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December 30, 2011 2:25 PM   Subscribe

The best stop motion film ever? Or do you prefer The Night[mare] before Christmas?

Wladyslaw Starewicz' childhood passion for entomology led his career: he began producing short documentaries in Moscow around 1909-1910, beginning with a documentary about insects in Lithuania. In his spare time, he experimented with stop-action films using beetles, which he articulated by wiring the legs to the thorax with sealing wax! This, of course, led to his big breakthrough, released by the Van Kanjonkov Studio of Moscow: "The Battle of the Stag Beetles", the first puppet-animated film.

[Note: Emile Cohl previously used stop-motion animation to make a public service announcement film, "The Animated Matches," in 1908... Starewicz was the first to do anything more advanced (i.e., using puppets, telling a story) with the technique.]

In particular, Starewicz’s 1933 short “The Mascot” plays like a blueprint for the style of Tim Burton productions like The Nightmare Before Christmas, with its large cast of bizarre dolls and puppets brought to life by painstaking stop-motion work. It’s impressive even by today’s standards.

Before Wallace and Grommett and Gumby, The film industry of the Soviet Union was producing some of the best examples of stop-motion animation, or 'claymation', in the world. Themes of these cartoons ranged from didactic propaganda to children's entertainment, such as the beloved Cheburashka series. Click here to watch a short documentary about Aleksandr Ptushko, the Walt Disney of the USSR. Click here to watch Nikchemuchka (Useless Doll) a Ukrainian Soviet Macro Stopmotion/claymation.

Nikchemuchka (Useless Doll) Ukrainian Soviet Macro Stopmotion Cartoon

Entomology and Animation: A Portrait of
An Early Master Ladislaw Starewicz

2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Most of Starewicz's adaptations are rooted in Eastern European folktale tradition, and his fervent characters and effectual storytelling strongly reflect this heritage. An excellent example of this genre, but with a modern twist, is The Cameraman's Revenge (1912). This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Beetle whose home life is rather dull. In search of spontaneity and change, each one cheats on the other. Mr. Beetle meets the beautiful Dragonfly, and heartlessly steals her away from her lover Mr. Grasshopper. The Grasshopper, being a cameraman, begins his plot of revenge by filming Mr. Beetle's affair with the Dragonfly. Before this revenge unfolds, however, Mr. Beetle happens to catch his wife at home with another insect, the artist. The irascible hypocrite that he is, Mr. Beetle throws a fit, smashes things in the house and gets rough with Mrs. Beetle. Eventually he forgives her, and takes her to a movie. Unbeknownst to him the projectionist at the theater is Mr. Grasshopper, who runs the footage he shot of Mr. Beetle and Miss Dragonfly having their fling. The cheering, insect audience loves this spontaneous slice of life, but Mrs. Beetle has other thoughts and chases her husband straight through the movie screen and out of the theater. In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Beetle humbly return home content with their old lifestyle.
Ladislaw Starewicz - Cameraman's Revenge

Ladislaw Starewicz - The Devil's Ball

The Mascot (part 1) - Ladislas Starewicz (Puppet Love)‬
The Mascot (part 2) - Ladislas Starewicz (The Devil's Ball - Puppet Love)
The Mascot (part 3) - Ladislas Starewicz (Puppet Love)‬
Excerpt from the 1934 animated film "The Mascot" by Ladislas Starevitch. Song taken from "Beekeeper debut EP"

Ladislaw Starewicz Vladislav Starevich 1926 Le Rat des villes et le Rat des champs‬

Miaou! - Le Roman de Renard - Ladislas Starevitch

The Lily of Belgium‬

WLADYSLAW STAREWICZ - FROGLAND 1922

Winter Carousel (1958) "Carrousel Boreal" (Ladislaw Starewitch) French Stop-Motion

Voice of the Nightingale - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1923) Part 1/2‬
Voice of the Nightingale - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1923) Part 2/2‬

Le Lion Devenu Vieux - Ladislaw Starewicz, 1932

Fleur De Fougere : by Ladislaw Starewicz: PART 1-3‬

Ladislaw Starewicz - The Navigator (1936)

The Insect's Christmas "Rozhdestvo obitateley lesa" (Wladyslaw Starewicz) 1913‬

The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 1/6 (English subtitles)‬
The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 2/6 (English subtitles)‬
The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 3/6 (English subtitles)‬
The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 4/6 (English subtitles)‬
The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 5/6 (English subtitles)‬
The Tale of the Fox - Wladyslaw Starewicz (1930) Part 6/6 (English subtitles)‬

Previously, 2,

And some really great "stop motion-iana"; Darkstrider Stopmotion Previously

The Bug Trainer is a film about Starewicz in 2008.

Want to make your own Stop Motion Animations?
This multi-part handbook is your friend; it will guide you from completely uninitiated, to master of technique and final polish!

More masters of Soviet animation?

