January 5, 2008
2007 wasn't too bad as far as animation coverage was concerned in the local arts weeklies in fps's hometown of Montreal. The Montreal Mirror, Hour and Ici reserved the cover for the opening of Paprika, Tekkon Kinkreet, Lucky Luke and even the homecoming of an animated short, the worthy Madame Tutli-Putli.

So how do you beat that?

The first week of 2008 features Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi and co-direct Vincent Paronnaud on the cover of Hour looking hipper-than-thou (I actually passed the stacks a few times around the city until I took a closer look and realized Satrapi was on the cover). The article does neglect to mention that the features, of which we're fans, begins its general run January 11.

If that wasn't enough, the Montreal Mirror's annual Noisemakers issue compiling 30 influential local artistic forces features an animator as a 2008 noisemaker! Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre's animated documentary McLaren's Negatives is highlighted as well as an upcoming animated documentary she is working on.

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December 4, 2007
Norman's Montreal run begins this week. It's been getting excellent reviews in Canada, and the Montreal run will be at one of the city's best live venues, Place des Arts.

Click the graphic to enlarge for location and ticket information.

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September 24, 2007
Wrapping up Norman McLaren's retrospective world tour, the NFB pairs up with the Montreal Symphony to present a special hybrid performance of music and cinema.

Next week in Montreal, the symphony will play musical accompaniment to four of the animator's greatest works; Blinkity Blank, Love on the Wing, Neighbours/Voisins and Hell Unlimited.

The richness of full symphonic sound will no doubt offer a fitting complement to the large screen presentation of McLaren's animation genius. The evening performance comes first (October 2), followed by the matinee (October 3), which sounds like a great idea for a class field trip to me. For school group reservations, call the MSO at 514-842-3402.

What: The Air Canada Words and Music Concerts series
When: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

What: The Symphonic Matinees series
When: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
John Zirbel, OSM principal horn
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

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April 26, 2007
I'm a big fan of sampling, mash-ups and multidisciplinary work, and of animation and dance. So I'm intrigued by tomorrow's premiere of Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon's Norman. The creators aim to use projections of Norman McLaren's work combined with live classic and contemporary dance.

If you're in Ottawa, you can see it on April 26-30 at the National Arts Centre (NAC) during the Québec Scene festival. A personal viewing station will be set up at NAC with McLaren's work during the course of the festival. After that, 4DArt will stage Norman in Toronto, throughout Asia, Montreal, and throughout France.

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November 14, 2006
I don't make it a habit to comment on things I haven't experienced in their entirety, but in the case of the Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition DVD box set, I'll make an exception. After all, I've been dipping into the six-disc set, savouring its crisp, restored films, and absorbing its supplemental materials for three months now—and I still haven't covered half of the included films.

Read the review

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October 27, 2006
Tomorrow is International Animation Day, an event started by ASIFA in 2002 to celebrate the art we all love. (Why today? It commemorates the first public screening of Emile Reynaud's Théâtre optique in Paris in 1892. Animation has many parents.)

How does one celebrate a day like this? Easy—by watching, creating, and discussing animation and its creation. The ASIFA website lists events 11 events happening in Bulgaria, Brazil, the US, Portugal, Canada, Israel, Hungary, Argentina, France, and Japan, but there's a lot more happening. Here are just four examples from our neck of the woods:

As part of the National Film Board of Canada's 65 Years of Animation at the NFB, the CinéRobothèque in downtown Montreal is presenting Animation Without Premeditation at 1:00 p.m., a workshop on music and abstract animation. At 7:00 p.m., the Cinémathèque Québécoise presents La Fête du Cinéma d'Animation, the results of a joint venture by Toon Boom Animation and l'Association française du cinéma d'animation (AFCA), in which films were submitted, screened and subsequently voted on via the Internet. The theme for the films was "An Unusual Encounter." Admission to both events is free.

In nearby Quebec City, the Musée de la Civilisation presents a special program on 65 years of animation at the NFB, a Best of Norman McLaren program, and Paris's VJ Oof doing a live remix of McLaren's music and animation. These events start today and end on October 29.

And finally, in Ottawa, the Canadian Film Institute and the Ottawa International Animation Festival are screening ten short films from France, the US, the UK, Canada and Japan at Library and Archives Canada at 2:00 p.m., from Emile Cohl's 1908 Fantasmagorie to 2005's Great Emarican Music.

How is International Animation Day being celebrated in your neighbourhood? Find out and let us know.

