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Savant Review:

Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites from the Film Board of Canada

Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites from the
Film Board of Canada

Image Entertainment
1994 / Color / 1:37 / Dolby Digital mono / 95 m.
Written and Hosted by Leonard Maltin
Produced by
Kris Slava and Mary Jane Terrell

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
Norman McLaren

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.

Jacques Druin

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
John Weldon

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
Cordell Barker

This was previously reviewed on The Best of the Best: Especially for Kids.

Getting Started
Richard Condie

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.

The Sweater
Sheldon Cohen

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.

The Street
Caroline Leaf

Another autobiographical tale, already reviewed on The Best of the Best: Romantic Tales.

Pas de Deux
Norman McLaren

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
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: Leonard Maltin introductions
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: April 13, 2001

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