Masters of Russian Animation: Fyodor Hitruk - Story of One Crime (1962) 1 of 2
Masters of Russian Animation: Fyodor Hitruk - Story of One Crime (1962) 2 of 2
Masters of Russian Animation: Vadim Kurchevsky - My Green Crocodile (1966)
Masters of Russian Animation: Eduard Nazarov - Hunt (1979)
Masters of Russian Animation: Eduard Nazarov - There Once Was a Dog (1982)
Masters of Russian Animation: Ivan Ivanov Vano & Yuriy Norstein - Battle at Kerzhenets (1971)
Masters of Russian Animation: Eduard Nazarov - Travels of an Ant (1983)
Masters of Russian Animation: Yuri Norstein - Tale of Tales (1979) 1 of 2
Masters of Russian Animation: Yuri Norstein - Tale of Tales (1979) 2 of 2
Masters of Russian Animation: Yuriy Norstein - Heron and Crane (1974)
Masters of Russian Animation: Alexander Karavayev - Last Hunt (1982)
Masters of Russian Animation: Mihail Kamyenyeczkiy - Wolf and Calf (1984)
Masters of Russian Animation: Yuri Norstein - Hedgehog in the Fog / Ёжик в тумане (1975)
Masters of Russian Animation: Yuri Norstein - Fox and Rabbit / Лиса и заяц (1973)
Masters of Russian Animation: Vladimir Tarasov - Contact / Контакт (1978)
  1. The Calligrapher -The Quay Brothers
  2. MotoCreeps
  3. Гарри Бардин - "Кот в сапогах" 1
  4. Гарри Бардин - "Кот в сапогах" 2
  5. Гарри Бардин - "Кот в сапогах" 3
  6. Robinson Crusoe, námořník z Yorku (1/7)
  7. Suzy Snowflake (1951) Stop Motion Animation (Original Song)
posted by infinite intimation (16 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are you wondering why there are so few links to amazing Soviet animation here? This past year there was a purge of Russian and Soviet animation from the web by Funtik Entertainment; more about that situation, including a case for why such cross-cultural availability is important, and more contextual details can be read here (english).
posted by infinite intimation at 2:27 PM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm loving the music behind The Night Before Christmas.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flagged as Fantastic. Thank you for the post.
posted by churl at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2011


Excellent post. I posted The Mascot a while ago, but this is so much more. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2011


Thanks for this.

"Cameraman's Revenge" and "Battle of the Stag Beetles" were shown w/live accompaniment at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this past summer - sui generis and really technically impressive. They looked great on The Castro's gigantic screen, too.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:15 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for this post!
posted by effluvia at 3:18 PM on December 30, 2011


Wow. That's fantastic.

On the subject of The Mascot: Pixar, if I may be so bold, may suck it.
posted by bicyclefish at 4:27 PM on December 30, 2011


Thanks!
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:58 PM on December 30, 2011


I came here to say something about Rankin-Bass but as I scrolled and scrolled, my jaw dropped and... Wow. This is really a labour of love. I'll be checking out these links for some time to come. Thank you so much.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:02 PM on December 30, 2011


Holy shit! I got a copy of Duffy the Mascot tagged on to the end of a rip of Allen Grey's "Vampyr", but the title card was chopped off, and I never knew what it was or who made it. I love it, and always just sorta figured I'd never know where it came from.

Now, I have a lot of watching and hunting to do -- thanks so much!
posted by kaseijin at 5:51 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for these lovely films and this most delightful post!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:03 PM on December 30, 2011


Since we're loving on stop motion, I'll share one of my favourites:

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb
posted by -harlequin- at 10:41 PM on December 30, 2011


Here is a full version of Кот в сапогах (Puss in Boots.)

While we're on the subject of Russian stop motion animators, the director of Puss in Boots, Garri Bardin, really deserves your eyeballs, if they haven't fallen out of your head from watching everything else up there.

His traditional claymation is quite good, but he has also told stories with:

Matches (Konflict, 1983)
A dinner table (Banket, 1986)
Wire (Vyrkrutasy, 1988)
Origami birds (Adagio, 2000)

The way he infuses objects with life and character, sometimes with the most subtle gestures, is masterful.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:19 AM on December 31, 2011


Are you wondering why there are so few links to amazing Soviet animation here? This past year there was a purge of Russian and Soviet animation from the web by Funtik Entertainment; more about that situation, including a case for why such cross-cultural availability is important, and more contextual details can be read here (english).


Yeah, they nuked Pavlovich74 and The Motion Brigades, and left Niffiwan's channel a smoking wreck. Most of the material had nothing to do with Funtik, or with Soyuzmultfilm. In the case of The Motion Brigades, most of it wasn't from The Soviet Union.

One of the greatest losses was (weirdly enough, this being Youtube) some of the discussions - there were exchanges between Niffiwan and Pavlovich74 that were really educational and informative. And The Motion Brigades had exhaustive write-ups on every post, and now those are gone as well.

Those three channels were a master class in animation history, and losing them was incredibly sad and infuriating.


OH AND P.S. - FUNTIK
posted by louche mustachio at 12:36 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Soyuzmultfilm apparently has their own channel, but it's not nearly as extensive or educational. BUT THERE'S LOTS OF FUNTIK.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:39 AM on December 31, 2011


This is so delightful.

By the way, there are some screen caps of "The Devil's Ball" on The Dancing Image blog, and I'm now using the one of the clock at midnight for my New Year's Eve wallpaper today. :)

(the photos are pretty large, but you may need to open them in a new window to see them at true size)
posted by taz at 5:22 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


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