A housewife's TV, radio, and sexual fantasies clash with her surroundings, creating a world of distorted values.
- Feminist Criticism:
- beginner: This film can surely arouse discussion on how a housewife's life can be boring and saturated by all the messages from popular culture (TV ads, programs, radio programs and best-sellers). A very disturbing question to ask is: why does this housewife imagine killing a baby doll?
- Cultural Studies: Are women passive receiver of popular culture? Aren't there spaces for resistance?
- Postmodern Urban Space: A closer examination of the spatial arrangement of this animation (with walls showing constant movement of people in different urban spaces), and the never-stopping sounds/noises from the outside world or TV/radio, students can talk about the penetration of the public into the private space and the influence of postmodern simulacra.
Begone Dull Care
1949, 7 min 48 sec by Norman McLaren
A lively interpretation, in fluid lines and color, of jazz music played by the Oscar Peterson Trio. Painting directly on film, two National Film Board artists, Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren, have created a gay visual expression of the music. Film without words. (Seven awards, including Venice; Berlin.) (information & images: , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
The Big Snit
1985, 9 min 49 secby Richard Condie
AbstractThis wonderfully wacky animation film is a look at two simultaneous conflicts, the macrocosm of global nuclear war and the microcosm of a domestic quarrel, and how each conflict is resolved. Presented with warmth and unexpectedly off-the-wall humor, the film is open to a multitude of interpretations. (Seventeen awards, including Treviso; Odense; Genie, Toronto; Oscar nomination, Hollywood.) (information & images: , National Film Board of Canada NFB)Teaching Methods:
- Conversation: It will take more than one viewing for the conversation students to understand this film, so it's better to use a full two-hour period for the showing and discussion of the video.
- Literary/Film Criticism:
- beginner: Students can analyze the parallel plot more and why the animator wants to make the parallel between domestic quarrel and international war.
The Box Co
10 min 27 sec
(images on NFB's page)
AbstractA different version of the Pygmalion story: the puppet comes alive (animated) after it is made. Instead of love or possessiveness, there is warm interaction between the artist and the puppet, which ends with the former's letting the latter free and independent.
Charles and Francois
1988, 15 min 24 sec by Co Hoedeman
AbstractA touching story of the friendship between a grandfather and his grandson, this is a film about aging and death. Award-winning animator Co Hoedeman combines 3-D and cut-out animation techniques to create a very dramatic and moving film. The story follows Charles and Francois through the different stages of their lives. With time, they become closer, common experiences having diminished the difference in age. By the end of the film, time appears to stand still; both are over one hundred years old and they are almost indistinguishable. (Awards: Montreal; Espinho; Varna; Quebec.)(information & images , National Film Board of Canada. )
Teaching Methods:I. Conversation:
This animation is relatively difficult; it needs to be viewed at least twice. Since the animation itself takes a lot of time to watch, it should be used not as a conversation starter, but as a text to be analyzed.
I. After the First Viewing: ask the students what the animation is about;II. Introduction to the Techniques:In The Art of the Animators, Hoedeman introduces his ways of shifting scenes (by not changing the setting but moving the props in front of the camera) and showing movement (moving the rolling background but not the car before it). After showing students this clip, ask them to list and talk about the techniques of
- to comment on the relationship between Charles (the grandfather) and Francois (the grandson), how it is changed at different stages of their life;
- to give the impressive parts about the techniques and the puzzling parts;
- and, finally, to talk about the possible meanings of the text.Also, students should try to figure out the meaning of the central lines spoken by the wives of Charles and Francois: how one talks about the pain of the other's coldness and the other give a philosophical view of life: "When love is made, we call it life; When love is unmade, we call it death; When death remade, we call it life."
- Using two-dimensional paper cut-out figures in a three-dimensional setting;
- Shifting background
- the Use of the Mask;
III. After the Second Viewing:
Ask students to work out the central meaning of the text. Then they can follow this central idea and relate the techniques to the content, the meanings of the details to the whole of the text.
A Student Paper
Teaching Methods (II):
- LiteraryFilm Criticism:
- beginner: Try to find out the symbolic expressions in the film. What roles do the women play in this animation.
- advanced: more discussion can be focused on
-- the exposure of the artificial elements (cutout) in this animation. Does it (technical innovation) help convey the meaning?
-- the ideology implied behind the story and its dominant message about the interactions between life, love and deatth.
