Iain Gardner's McLaren 2014

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This off-season we've been taking you along with us to teach you about the process of putting EIFF together. Today our animation expert Iain Gardner is here to tell you more about the Fetival's long-standing association with animation pioneer Norman McLaren.

Edinburgh International Film Festival has had a long association with the animated genius that is Norman McLaren, whose Centenary is celebrated this year with the McLaren 2014 programme. Norman McLaren was a Scottish born artist who emigrated to Canada in the 1940s after being invited to establish the animation department of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), which celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.

From its inaugural edition in 1947 Edinburgh International Film Festival has recognised the distinctive talent of McLaren, screening his 1947 films La Poulette Grise and Fiddle De Dee, and featuring many of his celebrated films in later festivals.

During its 25th edition in 1971, EIFF hosted a retrospective of McLaren’s work. Later, in 1990, established the McLaren Award for Best British Animation. This prestigious award, the longest serving of its kind in Britain, now reaches its 25th recipient in 2014.

Over the years, the McLaren Award has been picked up by many of Britain’s finest animation practitioners, including film makers who have gone on to win BAFTA Awards, Oscars® and one of the creators of one of Britain’s most successful exports, Peppa Pig. This year’s competition, supported by the British Council, is no exception to the rule that the finest contemporary animation is presented to the public, including a few previous recipients in line for the audience vote!

In partnership with McLaren 2014, EIFF is delighted to host the premiere of the National Film Board of Canada’s digital restorations of McLaren’s stereoscopic animated films from the 1950s. These rarely-seen films were created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 to be showcased at London’s South Bank Telekinema, a state of the art cinema specifically designed for the exhibition of 35mm, stereoscopic and stereophonic film, as well as large-screen closed-circuit television.

The BFI took over the building in 1952 and it is now the National Film Theatre.  Now is the Time (1951) and Around is Around (1951) are believed to be the first known stereoscopic animation ever created, and provide intriguing viewing within the context of a cinema culture where stereoscopy is enjoying a resurgence. Also discovered during the restoration process where another two rare 3D Animations created by the NFB in 1952 on the back of the success of McLaren’s work. O Canada  by Norman McLaren’s long-time collaborator Evelyn Lambart, and Twirlygig by Gretta Eckman have also been digitally restored and constitute part of the programme presented this year at EIFF.

This special presentation is complemented by a panel discussion with members of the National Film Board of Canada associated with the restoration. Marcy Page, David Verrall, Eloi Champagne and Luigi Allemano will all the present in Edinburgh to participate in this event.

EIFF also celebrates McLaren’s Centenary with a presentation of BBC Scotland’s newly produced half hour documentary Norman McLaren: Boogie Doodler, featuring contributions from Michel Gondry, who cites McLaren as an inspiration for the animated style in his latest feature: Is The Man Who is Tall Happy? (2014).

A presentation of contemporary International Animation combines a selection of shorts that echo aspects of McLaren’s life; and running concurrent with all of these events is an exhibition of Norman McLaren’s creative work at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. Hand Made Cinema screens examples of McLaren’s films alongside the physical materials that made them possible.

Revisiting Norman McLaren’s work in his centenary year only goes to prove how enduring and inspirational his work is, and we hope his movies will be enjoyed for another 100 years to come.

– Iain Gardner, EIFF Animation Programmer & Artistic Director of McLaren 2014

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