Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
This fourth Film Board of Canada collection of animated shorts appears to have been
compiled by Leonard Maltin in 1994. Several of the shorts are repeats, which
is regrettable but understandable. While reviewing the previous compilations, I
carped about the lack of sufficient background on the artists involved and the techniques
used, and this collection has a slight edge on the others because of Maltin's on-camera
interviews that introduce the individual animator-artists, and their now quite familiar
styles. The chapter stops take one to the beginning of each new short, which
is great for subsequent viewing when the introductions would get in the way. How
else would one know that the impressive Dreamscape was done with-pinboard animation?
Where else are you going to see photos of pioneer Norman McLaren or favorites
like Richard Condie or Caroline Leaf?
The films are so individualized that they're going to be a mixed bag for any particular taste:
Begone Dull Care
This is the 1949 short, always written up in the classic literature on cinema,
where McLaren created a free-form visualization of a jazz soundtrack (Oscar Peterson?)
by inking, blotting, sponging and writing directly on the filmstrip itself.
The claim is that no camera was used, although some 'shots' look suspicious in this regard.
McLaren was an amazingly inventive filmmaker and this free-form expression,
as crude as it is, fits the music far better than the sometimes similar 'Toccata in
Fugue' section of Fantasia.
This is the pin-board film. After Maltin shows a film clip demonstrating the technique
of manipulating hundreds of the board's moveable pins to create light and dark shadow
pictures, one's appreciation for this incredible film increases tenfold. An
artist enters his painting, and for once the fantasy has a truly dreamlike feeling. It's
much more effective than the CGI in What Dreams May Come.
Log Driver's Waltz
A funny illustration of a romantic folk song involving a girl's attraction to the skilled birling men
who dance on logs to keep the flow moving downstream to the mill. Weldon's drawing style is
immediately recognizable (my favorite of his is the Matter-Transmitter mind-blower To Be).
Here he begins with live action, but soon segues to his goofy, anything-goes plastic cartoons.
The Cat Came Back
This was previously reviewed on The Best of the Best: Especially for Kids.
A cute warm-up exercise from the maker of The Big Snit (still the topper), this clever bit
of tomfoolery follows an unlikely concert pianist who's supposed to be practicing, while he stalls,
procrastinates, and allows himself to be distracted. Condie's people are barely scribbled
shapes, yet they have fully developed, immediately likeable personalities.
A very amusing slice of life tale of a French Canadian man's memories of the love of ice hockey and
the love of the star players. A very nice and different cartoon style as well.
Another autobiographical tale, already reviewed on The Best of the Best: Romantic Tales.
Pas de Deux
McLaren strikes again with one of the best FB of C shorts ever, also previously
reviewed on The Best of the Best: Romantic Tales.
Marc Aubry & Michel Hébert
The few computer-assisted shorts that are on these compilations somehow seem like cheats next to the
lone-artist-with-an-easel masterpieces, or the bizarre techniques that might seem to take eternities
to animate. This animation from 1989 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Film
Board of Canada, and even though the animation is a very nice slice of the pre- Toy Story
variety, it's obvious where it's heading and not very involving ... the other more personal works have
a distinct advantage.
If you haven't seen any of these shorts, the collection here will knock you out. If you already
collect the Series, the three repeats are going to be a bit frustrating. As long as they keep
bringing more of these wonderful shorts out on these great discs, Savant's not going to complain.
The high quality is the same as always; Maltin is his usual slightly forced but amiable self, and you
can tell he's sincere in his enthusiasm for the films.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites
from the Film Board of Canada rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: Leonard Maltin introductions
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: April 13, 2001
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson
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