1968, 8 min 00 sec by Eva Szasz
AbstractThis film probes the infinite magnitude of space, and its reverse, the ultimate minuteness of matter. Animation art and animation camera achieve this journey to the farthest conceivable point of the universe and then into the tiniest particle of existence--an atom of a living human cell--with a freshness and clarity that would seem impossible with other means of exposition. Film without words. (Awards: Bilbao; Buenos Aires; Philadelphia; Berlin.)(information & images , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
From The Teacher's Guide of Discuss It!
- For conversation:
1. Ask students to re-tell the story by taking the point of view of the mosquito, the boy, the dog or even a blood cell.
2. Ask students to discuss the differences between taking a microscopic and a macroscopic viewpoints, as well as a human/personal viewpoint and a non-human viewpoint.
- For narrative:
1. With this animation, students can try to take different perspectives on the story they are writing. They can also try different point-of-view narration (fist-person, second-person, or third-person).
2. Students can also consider if their perspective is consistent in the story or if they want to consciously change to another perspective in the story.
Viewing:As the video is being played, students can check off words in their personal collection which they could use to describe some of the scenes in the film (e.g. planets, galaxy, river, lake, ocean, blood, cells . . .). Each one could contribute one word to a blackboard list when the filim is over. These words could then be number in order of their "appearance" in the film images and students asked toform adescriptive sentence for each one as related to Cosmic Zoom. The "story" could be built up on the blackboard collectively, and organized into paragraphs.
Additional Activity:Time for imagination! Working in pairs, students pick up an object the film, identify it, and give it human characteristics. The boy in the boat, the mosquito, the dog, a blood cell, a spacecraft, a satellite, an airplane, are all possibilities. The pairs are given several minutes to prepare descriptions of what they would see and hear from their chosen perspective.
The pair might then create a short monologue to share with classmates. For the boy in the boat it might go something like this: "I am tired. It is hard work rowing this boat. The water is deep. I see a fish swimming. When will I reach short?"
More advanced students could write and read their own descriptive paragraphs to the class.
1988, 7 min 47 s
Vocabulary: Asking the students to take down the words they find impressive or what they don't know. For instance, in class, we talked about "cordial" as a kind of medical drink or liqueur, catmint, pitty-pattered, Siamese, fillings. all-around good guy, bouncing, bopping, hand-springing, poodle, patio, garden hoses, rubble pile, etc.
Topics to discuss:
2. Narrative Writing:
- Doris' relationship with the three cats, and our own views of pets.
- The animator's humorous presentation of the storm, and our own experience (of typhoon).
I find this animation useful to stimulate students' imagination and sense of humor in writing their narratives.
The three cats, Dayoh, Donna, and DeeDee, are given distinct personalities. The description of the storm, too, is vivid and humorous.
Suggested Methods From The Teacher's Guide of Discuss It!
E -- Getting Started
12 min 22 sec Richard
In this animated film the hero attempts to practise a piece of music on the piano. A series of distractions delays him and when he finally sits down to play, pandemonium breaks loose. A short film that will appeal to those of us who tend to procrastinate. Film without words. (Awards: Zagreb; Espinho; Tampare; Toronto; Cracow.) (information & images , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
I. Conversation: A good film to start students to talk about prcrastination and fantasies.
George and Rosemary David
Snowden1987, 8 min 48
(images on NFB's page)
AbstractSuggested Methods From The Teacher's Guide of Discuss It!
An interesting story about the elderly and fantasies. Students love the funny personalities of George and Rosemary, as well as George's wild fantasies. Interestingly, it turns out that George is not the only one to fantasize.
This film is great as a conversation starter.
I -- "Jonas
1995, 9 min 11 sec from Rights from the Heart (II)
A woman does laundry to support her husband and three children. The children are obliged to work at a very young age and are terrorized and robbed by their stepfather. Unable to take it any more, the little boy runs away from home. A film without words. (Award: Chicago.)(information , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
- Conversation: Have students talk about their experience of poverty and hunger and compare their experience with that in the animation. (A lot of NFB animations are about children (though not necessarily for children). If Overdose presents children's problems which Taiwanese students can relate to, this one depicts the miserable life of children in poverty which our students have little experience of.)
Drouin 1976, 7 min 31
, National Film Board of Canada
Abstract: A particularly creative example of the pinscreen animation technique, this film is about an
artist who steps inside his painting and wanders about in a landscape peopled with
symbols that trigger unexpected associations. Film without words. (Eighteen awards,
including Ottawa; Yorkton; Columbus; New York; Los Angeles.)
