Category Archives: Animation

Weekly Eldritch: Fantasia / Night on Bald Mtn

This week’s item of creepiness is the Night on Bald Mountain segment of Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia. Now the music by Mussorgsky is pretty dramatically frightening all by itself, so adding a host of demons to the top of said mountain just adds to the scariness.

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Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)

Another animation classic. For clever concept and perfectly focussed execution, this very short short is peerless. A one-joke film, but so well done!

Bambi Meets Godzilla from Global Mechanic Media on Vimeo.

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Banks rattle me.

Here’s another favourite of mine, a lovely animated short based on a story by the great Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock. This shows you how devastatingly simple cut-out animation can be. Watch the writing hands… no need to animate a whole arm! And I love that shadows show around the moveable paper bits. Beautifully written and performed too, of course. Starting with stellar source material is never a bad idea.

My Financial Career by Gerald Potterton, National Film Board of Canada


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Fantastic Animation App: McLaren’s Workshop

th_cd3b0ba944968798efa226bcc0656742_1370466323mclarenappthumbJust a couple of weeks ago I was talking about Norman McLaren, animation visionary at the National Film Board, and now the venerable NFB has released a truly awesome app: McLaren’s Workshop. And it’s free! I couldn’t download it fast enough!

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Richard Condie: Piano practice, scrabble and nuclear war

Among my NFB animation favourites are two crazy funny shorts by Winnipeg filmmaker Richard Condie.

Getting Started (1979) is the sad tale of someone trying to sit down to piano practice. All musicians (and procrastinators) will find this painfully familiar.

Getting Started (1979) by Richard Condie, National Film Board of Canada

The Big Snit launched a good half-dozen catchphrases that I still find myself saying over twenty years later…*

The Big Snit (1985) by Richard Condie, National Film Board of Canada

*and when I write out my grocery list I always include “carrost”

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Weekly Eldritch: Jan Svankmajer’s “Alice”

Alice and White Rabbit

What creepy little gem do I have for you today? Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, no less, or at least the film version made in 1988 by Czech animator Jan Svankmajer*. Titled simply Alice, this film gives the old story a stunningly bizarre industrial-age twist.


Carroll’s tale was already a bit nightmarish, and Svankmajer has certainly taken that element and run with it. You know how it starts, with Alice in a lovely forest following the white rabbit? Here’s how Svankmajer reimagines it:

Check out that rabbit! Yikes!

Here’s another, truly eldritch scene:

It’s about time that taxidermy played a larger role in children’s entertainment, don’t you think?

Svankmajer is quoted here talking about the film:

So far all adaptations of Alice (including the latest by Tim Burton) present it as a fairy tale, but Carroll wrote it as a dream. And between a dream and a fairy tale there is a fundamental difference. While a fairy tale has got an educational aspect, it works with the moral of the lifted forefinger (good overcomes evil), dream, as an expression of our unconscious, uncompromisingly pursues the realisation of our most secret wishes without considering rational and moral inhibitions, because it is driven by the principle of pleasure. My Alice is a realised dream. (interview, Electric Sheep Magazine, June 2011)

* Jan Svankmajer was a tremendous influence on the Brothers Quay, whose animation I posted in a previous Weekly Eldritch


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Norman McLaren: Great Canadian Animator

Hi everyone!

One of the topics in my recent school talks was Animation, which I absolutely love, in all its forms. I just thought I should provide a few links here for anyone who wants to learn more about ‘toons. (I’ll group posts on animation under the category… ‘Animation’, natch.


For starters, in my talk I mentioned the great, great Canadian animator Norman McLaren, who did some really amazing work at the NFB – the National Film Board of Canada – from the 1940s right up into the 1980s.

If you’d like to see some really alternative forms of animation, browse around the NFB website for McLaren’s films. One of the methods he used was to draw or scratch images right on the celluloid film, thus skipping the camera altogether. See: Begone Dull Care, which as a bonus has a gorgeous Oscar Peterson jazz soundtrack.

He also made stop-motion or pixillation films, his most famous of these being Neighbours, the film which won McLaren an Oscar in 1952. I remember seeing this film when I was a kid and being utterly astonished, not just at how cool it looked but also at how shocking it was. (There is violence – probably not suitable for the very young.)


I’ll just bet Norman McLaren’s films will make you want to dive in and start making animations yourself.


P.S. Once you are at the NFB site, keep looking around! Besides McLaren’s work, there are masses of great animated shorts to watch, from the truly experimental to more mainstream kids’ stuff and comic masterpieces. I’ll give you a list of some of my favourites in a future post… soon, I promise!

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