May The Force Be With—D’Oh! The NFB in Pop Culture

Films

What do The Simpsons, Star Wars and drugged-out spiders all have in common?

Besides being pop culture phenomena (and really fun to watch), they’ve all referenced the NFB in one way or another. We’ve been honoured to have direct and indirect shout-outs in some of the biggest films and television shows in history (ball’s in your corner, Game of Thrones), and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites to share.

Spiders on Drugs

This spoof of a classic old school NFB-style documentary comes with an unexpected twist… although with a title like Spiders on Drugs, it’s not that unexpected. With over 38 million hits, Andrew Struthers’ video hilariously shows us what spiders on drugs would look like, and credits the NFB at the very end.

The Simpsons

The Simpsons, a TV show that is the epitome of pop culture, has referenced the NFB not once, not twice, but THRICE in its illustrious 26-year-run.

The first was in season 11, episode 5 (overall episode 231), “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)“, in which we are personally thanked by the producers of The Poke of Zorro, a completely historically accurate movie about Zorro fighting the Scarlet Pimpernel to become the King of England.

simp

Fox Broadcasting Company

The second was in season 15, episode 5 (overall episode 318), “The Fat and the Furriest“, and was an episode-long homage to Troy Hurtubise and our film Project Grizzly. In the episode, Homer creates bear-proof armour after narrowly surviving a bear attack.

Look familiar?

simp-com

Fox Broadcasting Company

The third (and my personal favourite) was in season 17, episode 8 (overall episode 364), “The Italian Bob“, when the students of Ms. Krabappel’s fourth grade class receive a disappointing surprise after a TV is rolled into the class in lieu of a lesson.

simps

Fox Broadcasting Company

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

As an admitted fan of the NFB, George Lucas drew inspiration from Arthur Lipsett‘s 21-87 and channeled it into a little indie film that only a few people saw called Star Wars.

As a tribute to Lipsett, Princess Leia was held in cell 2187 before a scruffy-looking Nerfherder and a too-short Stormtrooper came to rescue her. (Starts at 2:19)

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Looks like the Star Wars universe couldn’t get enough of Arthur Lipsett! If you’re one of the few people who didn’t see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend, The Telegraph wrote up a lovely article about how the latest Star Wars film pays tribute to Lipsett’s 21-87 in a very pivotal way.

Very mini spoiler alert: John Boyega‘s character starts off as a Stormtrooper designated as ‘FN-2187’, before being renamed ‘Finn’ by Poe Dameron. With Finn’s designated name constantly mentioned throughout the movie, writers Michael ArndtLawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams  were very vocal in their nod to Lipsett.

Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Director Edgar Wright‘s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s pop culture comic series Scott Pilgrim resulted in one of the coolest NFB references and films to take place on Canadian soil.

In an interview with our wonderful friends over at Art of the Title, designer Richard Kenworthy cited our very own Norman McLaren as an inspiration for Scott Pilgrim‘s colourful and seizure-inducing opening credits.

RK: You can’t study animation and not be well-versed in Len Lye, Oskar Fischinger, Stan Brakhage and Norman McLaren. We went back and re-watched those films and they were still full of life. We got excited about projecting such vivid imagery on the big screen, in front of an audience who most likely hadn’t experienced that work.

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From Art of the Title

2001: A Space Odyssey

Fun fact: Stanley Kubrick made a pit-stop at the NFB and fell in love with Roman Kroitor and Colin Low‘s film, Universe. Kubrick was so enamored with the film, he pretty much instantaneously cast Douglas Rain, the narrator of Universe, as HAL 9000, the infamous antagonistic AI that makes life rather difficult for Frank and Dave. 

No human error about it, Rain’s smooth, melodic voice was a great asset to space themed films in the 1960s.

Universe, Roman Kroitor et Colin Low, Office national du film du Canada