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Grant Munro O.C. (1923-2017)

Grant Munro O.C.  (1923-2017)

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of NFB pioneer animator Grant Munro.

Born in Winnipeg in 1923, Grant Munro showed talent as a sculptor and flipbook maker while he was still a teenager. He attended the Musgrove School of Art and the Winnipeg School of Art, and earned an honours diploma from the Ontario College of Art in 1944. His teacher, the painter Franklin Carmichael, one of the illustrious Group of Seven, arranged to have Norman McLaren interview Munro’s class for a position in the Animation Unit at the National Film Board. Munro was hired, joining a group that included George Dunning and René Jodoin, both of whom went on to distinguished careers in animation.

Quickly establishing himself as a fine animator of paper cut-outs, Munro worked on a number of musical shorts, notably The Three Blind Mice (1946), with Dunning and another neophyte, Bob Verrall.

Soon afterward, Jodoin and Munro left the NFB for Mexico with hopes of making films and art there. When film work didn’t pan out, they returned to Ottawa and Munro took a job as a filmstrip artist for Crawley Films. By 1951, Munro was back at the Board, animating instructional films and acting for McLaren on a pixilation project that eventually became the Oscar-winning Neighbours (1952). This film would become arguably the most well-known NFB production of all time, boasting more than 77,000 theatrical bookings worldwide by 1987.

In the late 1950s, Munro departed from the NFB again, this time to pursue an animation career in England. After working with Dunning (the future director of Yellow Submarine) for three years at TV Cartoons, Munro rejoined the NFB in 1961. He worked on My Financial Career, a funny take on the Stephen Leacock short story directed by Gerald Potterton (1962). It was nominated for an Oscar, as was Christmas Cracker (1963), a project with Norman McLaren, Jeff Hale and Gerald Potterton that also starred Munro. McLaren and Munro also collaborated on Canon in 1964.

Munro made the trick film Toys in 1966 and the anti-smoking comedy Ashes of Doom in 1970, for which he once again played the leading role. He collaborated with McLaren again from 1976 to 1978, on the Animated Motion series, a five-part introduction to basic film animation techniques. He also directed several documentaries, including Boo Hoo (1975) and See You in the Funny Papers (1983).

Munro retired from the NFB in 1988 and was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.

Albert Ohayon

Having viewed over 8,000 films, Albert Ohayon is our resident collections expert. He studied film production and journalism at Concordia University in Montreal and has been working at the National Film Board since 1984.

  • Making Movie History: Grant Munro
    2012|5 min

    In this short interview, Grant Munro, the celebrated animator, actor and director recalls being recruited by Norman McLaren to join the NFB's legendary animation studio.

    This interview is part of Making Movie History: A Portrait in 61 Parts.

  • Toys
    1966|7 min

    This stop-motion animation takes a dark look into the war toys often given to children at Christmas time. Starting off as harmless objects, the toys quickly take on the gestures of real soldiers, mimicking the actions and penalties of a real war. This critical commentary on war and glamorized violence creates a real and frightening battle.

  • Neighbours
    1952|8 min

    The NFB’s 2nd Academy-Award winning film. In this short film, Norman McLaren 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.

    For more background info on this film, visit the blog.

  • Ashes of Doom
    1970|1 min

    This short film was produced for The Department of National Health and Welfare to warn against the dangers of cigarette smoking. Set against the backdrop of a typical '60s-era horror movie, a young woman is seen lighting up cigarette after cigarette. When a vampire appears at the stroke of midnight, she faints from sheer terror. But when the vampire closes in for the kill, he is hit with a nasty surprise...

  • Christmas Cracker
    1963|8 min

    This short animation consists of three segments that take a playful look at Christmas: a rendition of "Jingle Bells" in which paper cut-out figures dance, a dime-store rodeo of tin toys, and a story of decorating the perfect Christmas tree.

  • My Financial Career
    1962|6 min

    An animated film based on Stephen Leacock's witty account of a young man's first brush with banking. When he tries to make his deposit, he is so intimidated by the institution that nothing he says comes out right.

  • Canon

    Norman McLaren and Grant Munro use three different animation techniques to provide visual representations of canons in a film designed to teach viewers about this ancient musical form. The soundtrack combines both recorded classical music and sounds produced by a synthesizer.

  • Animated Motion: Part 1

    The first part of this series by Norman McLaren deals only with tempo. It starts by showing the disc travelling in one move (1/24 of a second) from A to B, and progressively demonstrates slower and slower tempos.

  • The Animal Movie
    1966|9 min

    An animated cartoon to help children explore why and how animals move as they do. A little boy discovers that he cannot compete with a monkey, a snake or a horse by imitating the way they move. He can only outdistance them when he climbs into a vehicle that can travel in any environment, proving that the human capacity for technological invention creates a wholly different relationship to our environment.

  • One Little Indian
    1954|16 min

    This short puppet animation from the fifties tells the story of Magic Bow, an Indigenous boy endowed with magic gifts. Magic Bow is in the big city for the first time, thrilling audiences with his tricks at the Wild West Rodeo. Outside the arena, cars, trucks and buses zip by at dizzying speeds. With the help of some savvy city dwellers, Magic Bow learns a few important traffic rules to help him navigate the streets safely.

    (Please note that this film was produced in 1954 and reflects the attitudes and thinking of its era. To modern audiences, parts of the film may be perceived as offensive, but it must be seen as a cultural product of the era in which it was produced. The perspectives of Canadians (and the NFB) have evolved and become more conscious of Indigenous rights, realities and points of view since the making of the film. Through its rich collection of Indigenous-made films, available at Indigenous Cinema , the NFB continues to strive to challenge stereotypes about Indigenous people and accurately depict the diverse experiences of Indigenous communities. )

  • Two Bagatelles

    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.