Photo Friday | 20 Brilliant Pictures of Norman McLaren


Norman McLaren (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a genius, an artisan and a magician. In 1941, the young Scottish-born animator moved to Canada at the invitation of the NFB’s first commissioner, John Grierson, who wanted him to open an animation studio and to train Canadian animators. The rest is history.

Here in the NFB’s headquarters – otherwise known as the Norman McLaren Building – his legacy is everywhere. Visual elements from his many films adorn the walls and our brightest talents strive, day after day, to keep his art relevant and his memory alive. (Our recent app for the iPad, McLaren’s Workshop, is a stunning example of that.) I even hear Quebec City is having a summer-long McLaren love fest in the form of a retrospective projected outdoors, onto the city’s iconic Image Mill.

I would’ve loved to meet McLaren, to interview him. Alas, he is no longer. What remains, however, are tons of terrific pictures of him. Our archives contain hundreds. Here are, in no particular order, 20 of my personal favourites.

McLaren as Mr. Gadget

The man could draw.

And paint.

And meticulously arrange tiny bits of paper to create the wildest stories.

He also had a thing for scratching shapes and things directly onto film strips. No one taught him to do that.

He cared about music a great deal, and worked alongside some of the 20th century’s greatest, like sitar czar Ravi Shankar.

He occasionally slipped on some aviator sunglasses (and looked mightily handsome.)

As the years wore on he never lost his flair.

Even though his later-years mustache fleetingly reminds one of John Waters.

Norman McLaren was undeniably cool, an avant-garde animator and radical artist.

We will forever love and celebrate him.