I don’t think there’s a more beautiful animated film to be experienced than McLaren’s La Poulette Grise of 1947. (5 mins 33) On a board measuring only 18 x 24 inches, McLaren drew each frame image in pastel, exposing and subsequently incrementally adjusting the drawing before moving on to the next one. It took three weeks to complete the film, and each stage of the pastel drawing was destroyed in the process of transforming it into the next. It’s almost impossible to imagine how the artist could have kept the animation so dreamlike and seamlessly fluid, given the stop-start nature of a technique that allowed for no re-shoots. But fluid it is, as softly glowing images of plump nesting hens evanesce into starry skies, night-time landscapes and tenderly observed interiors. Grey hen transforms to black, to yellow, to white, to brown, and while I always smile at the black hen who lays in the armoire (the closet), it’s the white hen on her leafy tree-top perch who invariably moves me to tears, the light caressing her feathers as she stares into the clouds beyond.
The film is accompanied by a ravishingly beautiful folk-song performed by Anna Malenfant, and the soundtrack immediately transports the listener to a world where all is safe and well and cherished. It’s as though every lullaby ever sung to soothe a sleepy child has been distilled into one, perfect auditory experience. If I was conscious and could choose the music to comfort me on my deathbed, then this would be it.
Click HERE to watch La Poulette Grise.