Caroline Leaf

Biography from her website:
Caroline Leaf’s animated films are renowned for their emotional content and graphic style, which evolves from the innovative handcrafted animation techniques that she has invented. Her art is tied to storytelling and to exploring the unusual materials that she uses for drawing and making movement. At different times, this has been beach sand manipulated on a lightbox, watercolor and gouache fingerpainting on glass, and images made by scratching in the soft emulsion of exposed color 35mm and 70mm film stock. Leaf began to make animated films while she was a student at Radcliffe College, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was 1968 and 16mm film technology was becoming relatively cheap. Processing labs were proliferating. The craft of filmmaking was more widely accessible than ever before. Liberal arts colleges and universities were starting to teach filmmaking. Harvard offered a class in animation taught by Derek Lamb. CLICK HERE to read Caroline’s memories of the animation class with Derek Lamb.

Leaf’s first film, ‘Sand or Peter and the Wolf’, was made with a jar of local beach sand poured out onto a light box. Lit from below and manipulated with her fingers, the film’s black and white silhouetted sand figures move in a fluid and shadowy world. The camera was fixed to the wall above the lightbox. From these beginnings, Leaf developed a style of animating that was an ongoing process of drawing, shooting and redrawing the images to create a sense of movement. Her subsequent films are refinements and extensions of this handmade straight ahead under-the-camera technique.

In 1972 Leaf moved to Montreal at the invitation of The National Film Board of Canada, a publicly funded Canadian production center which allows it’s filmmakers considerable creative freedom. It is famous for it’s animation productions. Leaf worked there as a staff animator/director until 1991. She also became a naturalized Canadian citizen.

Leaf’s under-the-camera techniques were necessarily solo work. They did not allow for teamwork as was possible in traditional cel or computor drawn styles of animation studio production. Leaf was director and animator for all of her films, as well as designer, story adaptor and/or scriptwriter, and she worked closely on the sound tracks and editing of her films. The films were initially distributed in 16mm film format for educational purposes to Canadian audiences. Because of the National Film Board’s worldwide distribution system and the network of animation film festivals that were springing up, Leaf’s films also became known to a world audience interested in animation.

Much more information on Leaf’s awards and filmography can be found on her website.

The Street, Caroline Leaf, National Film Board of Canada

Two Sisters , Caroline Leaf, provided by the National Film Board of Canada