Probably the best thing you can say to any artist is that their work remains relevant and surprising regardless of age. For the most part this is the case with the work of Canadian animator Norman McLaren. Born in Scotland but working for most of his life with the NFB, McLaren was arguably the greatest Canadian animator ever and a natural choice for an NFB retrospective celebrating not only his work but the 65th anniversary of the film board’s animation unit.
The 11 films screened at the Best of Norman McLaren are taken from the four decades of work that McLaren did for the NFB and contained classics like his Oscar winning “Neighbours,” the still charming “A Chairy Tale” and others.
The films showed some of the themes that ran through McLaren’s work: his masterful use of music (everything from Oscar Peterson to Ravi Shankar), his interest in abstraction and colour, and a willingness to experiment with animation. “Hen Hop,” is playful and looks deceptively simple until you realize that McLaren drew directly on the 35mm frame, getting a texture that no computer animated figure could ever get. The sound in many of his shorts were added by hand to the reel itself and not recorded. In short the program, with a little bit of added information, could be a primer in animation history. This might be fine for an audience with an interest in animation but sadly many might balk at the some of the more minimal and abstract work in this program. 3.5/5