Making metaphors on the futility of war through combined stop motion and live-action experimentation, two titular Neighbours fight to the death over the only thing they've ever had to share: the single flower that blooms between their identical homesteads.

Norman McLaren's 1952 short was a personal statement on conflict produced in the middle of the Korean War. Shortly after his stay in the newly Maoist China, where he was struck by the People's Republic's hopeful naïveté, he returned to a Canada embroiled in United Nations-backed battles in Korea. An ostensible reaction to the large-scale violence and political upheavals happening all around its creator, Neighbours forgoes any hippie-dippy non-violence to imbue itself with the grave weight of its subject matter. The reality of violence, not the dream of peace, informs the sense of the film.


The Scottish-born McLaren developed the pixilation technique famously utilized in Neighbours. Requiring live actors to serve as stop motion objects, pixilation is tedious in its creation, but brilliant in its execution. Scenes where the two men float in figure eights above the grass involved filming repetitive jump shots, each photographed only at its zenith and compiled into a single sequence of jerky levitation.

Neighbours's tricks, the innovations of its creator, were not limited to visuals. McLaren added the soundtrack by scratching and scraping onto the film itself, leaving dots and stripes and blobs that the projector read as diatonic sound in squeals and beeps. The playfulness of the animation and alternative audio production contrast with the short's serious lesson and violent content; the feature is effectively childish yet wholeheartedly adult, much like warfare itself.