even went as far as having the soundtrack itself be the animation!
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Most of his films have absolutely no story, narrative or characters at all. They often aimed for abstract, emotional experiences.
  • The Twelve Principles of Animation: In his five part "Animated Motion" documentary, McLaren discusses his own variations of the principles, which include:
    • Motion.
    • Tempo: He claims this is how animation is modulated. From this, he splits down animation principles into five different things; Constant (or "Even") Motion, Accelerating Motion, Decelerating Motion, Zero Motion (which an animator would usually call a still "Hold" of a drawing) and Irregular Motion
    • Change.