This section presents some of the NFB’s internationally acclaimed animators and highlights their contribution to the art and technique of filmmaking. It is a work in progress and should not be considered exhaustive.
For information on other NFB animators, see the Portraits section www.nfb.ca/portraits.
Martine Chartrand’s work is notable for its generous humanism, its social commitment and a remarkable global approach. These qualities are already apparent in her first film, T.V. Tango (1992). It proved her to be a filmmaker with a highly developed social conscience, whose classically inspired imagery carries a lucid and cogent message, full of real sympathy for the children she portrays.
Richard Condie’s unique creatures, motifs, sounds and situations have astonished and delighted audiences and critics around the world for over a quarter of a century. A brilliant animator, he has created a place like none other, filled with apprentices perpetually running into trees, squabbling Scrabble-playing couples, pig birds unleashing strange bugs on Canada, procrastinating pianists and headless boys who are heedless of risk, until it’s too late.
Confrontational relationships between men and women form the thematic core of Michèle Cournoyer’s work, which covers a gamut of situations ranging from the tribulations of married life (A Feather Tale) and sexual desire (Accordion) to the dramatic repercussions of incest (The Hat) and our obsession with ageing (Dolorosa). Michèle Cournoyer takes the point of view of female characters to create images that are both painful and darkly humorous. The emotions generated by her work are frequently disquieting.
Jacques Drouin’s career is linked to one of the rarest of animation techniques: the pinscreen. Since few films have been made using this device, it is difficult to compare his work with that of other animators. His films follow the tradition established by Alexandre Alexeïeff (1901-1982) and Claire Parker (1906-1981), who pioneered the technique. Although their influence on Jacques Drouin’s films is obvious, he developed his own style by exploring the pinscreen’s potential.
Chris Hinton is a stalwart of the contemporary Canadian animation community. Festooned with awards and twice nominated for the Oscar, Hinton is a master of technique, a charismatic professor of animation at Montreal’s Concordia University and a director who moves easily from indie work to commercials to filmmaking at the National Film Board.
In the 1960s, when Co Hoedeman was making his first animation films with marionettes, the technique had been dominated for several years by Czechoslovakian realism. The marionettes of Prague puppet master Jirí Trnka, for example, were highly stylized, yet mimicked human body language and possessed a lifelike appearance.
René Jodoin has worked as a director and producer. Although he viewed the two careers as one continuous endeavour, it is appropriate to approach them separately because of their very different natures. Jodoin was among the first generation of filmmakers hired by Norman McLaren at the NFB in 1943. Of all of the filmmakers in the group, he is undoubtedly the one who was most influenced by McLaren.
Evelyn Lambart will always be recognized for two things, neither of which reflects on the quality of her own work. She was Norman McLaren’s closest collaborator, the co-director of six of his films, including such masterpieces as Begone Dull Care, Short and Suite and Lines: Horizontal. As important as her role in McLaren’s work—and it was absolutely essential, including, most famously, incorporating dust in Begone Dull Care—Lambart was, perhaps inadvertently, a pioneer.
It’s not how many films you make or books you write that is important. Quality always trumps quantity, whether it’s the singular novel of Emily Bronte, the sculpture of Camille Claudel, the poetry of Sylvia Plath or the films of Caroline Leaf. A true auteur, Leaf has created her own universe, inhabited by fragile creatures whose desires are thwarted by circumstances beyond their control. It’s a world of rigid contrasts, of bugs and people, of owls and geese, of children and dying matriarchs, of women in darkness meeting men in the light. Leaf’s colour palette has grown darker as her work has progressed.
Arthur Lipsett was a visionary, a satirist and a creative thinker who manipulated the elements of cinema to create a memorable and consistent body of work. A film poet, Lipsett realized his vision through creative mixing of footage discarded by other NFB directors and material that he shot and recorded himself. By juxtaposing sounds and images taken from a variety of sources, Lipsett was able to make something fresh and artistic. He forced the viewer to think and experience film in an entirely different way: not solely as entertainment but as a way of interrogating the world.
The wide variety of techniques employed by Longpré should not blind us to the fact that his films are first and foremost graphic works consisting of images linked by a narrative thread. These characteristics are already apparent in his first film Test 0558 (1965), an abstract work in which he experimented with the potential of using a computer (in those days a relatively unfamiliar machine).
Norman McLaren was born in Scotland in 1914. His interest in filmmaking began early in life after he became acquainted with works by the great Russian filmmakers Eisenstein and Pudovkin and the German animator Oskar Fischinger. While a student at the Glasgow School of Fine Arts, McLaren’s fascination with dance led him to make such stylized documentaries as Seven Till Five (1933). He subsequently joined the General Post Office Film Unit (GPOFU) in London, where he worked under John Grierson.
A star of Neighbours, one of the most acclaimed productions in NFB history, Grant Munro lent his talent and charm to a variety of films in a career that lasted four decades. Part of the first generation of artists to join the Board in its nascent years in Ottawa, Munro, like Colin Low and Wolf Koenig, displayed an impressive versatility as a filmmaker. Munro was a great team player, always willing to contribute amiably to the collective creative process that was acknowledged worldwide as the great strength of the Film Board. Not only skillful as a director of animation and documentaries, Munro often displayed his prowess on screen as a dancer and actor. Munro’s career at the Board sparkles with highlights showing off his diverse talents.
Ishu Patel has created a body of work that is obsessively concerned with profound philosophical issues. Is there an afterlife? What is the fate of humanity? Why does death exist? What must we learn to find paradise? These questions haunt the films of Patel. A brilliant animator, always willing to experiment, Ishu Patel’s artistry propels his work, raising it to levels of complexity that justify his constant search for meaning in life.
John Weldon’s storytelling ability, technical prowess and inventiveness place him in the first rank of animators worldwide. Never one to avoid controversy, he loves to wrestle with important themes in his work, ranging from issues of personal identity to questions of ethics and morality. A believer in the individual over a system that he often finds corrupt or too conservative, Weldon has consistently made work that is satirical and darkly humorous.