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Paper cut-outs

Lotte Reiniger animates <strong><em>Aucassin and Nicolette</em></strong> (1976). © NFB

Lotte Reiniger animates Aucassin and Nicolette (1976). © NFB

<strong><em>Aucassin and Nicolette</em></strong> (1976) - Lotte Reiniger. © NFB

Aucassin and Nicolette (1976) - Lotte Reiniger. © NFB

Shooting by Noman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart of the film <strong><em>Le merle</em></strong> (1958). Photo: Sam Tata. © NFB

Shooting by Noman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart of the film Le merle (1958). Photo: Sam Tata. © NFB

<strong><em>Le merle</em></strong> (1958), Norman McLaren © NFB

Le merle (1958), Norman McLaren © NFB

Evelyn Lambart during the shooting of <strong><em>Fine Feathers</em></strong> (1968). © NFB

Evelyn Lambart during the shooting of Fine Feathers (1968). © NFB

<strong><em>Village of Idiots</em></strong> (2000) - Rose Newlove and Eugene Fedorenko. © NFB

Village of Idiots (2000) - Rose Newlove and Eugene Fedorenko. © NFB

Play excerpts of films that use this technique

Animando, 1987

Animando, 1987

Play this excerpt

By Marcel Jean
Animation Expert

When Norman McLaren formed the NFB's first animation team, he soon designated the paper cut-out technique as the best one to use in the financial circumstances.

This technique, which is as old as animated film itself (Émile Cohl used it), is also one of the cheapest. Furthermore, it can be applied in a variety of ways. Movement can be achieved by replacing various cut-outs (as in Balablok, by Bretislav Pojar, 1973) or by animating characters with moveable parts (in an extension of the animated silhouette technique created by German Lotte Reiniger in films like The Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926). Moveable parts can also be placed directly on a background drawing or on many separately lit planes.

For ideogrammatic simplicity, McLaren's Le merle (1958), in which he used simple geometric shapes to illustrate a traditional French song, remains one of the NFB's great successes of paper cut-out animation at the NFB. René Jodoin (Notes on a Triangle, 1966) and Evelyn Lambart (Fine Feathers, 1968) were among other pioneers of this technique. Lambart and McLaren worked together on Rythmetic (1956), a paper cut-out classic. With Balablok and "E" (1981), two mordant political fables, Bretislav Pojar offers wonderful examples of the opportunities provided by the use of moveable figures.

Very early, NFB filmmakers had animated hinged paper cut-outs. This was how Grant Munro illustrated the song My Darling Clementine back in 1945. While spending some time at the NFB, German Lotte Reiniger, a virtuoso of silhouette animation, made Aucassin and Nicolette in 1975. In 1999 Eugene Fedorenko and Rose Newlove produced a real tour de force with Village of Idiots, which makes spectacular use of multilayered moveable animated paper cut-outs. Suzanne Gervais is also known for her use of this technique. Her Still Point (1983), The Studio (1988) and Expectations (1993) were all made this way.

The animation of cut-out photographs is a variation of traditional paper cut-out animation. With La Ville (1970), then This Is a Recorded Message (1973) and Chairmen (1979), Jean-Thomas Bédard made it his speciality. Francine Desbiens also used it in Ah! vous dirai-je maman (1985).

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