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Russian Gumby Cartoon Tribute to Art Clokey's 90th Birthday Anniversary
October 12, 2011 15:13


A still from Last Year's Snow Was Falling

October 12th is the 90th anniversary of the inventor of gumby animation, Art Clokey. At Russia-InfoCentre, we joined Google, but instead of a doodle, we decided to share a couple of best-loved Russian stop motion clay cartoons.

The history of the Russian animated cartoons is rich and may be going as far back as 1906. That's when Alexander Shiryaev, the ballet master of the Mariinsky Theatre, recorded the puppets performing a 'ballet'. Arguably, he even preceded Ladislas Starevich who is generally considered the father of puppet animation and whose first feature appeared in 1910.

In the years that followed many prominent Russian animation directors appeared, among them - Fyodor Khitruk, Alexander Tatarsky, Anatoly Savchenko, Alexey Shelmanov, and Yuri Norstein, the creator of Hedgehog in the Fog, all-time best cartoon.

Alexander Tatarsky (1950-2007) made two of the best-loved Russian stop motion clay animated cartoons, Plasticine Crow (1981) and Last Year Snow Was Falling (1983). Plasticine Crow is an animation feature in three parts, each of them being a poem put to music by Grigory Gladkov. The poem for the part in which the Crow appeared was written by the famous children's author, Eduard Uspensky. Loosely based on the well-known fable by Ivan Krylov about the Fox and the Crow, the poem played with the familiar images, suggesting that the Crow could well be a Dog or a Cow, while the Fox wasn't necessarily a cunning creature, but rather a coward Oistrich or a slaphappy street cleaner. The Crow has become such a recognizable and adorable character that 2007 saw the installation of a 'monument' to this fruit of Tatarsky's imagination.

The story goes that the music for this part exceeded the required amount by 3 minutes, 8 instead of 5. Tatarsky was desperately trying to solve the problem. He was walking past the sound restoration room where an engineer was working with the record of Vladimir Lenin's voice. The record, originally slow, would occasionally speed up. Tatarsky inquired as to what produced such effect. Turned out, the magnetic stripe was woven onto a wheel covered in cellotape. Tatarsky paid 70RUB to speed up the sound of this third part, and so Plasticine Crow acquired the sound the generations of viewers have loved so much.

Last Year's Snow Was Falling was also made 'in the name of Lenin'. In 1983 the script by Sergei Ivanov was considered lacking ideological context. Not that this was untrue, but at the times of Soviet realism it was hugely important for any work of art to have an ideological context. Tatarsky threatened to make a cartoon about Lenin instead, and so eventually received the permission to film what he wanted. The slaphappy street cleaner from Plasticine Crow moved to live in the woods where his wife sent him after a Christmas tree. The character, to whom a well-known Russian actor Stanislav Sadalsky donned his voice, entered the hearts and souls of the Russian audience with an endless list of aphorisms and funny phrases, like this one: "Who is the last one in the queue to be a tsar? Nobody? OK, I'll be the first then!"

So, sit back and enjoy both films. Russia-InfoCentre wishes you a pleasant afternoon... and a happy 90th birthday to Art Clokey. It's good to celebrate the artist's life with the examples of how his ideas were applied in another country.

Image courtesy: Animator.ru.

Julie Delvaux
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Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian animation Russian directors Russian stop motion clay animation Alexander Tatarsky  

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