SUMMARY: An abstract depiction of the contrast between spiritual and creative freedom and imprisonment.
WHY IT’S HERE: British Studio Halas and Batchelor was the most prolific and successful British animation studio, their pinnacle being the 1954 feature-length adaptation of ‘Animal Farm’. This famous film is well-known but fewer people have delved into their catalogue of over two thousand short films, which is a great shame as there is a wide range of gems there from abstract experiments to entertainments, from commercials to children’s TV series and educational films. ‘The Magic Canvas’ is an early experiment in abstraction that betrays as heavy Disney influence, specifically the Toccata and Fugue in D minor section of ‘Fantasia’. But surprisingly Disney’s effort sticks more closely to abstraction, while ‘The Magic Canvas’ combines its swirling, flowing shapes with recognisable images like a flying bird, crashes of lightning and ships. The result is a beautiful abstract creation that makes some concession to storytelling conventions, resulting in a mesmerising but still entertaining film.