Norman McLaren: Hands-on Animation - A selection by Donald McWilliams


| 7 min
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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.

This film contains scenes of violence. Viewer discretion is advised.

When Grant Munro made this brilliantly animated film, there was heated societal debate about war toys and their effect on children. When one looks at the film now, one can see its current relevance to a discussion about video games. We filmmakers always think our films are totally clear. But, in fact, viewers bring their own beliefs and history to the films they watch. Imagine Grant Munro’s dismay when he received the following letter: “I saw your film entitled ‘Toys’ on Channel 10, December 28, 1971. Where did you get those marvelous war toys? My children are now so disappointed in their Christmas presents. The gifts they received can’t compete with the great creations you employed. Please advise me of where you purchased these ingenious war toys. Birthdays are coming and I do want to get some.”

Donald McWilliams
From the playlist: Norman McLaren: Hands-on Animation

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  • director
    Grant Munro
  • producer
    Grant Munro
  • script
    Margaret Wescott
  • camera
    Jean Roy
    Paul Leach
  • editing
    Roy Ayton
  • sound editing
    Karl Duplessis
  • re-recording
    Ron Alexander

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  • NCampling

    I first saw this film in Grade 11 in 1967. It's taken me 'til now to re-find & re-see it. It's imagery stuck with me all my life, outstanding cinematography!

    NCampling, 4 Mar 2015
  • Joe90NFBfan

    Thanks, Kruscito!

    Joe90NFBfan, 28 Apr 2014
  • kruscito

    @Joe90NFBfan - According to the music cue-sheet it is a composition titled “Stoneage” which was bought from a New York music library, Musifex.

    kruscito, 25 Nov 2013
  • Joe90NFBfan

    I was one of those people that completely misconstrued Munro's message. But I was only 9 years old at the time, and G.I. Joe was my favourite toy. I still love this film for all the wrong reasons... I would maintain that like most boys, playing with G.I. Joe did not inculcate a penchant for violence in me. If anything it allowed me to imagine and act out scenes of heroism and self-sacrifice. What else would you expect from a boy who plays with dollies? Does anybody know the composer/performer of the music in Toys?

    Joe90NFBfan, 24 Nov 2013
  • DJFlat

    I agree with NewBirtainCT. It is an interesting idea to portray the horrors of war and fighting with toys, items that for many of us bring joy and a sense of security.

    DJFlat, 25 Jun 2013
  • NewBritainCT

    Very interesting film. I thought the contrast between the bookend scenes with the 60's pop music with the grim starkness of the toy war was notable.

    NewBritainCT, 16 Jun 2010