TV Cream

TV: N is for...

National Film Board of Canada, The

FORMED IN 1936 as a propaganda maker, the NFBC has carried on providing state-subsidised films in Canada (both short and feature length) at the rate of hundreds every year, but it’s best known over here thanks to the ones the hard-up Beeb imported for afternoon and evening viewing in the 70s and 80s:

TWO BAGATELLES and NEIGHBOURS (1953) – Two short Norman McLaren films in which animation technique is employed with live actors. In the first, entitled ‘On the Lawn’, a male dancer waltzes to synthetic music. The second is a fast march, ‘In the Backyard’, accompanied by an old-fashioned calliope. ‘Neighbours’ was an anti-war piece originally produced for the United Nations, with two suburban types in an escalating battle over a flower between their two yards; by the end of the film they’ve turned to monsters, destroyed their homes, killed each other and (in a scene cut from the television and schoolroom showings) murdered each other’s wife and kiddies. The flower, naturally, survives.

PAS DE DEUX (1968) – McClaren again, this time multiple-exposing ballet dancers in an oft-imitated tour de force.

[cref 2026 COSMIC ZOOM] (1968) – Top class rowing-boat magnification antics.

SPHERES (1969) – A play on motion, against a background of multi-hued sky, by McLaren and René Jodoin. Spheres of translucent pearl seem to float weightlessly in the unlimited panorama of the sky, grouping, regrouping, at times colliding like some stylized burst of an atomic chain reaction. This airy dance is set to the musical cadences of Bach, played by pianist Glenn Gould.

THE OWL WHO MARRIED A GOOSE (1974) – Inuit story of avial crossbreeding told in the original language.

MINDSCAPE (1976) – A particularly creative example of the pinscreen animation technique (i.e. pictures made up of thousands of different-length pins in a mind-bogglingly painstaking process), this film is about an artist who steps inside his painting and wanders about in a landscape peopled with symbols that trigger unexpected associations. Escher-type oddness.

THE SAND CASTLE (1977) – Funny man-thing comes out of the sand and builds weird three-legged snake things, which then build a big house out of sand before being blown away by the wind.

BLOWHARD (1978) – Animated tale of J.B. Edwards, an easterner who went west to create a fuel company called Consolidated Dragons. The company’s profits were sorely affected when the supply of dragons started to dry up. A solution had to be found – and was.

CANINABIS (1979) – Story of a Muttley-like drug squad pooch whose hash habit lands him in hot water. Pro or anti? No idea.

S.P.L.A.S.H. (1980) – Army of water droplets go through the cycle from cloud to river to penis. Stood for Sea, Pond, Lake and Stream Headquarters.

THE SWEATER (1980) – An animated version of a short story by Québec author Roch Carrier about a boy hankering after ice hockey players and a Maple Leaf “swetcher”.

THE BIG SNIT (1985) – Famous weirdo apocalyptic cartoon with much Scrabble playing, tooth rattling, eye-shaking fun. And Sawing For Teens.

THE CAT CAME BACK (1989) – Infamous scratchy cartoon (identical animation style to ‘Snit), concerning a hapless bloke’s various doomed attempts to execute, mangle, or otherwise dispose of an unwanted, furniture-ruining cat. Jaunty, perhaps-too-catchy song underpinned the action.

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  1. Kitten in a Brandy Glass

    November 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Other memorable NFBC outings were “What On Earth” (1966), which is the one in which an alien narrator describes the lifestyle of the motor car, which the aliens believe is the dominant species on Earth, and “Blackfly” (1991, so a bit late), which is the one with the dead catchy banjo-picking song about bone-picking blackflies.

  2. johnnyboy

    January 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    “The Cat that Came Back” was superb animation in that it stuck in the memory for its odd style of animation and as mentioned the catchy song that kept springing up once the moggy re-appeared back at the poor fella’s house. Never thought song was ‘too catchy’ though; surely only bad advertisments are appropos to that moniker.

  3. Richard Davies

    January 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I remember The Cat That Came Back was featured on Stayed Tooned at least twice, the 2nd time by popular demand.

  4. Applemask

    January 7, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Reference to electronic musicians.

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