Hébert is one of Canada’s most respected and internationally renowned animators. The International Animated Film Association/Association internationale du Film d’Animation (ASIFA), awarded him the first ever Norman McLaren Heritage Award at the 1988 Ottawa International Animated Film Festival.
He was born in Montréal in 1944, studied anthropology and made several abstract animated works before joining the National Film Board in 1965. He was inspired and deeply influenced by the animated films of Norman McLaren who he described as his “spiritual father”.
His early films with the NFB from the mid 1960’s were abstract and included Hop-HopOp and Opus 3. These evolved into Autour de la perception which investigated the process of image construction. It was a collection of abstract and geometrical shapes set in motion. The images were produced by McGill University’s IBM computors. With Père Noël, père noel, an attack on the commercialization of Christmas combining live action sequences with simple drawn animation, shifted from an academic interest in images to political comment.
This fusing of his interest in image with his social and political observation and criticism is increasingly apparent in his work of the 1970’s.
According to Tom McSorley: “In the 1980’s … he was moving toward a more forceful articulation of what his films … always suggested: how you perceive may well determine what you perceive.” In 1982, he produced Souvenirs de gurerre. It combined an engraving animation technique with newsreel footage of several international conflicts. It was a “… ferocious denunciation of war and the consequence of its spiritual, material and personal devastation.” [McSorley] His next film Etienne et Sara (named after his two children) Hébert pleads for a sustainable future by picturing a troubled world through the eyes of a child.
Chants et danses du monde inanimé-le metro, he changes the mood of his films. This film about life in Montréal subway system, alternates between still photographs, charcoal sketches and drawn and engraved animation techniques The sound track was created from music by musicians who while watching the images played at performances in Québec and Montréal. La Lettre d’amour went even further and was a combination of dance, music, animation and writing. The film was created out of a series of performances in Montréal.
Hébert’s first feature length film, La plante humaine was called by McSorley “..one of the most challenging and daring Canadian films of the decade [1980’s]. An anti-war allegory, it is also a penetrating film about perception, knowledge, memory, storytelling and the environment. Mixing live action, various animation styles, and elements of an improvised music score, this film is a monumental summation of the Hébert oeuvre to date.”
Cartoon Capers: The History of Canadian Animators. Writ., Karen Mazurkewich. McArthur & Co., 999: 85-86.
“Pierre Hebert.” a handbook of Canadian film. Writ., Eleanor Beattie. Peter Martin Associates Ltd/Take One, 1973: 178-179.
“Scratching the Surface: The Animated Art of Pierre Hébert.” Writ., Tom McSorley. Take One, Summer 1997: 34-36.