Spook Sport is an expressionistic interpretation of Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns.
In the 1940's, Mary Ellen Bute hired Norman McLaren, who didn't live in Canada yet, to draw directly on film strips the characters of ghosts, bats and other figures and to synchronize them with Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre. Some original paintings of McLaren would be reused in Bute's later films, including Tarantella (1941), Color Rhapsodie (1951) and Polka Graph (1952), where they seem less at home stylistically than in their original context. The final result is a mix of conventional cel animation and pen drawings, drawn directly on 35 mm film stock.
Although the animation moves in time to the music throughout the film, there are two particular moments that feature specific gestures synchronized to the music: when a xylophone plays a prominent theme in the music and when the timpani plays a motif later in the piece. In the first, the animation features the ghosts dancing over an xylophone made of bones; in the second, bone mallets play drums in time to the music.
This film is a splendid example of animation which responds to preexistent music both in terms of the narrative and in terms of actual sound.
The music is programmatic in nature. Although this is an abstract film, it tells a discernable story and the characters are always recognizable. Thus you feel more comfortable with the visual images.