Directors You Should Know: Kaj Pindal

Kaj Pindal, who turns eighty-five years old this year, ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite animators. Pindal typically works with a very basic library of shapes, but his animation is whimsical, funny, and filled with graphic quirks and tics. It all adds up to a distinctive and appealing style that looks even fresher today amidst the proliferation of mechanical Flash and After Effects animation.

The City: Osaka is not necessarily a Pindal classic–for that, see I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, King Size, or Peep and the Big Wide World–but I was delighted to discover such a pristine copy posted onto the NFB website. A commissioned film for Expo ’70 held in Osaka, Japan, it was intended to give Japanese people a glimpse into Canadian life, which apparently consists mostly of deforestation and hockey.

The spare black-and-white design of the film, as well as the two minutes of blank screen at the beginning (albeit with excellent jazz music), are due to the film’s original mode of projection. “It played around the clock for the duration of the World’s Fair on a screen made of sixty thousand individual light bulbs,” Pindal said. Kaj talks about his experiences associated with the film on the Kaj Pindal blog.

Here’s a terrific documentary about Kaj Pindal called Laugh Lines from 1979:


  • anonymous

    Kai is a true Legend in animation and i am honoured to have had him as a teacher at Sheridan. He has some wonderful tales.

  • Jason Groh

    Kaj is a great Animator and a great guy!
    Still teaching at Sheridan College to this day at the youthful age of 85.
    A master of Animated graphics and pantomine he is also a generous teacher loved by class after class at Sheridan College.A summer school year was not official until Kaj had proclaimed it so by throwing his backyard electric train party acccompanied by cold drinks,laughs and endless rides on his hand made electric trolleys .So many great animators rode the trains in his backyard including his old buddy Ward Kimball who made the trip with family on Vacations.
    Long live Kaj Pindal!

  • Dino

    One of the most appealing animators ever. Fascinating to see his early, Out Of The Inkwell-like animation. It’s beautifully done, and shows that he’s always had the drawing chops to work in a more Hollywoody/Disneyesque style if he so chose. I’m glad he didn’t.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Still quite a good effort here, as is all of Pindal’s work. I hope more of his NFB work will pop up on their site in the future like “Caninabis”.

  • Yay_for_Kari

    Wonderful! I googled up I Knew an Old Lady and was immediately struck by the resemblance to another great short – John Canemaker’s Mad Goat song from Sesame Street. Definitely enjoying the works of Kaj Pindal!

    • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/amid amid

      Yay_for_Kari: The reason Canemaker’s animation looks familiar is because he was recreating the style of the original short. Both the Sesame Street segment and the NFB short I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly have the same director: Derek Lamb.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I can certainly see influences of Pindal’s worth in Lamb’s as well as Les Drew’s films too (both having collaborated with him many times). Les Drew would also borrow Pindal’s “Old Lady” character for a 1983 short on camping safety I recall watching too.

  • Tomm

    What an inspirational cartoonist And animator!
    I was lucky enough to meet him in the animation workshop in denmark a
    Few years ago. He is a kind and patient teacher .

  • http://zombarbie.blogspot.com Lewie

    I almost expected a cartoon about Hägar the horrible when I saw the preview image for the cartoon above.

  • http://www.wardjenkins.com Ward

    I believe Kaj was an animator on Twice Upon a Time, too.

  • http://saturnome.blogspot.com/ Saturnome

    Wow! Both visuals and music were awesome.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    It looks like he enjoyed himself immensely making those drawings. I feel inspired

  • http://jeanmorel.blogspot.com jean morel

    Kaj was one of my professors at Sheridan college.

  • http://ericapittanimation.blogspot.com/ Erica Pitt

    Kaj is awesome. I’m so glad I was able to have him as a professor at Sheridan. He is invaluable.

  • http://pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    Kaj is one of the all time greats. I’ve known him for more years than either of us would want to admit. Spoke with him last week at Sheridan College’s Industry Day and I’m glad to say that he’s still going strong. He is a gentle man and a gentleman in both senses of the word.

  • Al E. Jordan

    Two things that are worth noting about Kaj Pindal:

    1) His animation style seems greatly influenced by the likes of Jim Tyer and Irven Spence (and, to that extent, John K may have been greatly influenced by his style, in turn) with the amusingly exaggerated, rubberband-like movements of his characters.

    2) I think it’s safe to say that Kaj’s work may have also had an influence on famed street artist Keith Haring, as Keith’s characters often appear as if they came straight out of one of Kaj’s films.

    Btw, I’m glad to know more about that John Canemaker short from Sesame Street. I fondly remember that
    amusing piece. I’d also like to see more of his work for NFB. I fondly remember seeing the NFB shorts (along with the one’s Kaj worked on) on the old Cartoon Network evening show “Oh, Canada”, as well as on Showtime (as post-movie filler), and on the decades-old PBS show “The International Animation Festival”.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Many works from the NFB can be watched for free on their website as well as sold on DVD too. Not every short is present currently, but it’s nice to see when new ones go up. I only hope the recent government budget cuts that led to the closure of several NFB centers doesn’t rob us from seeing these treasured classics online if the website has to go.