Norman McLaren Characteristics

Norman McLaren was a pioneer in animation. He incorporated light, color, and motion with sound in most unusual and effective ways--in many instances, painting on the film itself, frame by frame, to produce such colorful and eclectic images.

Inventive, unique, and meticulous in his work, McLaren not only is noted for painting his images directly onto the celluloid, but also for employing the techniques of stop-motion and pixillation (as in Neighbours , one of his best-known works). The vivid colors and often unconventional imagery in many of McLaren's films work in sync with music (one of the best examples being Begone Dull Care , in which abstract colors, lines, and shapes dance across the film in time to jazz music); McLaren , in a sense, makes the music visible in these films.

McLaren's disdain for film boundaries also contributes to the unique qualities which make his films so effective as works of art; bringing the viewer in, yet out of the confines of the film frame, interacting with the viewer and playing with the viewer's expectations--and one learns quickly after seeing McLaren's films that one never knows just what to expect from this master animator.

All of McLaren's films, whether color or black-and-white, come to life through this unique approach to animation; an approach purely McLaren's.

--Laura E. Pochodowicz, 1998


Norman McLaren began experimenting with film techniques early on in his career. He would create scratches directly on the film itself. He would cut holes or paint the film. McLaren would experiment with images and sound He also worked with 3-D and other optical printing proceses.

Norman McLaren would be best described as innovative and experimental. Almost all of his films incorporated a strong sense of movement. Whether he was using a fringe technique or pixelation he advanced the technology of film making while showing not only his creative side but his humor as well. With each one of his films he aimed to "just have fun" and you can see this in everything from his sound choices, color choices and even movement choices.

McLaren experimented with sound often. In his film Synchromy he stamped a block design on both the film track and the sound track, creating an artificial noise. This allowed the film and soundtrack to be perfectly synched so that the sound directly related to the picture.

Through his films he was able to relate to his viewers. McLaren was able to create what was called a "fellow fe eling towards the human race." His life experience and direct confrontation with war sparked many ideas and were portrayed in his films particularly Neighbours.

Norman McLaren is well known for creativity, humor, technical advancements and also his relation to other people. He provided many people with training in animation no matter what level. McLaren has awards given in his name and he also made many generous donations of his films.

--Rene Cartagena, 2003

Norman McLaren