Animator, actor Grant Munro is no more


Animator and actor Grant Munro who starred in Norman McLaren’s 1953 best short film Oscar-winning pixilation Cold War parable Neighbors(Voisins) and co-directed 1963 Oscar-nominated collaborative cartoon Christmas Cracker is no more.

According to the National Film Board of Canada, the 94-year old passed away of an illness on December 9 in Montreal.

“For five decades, Grant worked in films besides being a sculptor, painter and artist, he being ceaselessly creative. He inspired so many who would follow in his footsteps, at the NFB and beyond, and we are forever in his debt,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, NFB commissioner, in a statement.

Born in Winnipeg on April 25, 1923, Munro collaborated with the NFB over the course of his career from 1944 to 1988.  It was he who coined the term pixilation to describe the technique of shooting live actors as if they were stop-motion characters as used in Neighbors.

He got his start in animation by creating cut-out shorts set to popular tunes My Darling Clementine and The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze in 1945 bringing some cheer to wartime Canada.

He employed the cut-out technique again for the slightly twisted safety film The Three Blind Mice (with George Dunning and Bob Verrall) in 1946.

 Neighbors (1952) was Munro’s first collaboration with McLaren who starred opposite Jean-Paul Ladouceur. The two animators-turned-actors portray two men who are amicable neighbours until their obsessive competition to claim a particular flower turns them into mortal enemies.

Munro and McLaren went on to co-direct Two Bagatelles in late 1952, another pixilation. A decade later, they reunited for A Christmas Cracker in which Munro also played a jester who introduces animated segments created by himself, McLaren, Gerald Potterton and Jeff Hale.

The next year, they worked on Canon, a complex production inspired by musical rounds featuring a dancing Munro, which won a Canadian Film Award.

In 1966, Munro directed the anti-war film Toys, in which a toy shop comes to pixilated life and plays out the horrors of war.

After co-directing The Animal Movie (1966, with Ron Tunis) and live-action short Ashes of Doom (1970), he turned to documentaries

.Munro was the subject of a Museum of Modern Art retrospective, Grant Munro: Rediscovered, in 2003. Concordia University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2007. And in 2008, he was made an Officer in the Order of Canada.