It’s midnight in a graveyard. The principal characters are spooks, ghosts, bats, bells, and, at the end, the sun. As midnight strikes, 12 spooks appear, then two ghosts. They move to the music’s rhythm. Against the black night, they are blue and yellow. Bats appear as does a xylophone of bones. Mist rises, spooks swirl. A bell tolls. The sky turns light blue, the ghosts’ dance slows. Then black night returns bringing intimations of frenzy. Bones play snare drums; spooks peek out of square graves. Scary faces appear. Frenetic movement takes over. A rooster crows and all return to earth as the sun’s light appears. —IMDb
Norman McLaren, CC, CQ (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish-born Canadian animator and film director known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
McLaren was born in Stirling, Scotland and studied set design at the Glasgow School of Art. His early experiments with film and animation included actually scratching and painting the film stock itself, as he did not have ready access to a camera. His earliest extant film, Seven Till Five (1933), a “day in the life of an art school” was influenced by Eisenstein and displays a strongly formalist attitude.
McLaren’s next film, Camera Makes Whoopee (1935), was a more elaborate take on the themes explored in Seven Till Five, inspired by his acquisition of a Ciné-Kodak camera, which enabled him to execute a number of ‘trick’ shots. McLaren used pixilation effects, superimpositions and animation not only to display the staging of an art school ball, but also to tap into the aesthetic sensations supposedly… read more
Mary Ellen Bute (November 21, 1906—October 17, 1983) was a pioneer American film animator significant as one of the first female experimental filmmakers. Her specialty was visual music and, while working in New York between 1934 and 1953, made fourteen short, abstract musical films. Many of these were seen in regular movie theaters, such as Radio City Music Hall, usually preceding a prestigious film. Several of her later abstract films were categorized as part of her Seeing Sound series.
A native of Houston, Mary Ellen Bute studied painting in Texas and, subsequently, Philadelphia, then stage lighting at Yale University, focusing her primary interest on the tradition of color organs, as a means of painting with light. She worked with Leon Theremin and Thomas Wilfred and was also influenced by the abstract animated films of Oskar Fischinger.
Bute began her filmmaking career collaborating with Joseph Schillinger on the animation of visuals. Her later films were made in partnership… read more
Ted Nemeth (1911-1986) was an early animation pioneer and cinematographer, who served in the latter capacity on Jim Henson’s short film Time Piece. As Frank Oz recalled in a 2001 FilmForce interview, “Jim would scrape enough money up through commercials and we would go out shooting on weekends with Ted Nemeth, who had an old 35mm rackover camera.”
Early in his career, Nemeth had been working on commercial advertising and documentary projects when, in 1933, he served as camerman on Rhythm in Light, an experimental short by Mary-Ellen Bute, who he would soon wed. The couple, sometimes in collaboration with Norman McLaren (future auteur with The National Film Board of Canada), produced a number of experimental avant-garde animated shorts, between the 1930s and the 1950s. He later provided cinematography for Bute’s 1966 film version of Finnegan’s Wake, which she wrote and directed. Nemeth had a particular keen eye for color, reflected in the tones which adorn Time Piece, but even… read more