Canadian Film, Animation Legend Grant Munro Dies at 94

Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada
Grant Munro

Munro starred in the 1953 Oscar-winning best short film 'Neighbors' and nabbed a nomination for the 1963 cartoon 'Christmas Cracker.'

Grant Munro, the animator and actor behind Neighbors, the 1953 best short film Oscar winner, and the 1963 Oscar-nominated cartoon Christmas Cracker, a collaboration with Norman McLaren, has died. He was 94.

Munro died Saturday in Montreal after an unspecified illness, the National Film Board of Canada, the country's public filmmaker, said Monday. He directed, edited and acted in some of the most classic hand-drawn and pixilated animation the NFB has produced.

Born in Winnipeg on April 25, 1923, Munro collaborated with McLaren, a fellow Canadian animation legend, during a career at the NFB that stretched from 1944-1988. He coined the term "pixilation" when the Cold War parable Munro co-starred in, Neighbors, which McLaren directed, introduced an animation technique where live actors became stop-motion objects.

Munro was among the first animators to be hired by the NFB after he completed stints at art schools in Winnipeg and Toronto, and won early recognition for his animated cutouts. "For five decades, Grant worked on films here in addition to being a sculptor, painter and artist — for he was ceaselessly creative. He inspired so many who would follow in his footsteps, at the NFB and beyond, and we are forever in his debt," NFB commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur said in a statement.

Munro completed the animation for NFB classics like Gerald Potterton’s Oscar-nominated Stephen Leacock adaptation My Financial Career (1962) and the Oscar-nominated anthology short Christmas Cracker, a collaboration with McLaren, Potterton and Jeff Hale.

Munro also co-directed and performed in the musical animated short Canon (1964), working again with McLaren. His other NFB credits included the stop-motion film Toys (1966), Boo Hoo (1975) and See You in the Funny Papers (1983), about Canadian syndicated cartoonist Lynn Johnston.

After Munro retired from the NFB, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a retrospective of his work, Grant Munro Rediscovered, in 2003. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.

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