28 March 2011

Czech Animation

My post on B.EAST magazine inspired me to do an entire week of CEE animation.  I loved the Polish animation of Jan Lenica enough to warrant some internet searching for other countries.  I've noticed that my design and fashion posts top the statistics chart and this week's theme will supplement the visual creativity interest my readers seem to have.  For no particular reason, I chose the Czech Republic.  Turns out that the Czech Republic has quite a lively and sophisticated animation community.

I first started out with the general search of "czech animation" and waited for the Google results.  Per usual, Wiki turns out to be a great point of reference for topics I know nothing about.  I went to a list of Czech animators because that would allow me to conduct separate searches for each artist without depending too heavily on Wiki.  The biographies on each is generally short, but they provided names of famous films they had made, which is another great way to search.  Here are some that I came across and really liked.

Krteček via
Zdeněk Miler is a very famous Czech animator due to his Krtek or Krteček series about the adventures of a little mole.  His most famous is Jak krtek ke kalhotkám přišel (How the Mole Got His Pants).  The linked video is one of many on YoshiYalta's channel and they're all very cute.  The animals themselves don't speak any actual words but make sounds like a young, cooing baby; there is a narrator that sometimes speaks, but I have no idea what he is saying because I speak absolutely no Czech.  As you can tell from the years of the cartoons, he animated during the socialist era of Czechoslovakia.  I find this especially intriguing with the Jak krtek ke kaholtkám přišel animation in particular because it struck me as a little capitalist.  There was the whole camaraderie bit, but considering it was 1957, it did not strike me as particularly sympathetic to socialist values, particularly in the aftermath of Stalin's death.  On the other hand,  O milionáři, který ukradl slunce (1948) seems very anti-capitalist, but perhaps only very anti-monopoly/Rockefeller.  The animation uses the interesting allegory of the Tower of Babel and focuses on capitalistic greed that undoes the millionaire.  Miler's work is not confined to the context in which it was done, but the parallels are compelling and give it philosophical  complexity.  The Krteček series is a world apart from the socialist context and it even survived the flood after the Berlin Wall because it was so unconcerned with anything other than entertaining children's imaginations.  I do have to say that I would love to show my future children the series because it's so cute.

Krysař via
Jiří Barta is a stop motion Czech animator.  I managed to find a web page that has clips of his films.  I had at first seen the trailer for The Golem, which didn't make sense.  After looking at this interview, I still had no idea what it was all about, so then I looked up "golem" to find this.  Then I became instantly intrigued.  The clips here and here are amazing and I wish it had found funding; it is a work of art and a revelation.  The aesthetic is breathtaking and the amorphous quality of the clay animation gives a real connection to the sculptural and amorphous qualities of a golem.  I feel like I don't see animation of this incredible artistic quality––it's all CGI and drawings with a few Tim Burton stop motion animations thrown in (maybe some Wallace and Grommit, which I love).  The intellectual depth of these clips puts all the animations I've seen to shame.  Except for Lanica, that is.  Then there are clips on the first web page from his film Krysař (Pied Piper) that give a great glimpse of his style.  The clips show a surrealist take on animation, but with a fantastic Gothic quality.  In a lot of ways, the visual relates to Lanica's work, though there are significant differences in the medium and how that contributes to the visual.  After seeing these snippets of his work, I am definitely hungry for more of his animation.  The interview I linked to above also gives a good list of movies that influenced him and his work on The Golem, so I will have to add this to my year-long queue of films I need to watch.

Unfortunately, this is all I have time to post today, but here is the Wiki reference page for Czech animators so you can do a little research yourself on the Czech animators out there.