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Love on the Wing — Norman McLaren, 1938

This artful animation, rich in symbolic imagery, is a short story about a letter’s journey between two lovers. It is also an advertisement for the Post Office. Accompanied by specially composed music, a drawn letter transforms in rapid succession, as it travels, into a variety of symbolic images. Starting as the man posting the letter, it takes the shape of a man and a woman, their lips, eyes, hearts, butterflies, a snail, a finger, a skull, a horse which disintegrates, and many more, all simple lines, black or white against a colourful backdrop.

A perfect film for an Art activity and for inspiration to make an animation.

Classroom Activities

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  • Sound On/Vision Off. Play the soundtrack for the film without seeing it. Note what those sounds might tell you about the film or what may be appearing on the screen.
  • Freeze frame at 00:14 seconds. What do you think this film will be about? Why?
  • This film was made in 1938. What clues are there to tell you that this is an older film?
  • Stop the film at 01:40 minutes. What event is happening here? How do we know?
  • The music in this film changes a great deal. How does the music impact on what you are seeing on the screen? (Clue: speed).
  • Many of the images are repeated throughout the film, while some only appear once. What images are repeated the most?
  • This film is about love. What images appear that represent love?
  • What matched up items, such as the fork and knife, appear at the end of the film?
  • The focus to the viewer is the changing images on the screen. However, take some time to look at the background. What does it show?
  • This film was once an advert for the post office. How does it promote using the post office?
  • Complete a ‘Tell Me’ Grid Analysis of the film.


  • How we communicate has changed over time. What are the main ways we communicate with our loved ones today? Why do we not use posting a letter as much?
  • Adverts are very different today. What is your favourite TV advert? Why? How does it try to persuade you to buy/use the brand/product it is advertising?
  • Think about love. How do we show people we love them? What things are seen as being romantic today? How do people celebrate and show their love?
  • The Love is love campaign – looked at celebrating love and showing positive images of many different relationships. Can people choose who they fall in love with? Discuss.



  • Write a letter to someone you love. Tell them why they are special to you. You can then post this letter or hand deliver it to them.
  • For part of the film the main characters are flying as letters. Describe what they are seeing from up high using their birds eye view.


  • Make up and film a new advert to promote the post office. How will you try to persuade your audience to use the post office?


  • Create your own flip book animation. Find out how here.
  • Design your own stamp to celebrate a special occasion.


  • On a map of your local area mark on all the post boxes and post offices.


  • How much does it cost to post a letter? Select 5 different places from around the World and find out how much it would cost to send a letter to there.


  • Research the post office. How many letters and parcels do they deliver? How many post boxes are there? How many staff do they employ?
  • Research stamps. How many different ones have there been? Who is generally on stamps? What are the current stamps available? How much was the World’s most expensive stamp? Look at stamps from around the World.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-115-C
Resource Rights Holder BFI Archival Footage Sales
Project Ref STSH2-05
Year of Production 1938
Genre Abstract, Romance, Animation
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts
Director Norman McLaren
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content 2D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, History / War, Communication, Creative Expression
Clip Length 05:00
Clip Length 05:00
Age Group P1-P4, P5-P7, S1-S3