8 min 10 sec by Norman
Norman McLaren here employs the principles normally used to put drawings or puppets into motion to animate live actors. The story is a parable about two people who come to blows over the possession of a flower. (Presented with discussion in Window on Canada No. 78: Award Winners, title code: 106B 0156 140.) (Nine awards, including Oscar, Hollywood; Rome; Salerno.)(information and image: , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
Conversation: The animation is seemingly comic to start with (just see how they fight for a little flower!) but quite disturbingly cruel at the end. Have students discuss how this animation reflects on international relationships and interpersonal ones.
Literary/Film Criticism: For beginners: To stimulate more discussion on boundaries between nations and humans, I like to put together for discussion and cross-reference Robert Frost's Mending Walls, Pink Floyd's The Wall and this animation (see "Mending Wall" page).
A story that a lot of Taiwanese kids are experiencing now! School, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, art classes, homework, piano practice... a boy's parents have organized his life to such an extent that he has no time for himself. A film without words. (Award: Moncton.)(information from NFB)
- Conversation: This animation presents the problem that Taiwanese children (and maybe also mainland Chinese children) are faced with, so it really can stimulate students to talk about
- their knowledge of the present situation and examples;
- their own experience of parental expectation.
An fable of a blackbird's inability to accept himself as he is.
- Literary Criticism:
- for beginners: There is a contrast between the palace scenes (cutouts + backlit perforated backgrounds) and those of nature (color pencil drawing). This animation can serve as a good one to train students to be attentive to symbolic meanings conveyed through colors and different ways of drawing.
- Symbolism: Students can also discuss how this blackbird is different from the conventional symbol of blackbird.
- Self-Identity: Did you, as a child, ever envy other people for their having what you did not? How did you get over this sentiment?
- Why does Patel use birds in this fable? Why not tiger? Or a pig? What are the meanings we associated with bird generally and then in fables?
Teaching Methods:A fable of great humor and appeal, The Sand Castle is the story of the Sandman and the creatures he sculpts out of sand. Under his direction, they build a castle and celebrate the completion of their new home, only to be interrupted by an uninvited guest. The wind blows, and the castle crumbles. The filmmaker leaves the door open to various interpretations. Sound film without words. (Twenty-three awards, including Oscar, Hollywood; Melbourne; Columbus.)1977, 13 min 12 sec.(information & images: , National Film Board of Canada NFB)
Suggested Methods From The Teacher's Guide of Discuss It!
The Sound Collector
1982, 11 min 55 sec
by Lynn Smith
AbstractThe Sound Collector, an animation film that uses a combination of collage, paper cut-outs and colored inks on glass, features Leonard, a six-year-old with an unusual hobby. He collects sounds. Transforming household noises around him into exciting fantasies, he creates an adventure story for his scornful older brother in which knights in armor chase away monsters and perform other daring deeds. This film that will entertain young and old alike lends itself to a variety of classroom uses, to encourage creativity in children, and to stimulate discussion on topics such as individuality, family relationships, and imagination. (Awards: Espinho; Chicago.).(information & images: , National Film Board of Canada NFB)Teaching Methods:
Conversation:(This animation is good for stimulating students' imagination and sensitivity to sounds.)
- For conversation: 1. Students can always take turns to re-tell the story or perform the story.
2. Ask students to perform a story with sound effects.
- For narrative: This story can be a lead for students to recollect their own 1. childhood imagination; 2. siblings relationship.
- For text-analysis: 1. Compare the differences between the two brothers and those between the adults' world and the children's world.
2. Analyze the combination of painting and paper-cutouts (which seem like photographed nose, ears and mouth) in this film.
Urban Steal Caroline
Blair 9 mins
(from the collection Nice Girls ... Films by and about Women)
Not an animation, but I find it very useful for literary criticism class. This film shows an interesting encounter between a feminist film-maker and a female abstract artist (urban waste artist), which ends with the latter suing the former.
Teaching Methods:Literary/Film Criticism:
- advanced: discussion of the conflicts between postmodernism and feminism Although we should not equate the abstract artist with postmodernism, she does articulate some of its leading ideas in a superficial way. But then is her superficiality her own, or that of the biased camera/filmmaker?
1981, 5 min 17 sec
by Andre Leduc, Jean-Jacques Leduc
Special thanks to the National Film Board of Canada for providing the images on this page.