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October 16, 2006
Betterman Complete Collection (Anime Legends) (DVD)
Re-released at a discounted price here; Betterman is a somewhat obscure science fiction tale, but it has genuine characters who ultimately make the show much more interesting and enjoyable than it probably ought to be. —Aaron H. Bynum

Gatchaman Collection 9: Vols. 17 & 18 (DVD)
Gatchaman Vol. 17: Future Kill (DVD)
Gatchaman Vol. 18: Final Justice (DVD)
The final volumes in the classic anime series. Adventure, drama and excitement brought together in a such a way that Science Ninja Team Gatchaman became a signature series in Japan as well as in North America (as Battle of the Planets). They really don't make them like this anymore. —Emru Townsend

Kamichu Vol. 3: Discovery (DVD)
It's a sweet and funny, slice-of-life drama that Western anime fans need more of. —Aaron H. Bynum

Norman McLaren: Masters Edition Box Set (DVD)
Watching Norman McLaren's films in the cinema, you'd be inclined to think his genius emerged fully formed. Watching them in this comprehensive collection, complete with outtakes, alternate endings, test footage, and audio interview excerpts, you'd realize you were right. —Emru Townsend

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September 9, 2006
As part of the Toronto International Film Festival, last night at the Isabel Bader Theatre the National Film Board of Canada showcased a retrospective of Norman McLaren's best-loved short films, including Neighbours, Pas de deux, Hen Hop, and A Chairy Tale. It was the North American premiere of these newly-restored films, and a celebration of 65 years of animation at the NFB animation studio. The screening, followed by a reception at the Windsor Arms Hotel, was attended by the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, the Governor-General of Canada, and her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond. Also in attendance were Jacques Bensimon, the Government Film Commissioner and chairperson at the NFB, and Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group.

The screening coincided with a release of McLaren's works on a 7-disc DVD boxed set entitled Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition. All material therein has been restored to its original quality by NFB professionals. The NFB plans to tour the 11 films screened last night internationally. At the screening, the Governor-General said: "I believe that culture should always be viewed in the broadest sense possible," and touted McLaren as Canada's "very own film-making genius," adding that McLaren was "a pioneer of sound" who "re-defined the concepts of sound and image in film." Her husband added: "I know how important film-makers are to Canadians," and admonished the NFB to continue funding for artists in a way that frees them from "mercantilist restrictions."


Above: The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, at the Windsor Arms Hotel



Above: Two of McLaren's contemporaries at the NFB animation studio. The woman on the right starred in Neighbours.

The evening was a success, with a distinctly international crowd of artists, press, and politicians gathering to commemorate one of Canada's national treasures. And in a nearby ante-room, director Paul Anderson and his crew celebrated the upcoming film adaptation of a little game we like to call Castlevania...

Over appetizers, Anderson mentioned a possible May 2008 release date for his adaptation of the popular game franchise, as well as his intent to make "an epic romance," that would be more endearing to a female audience. The small gathering featured character art by Yoshitaka Amano.


Above: The Windsor Arms Hotel foyer, and entry to the Norman McLaren reception.

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August 16, 2006
Whether you can't wait or can't go, the Ottawa International Animation Festival has begun a new initiative this year on their website: podcasts, or anicasts, as they put it.

You can get the anicasts via iTunes, but if you don't have it installed, go directly to their site to download the content, including Norman McLaren illustrations for the first edition of the festival, John Straiton discussing his work, and signal films from past editions of the OIAF and the Student Animation Festival of Ottawa (SAFO). The 2005 signal film is already up, and you'll have to watch it a few times to really get everything, so go check it out now.

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July 16, 2006
For 65 years, the place to see animated shorts has been the National Film Board of Canada. They've underwritten some of the most interesting animation of the 20th century. To celebrate their 65th year, the NFB has put up a website with 50 of its "greatest hits," little (under 10 minute) masterpieces. One name still deserves to be remembered: Norman McLaren (1914-1987). This Scots-born filmmaker, trained as a dancer, put together the NFB's first animation team, but earned a larger place in animation history.

By the time the NFB was founded in 1941, McLaren was already going far beyond the medium's uses and conventions. He scratched patterns into film emulsion (the 1955 Blinkity Blank), or wiped the emulsion off altogether and painted onto the celluloid (the 1942 Hen Hop). He experimented with stop-motion animation, using people rather than miniature figures (1952's Neighbours and the 1957 A Chairy Tale, with music by Ravi Shankar). He later focused on dancers and dance, and was still making films up to the year before his death.

However, while most avant-garde artists fade away, McLaren's unique work has been kept alive by, of all people, Hideaki Anno, the creator of anime which draw on techniques McLaren pioneered. All of the above-mentioned techniques find their way into Neon Genesis Evangelion, His and Her Circumstances, and FLCL."And it's one thing to say all of this, but finally there's a handy stop on the web where we can see McLaren's bold yet whimsical experiments, and recognize in them similarities to Anno's own risky animation.

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