________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number V . . . . July 14, 1995

Leonard Maltin's Animated Favourites from the National Film Board of Canada

Written and hosted by Leonard Maltin
National Film Board of Canada, in association with the Arts and Engertainment Network
95 minutes, $34.95.
Order number: C 9194 096

All grades / All ages
(Note: the NFB has a new educational pricing policy in effect; phone 1-800-267-7710 for details.)


Over the years, animators working for the National Film Board of Canada have used every technique imaginable to make their films. And many, no one could have imagined before they gave it a try: coloured pencil, paper cut-outs, clay figures, moving pins -- the list of experiments, most of them successful, goes on and on...

Reading the title of this new compilation of NFB animated classics triggered a nationalistic knee-jerk: do we need a famous American telling us about Canada's best animated films? And as a reviewer, Maltin, well-known for his annual Movie and Video Guide and spots on Entertainment Tonight, tends to be chirpy and banal.

But he does know an awful lot about animation, and his choices in this compilation are excellent. Even if you're familiar with the NFB catalogue, there are probably a few titles on the list you haven't seen before:

The films cover a lot of ground, and with Maltin's commentary between the selections added, they serve as a good overview of the history and range of the NFB's work. Techniques move from astonishing pin-animation ("Mindscape") to computer work that rivals Pixar's ("Anniversary"). And subject matter varies from the folksy and broadly comic ("The Cat Came Back") to the formally artistic ("Pas de Deux").

Along the way, Maltin makes good points about NFB animation in general -- that one of its hallmarks is innovation that is wedded to subject, rather than to mere technical experiment, and that work like this would never happen were it not for the support of an institution that doesn't have to worry about making popular hits.

But his commentary never goes on long enough to get tiresome, or to bore a younger audience, and he has great material. Probably the most impressive is still the first, "Begone Dull Care," where Norman McLaren uses his famous technique of painting directly on film stock to make an jazzy, abstract interpretation of Oscar Peterson's music. But any of these shorts would deserve a review in itself.

The Film Board lists Animation Favorites as an "All Ages" title; truthfully, Maltin's commentary probably wouldn't interest most elementary students, though he keeps it brief enough that it doesn't matter much. Still, early year students might not find enough of the animation sufficiently involving to keep their interest.

Otherwise, it's hard to fault this new collection. It's interesting as a study of the art of animation, and it's entertaining in wildly varying ways: by turns, or all at once, comic, moving, and fascinating.


Duncan Thornton is the editor of CM.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364