McLaren_App_the National Film Board of Canada

It’s not often we’ll dedicate a whole post on DN to a new piece of technology – but then again it’s not often its promotional campaign will feature commissioned work from the likes of Don Hertzfeldt, David OReilly and Patrick Doyon. Released in early June 2013 by the National Film Board of Canada, the McLaren’s Workshop app is an iPad download intended to inspire and educate animators by introducing them to the work of legendary animator Norman McLaren and the tools/techniques he used creating his films.

For those unfamiliar with the great man (we forgive you), McLaren was a Scottish born filmmaker who went on to found the NFB’s Animation Studio and pioneer an entirely new conception of animation that won him tons of awards, including an Oscar® (Neighbours) and a Palme d’Or (Blinkety Blank), and a dedicated core of fans and disciples that thrives to this day. (McLaren died on 27 January 1987.)

The McLaren app is completely free and lets users create their own films using techniques championed by the award-winning animator, as well as providing access to the his back catalogue (51 films) and eleven documentaries about the filmmaker’s production methods. We spoke to filmmakers David OReilly and Patrick Doyon about the short films they created to promote the app and just how useful the app is itself as an animation tool:


“I tried to keep it simple because I did not have a lot of time (few days only) to make the film. For example, I barely touched the color and I chose to keep the default soundtrack of the application (music from Blankity Blank by Norman McLaren) that worked well with Cyclop(e).

I liked the app because it’s very simple. It can be used as to: a) introduce people to the animation; b) test a movement very quickly; c) or even make an animated very short film for more experienced filmmakers. It won’t ever beat a piece of specialised animation software (no copy & paste, no editing, etc.) , but constraints can be good for creativity. Not to mention that the iPad is portable, a big plus for those traveling by public transport. It could be like a moleskine for animators.”


“I did a load of tests on it to see what kind of designs wouldn’t break my neck to keep drawing.

The app is really authentic to McLaren’s technique – almost to an extreme. Doing still shots is painful because you can’t duplicate frames or reorder them. To keep straight lines from floating around I ended up wrapping rubber bands around the iPad (it’s not cheating because McLaren used them on his iPad as well).

I would download the app for the library of work on there alone. McLaren is the greatest. The animation tools are useful to see how hellish and depressing and painstaking animation is for beginners and experts alike.”

Alongside the shorts created by OReilly and Doyon, the National Film Board of Canada also commissioned shorts by Don Hertzfeldt, Regina Pessoa, Koji Yamamura and Renaud Hallée; you can watch these four films below:

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