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History of Russian Animation, Part II
July 3, 2012 13:53

The Thaw (1950s)

Avant-garde animation A Cloud in Love (1959) by Roman Kachanov and Anatoly Karanovich, who combined in it the technique of cutout animation, puppet and hand-drawn animation, gained wide recognition both in the USSR and abroad. It won prizes at foreign film festivals and became the first Soviet animated film to get the prestigious prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI).

The 1960s

Around the year 1960 the Soviet animation experienced a drastic change in its style. Realistic backgrounds and characters came to appear much less often, having given way to caricature. Animators experiments with various techniques, among them cutout animation (The Story of a Crime (1962)) and glass painting (Song about Falcon (1967)).
Dimensional animation gained momentum. Roman Kachanov's animated films The Mitten (1967) and Crocodile Gena (1969) became classics of Russian and world animation.

Fyodor Khitruk created animations in an extremely flat style: houses were built like pentamino or tetris (The Story of a Crime (1962)), whereas cars seemed to be lying on the road (just like in Boris Stepantsev' animation Kid and Carlson (1968)).

This period was marked with release of various animated series (Adventures of Mowgli (1967-1971), Winnie-the-Pooh (1969, 1971, 1972), Nu, pogodi! (1969-…), etc.) and almanacs (Glowworm, Kaleidoscope, Cheerful Roundabout).
Most of the film directors of Soyuzmultfilm Studio were animators in the past. Often they took part in drawing of their own films.

Soviet animation was screened at foreign festivals and often took prizes there (The Mitten (1967), Ballerina on a Ship (1969), etc.).

Experiments in computer animation were started. The first computer animated film under the title Kitty was created by students and teachers of the Moscow State University in 1968.

The 1970s

Apart from Soyuzmultfilm, a number of other studios in other cities of the USSR were engaged in animation, among them the Ekran Studio, Sverdlovsk film studio and Saratovtelefilm, Permtelefilm, the Volgograd, Gorki and Kuibyshev TV and radio broadcasting committees.

The technical achievement of the Soviet animation of the 1970s was the animated film Polygon (1977) by Anatoly Petrov.

The 1980s and Early 1990s

The 1981 saw the release of Roman Kachanov's full-length animated film The Mystery of the Third Planet based on the sci-fi novel by Kir Bulychev. The captivating animation enjoyed popularity with kids and adults alike.

In 1981 the Ukrainian animator of Aleksander Mihailovich Tatarskiy (1950-2007) joined the Ekran Studio (subsequently Multtelefilm) and started experimenting with plasticine psychedelic transformations ("Plasticine crow" (1981), "Previous year snow falling" (1983)), and then shifted this esthetics onto the cartooned animation (Back Side of the Moon (1983)).

Subsequently Tatarsky founded the Pilot Studio. In the early 1990s some of the animators from his team moved to the USA to join the Klasky Csupo studio.
The Sverdlovsk film studio (subsequently the A-film studio) actively explored the opportunities of paint-on-glass animation (Skazochka about kozyavochka (1985), Welcome! (1986)). Artist Alexander Petrov excelled most of all in that field. The technique of full animation (when the background scenes are animated as well as characters, with detailed drawings and plausible movements) held a prominent place in Soviet animation of the 1980s.


From the late 1980s simplified drawing with rough strokes prevailed in animation (Kolobki Investigate, Tigers Can be Found Here (1989), etc.). This style can also be traced in works of the early 1990s, especially vividly represented by the Pilot Studio. Gennady Tishchenko was one of the few to avoid this influence and stick to realism (Vampires of Geona (1991), Owners of Geona (1992), Amba (1994 - 1995)).

In the early 1990s the Christmas Films Studio (a part of the former Soyuzmultfilm) jointly with the British S4C studio released an animated series based of Shakespeare's works for the BBC. Russian artists also participated in other international contracts, among them the film John Henry: The Steel Driving Man (2001) by A-film Sverdlovsk Studio.

Restoration of Animations

In 1992 the Film by Jove company signed a contract with the Soyuzmultfilm company and got exclusive copyright for use, restoration, distribution, and licensing of Soyuzmultfilm's production outside of the former USSR. It spilled over into a large-scale and an ambiguously estimated project on restoration of films and release of the series Masters Of Russian Animation. On September 3, 2007 the entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov redeemed the distribution rights and conveyed them to the Russian state TV channel Bibigon.

Nationally produced films in Russia are restored by the film association Close-Up.

Russian Animation Today

A major animation festival is held every year in Suzdal (so it is called Suzdal animated film festival); once in two years Russia hosts the international festival of animated films Krok (in alternate years it is held in Ukraine). There are also other festivals of smaller scale (for example, Multimatograf). Works by Russian animators are also successfully screened at foreign festivals (for example, the Old man and the sea (1999)).

The largest animation studios in Russia now are The Pilot, Melnitsa, and Master Film. There are a number of studios in the country that produce one to two films within a year.

Full-length animated films (Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin Zmey (2004), The Special One (2006), Prince Vladimir (2006), Elka (2006) and others were released in the 2000s.

Meanwhile, Russian animation fails to compete with foreign film production in volume: Russia makes about 20 hours of animated films, whereas thousands of hours are produced in the West, not to mention Japan with its overwhelming bulk of tens of thousands hours a year. Taking into account 300-400 screen hours annually produced by Soyuzmultfilm in its heyday, the present period in the history of Russian animation is a crisis.


Soviet animated films of the 70s were often accompanied with music created at the Experimental studio of electronic music founded by composers Eduard Artemyev, Vladimir Martynov, and Sandor Kallos in Moscow in 1967.

Other famous composers were Gennady Gladkov (musical animations The Bremen Town Musicians, Blue Puppy, etc.), Mikhail Meyerovich, Vladimir Shainsky, and Aleksander Zacepin.

Among modern composers one can single out Leo Zemlinsky and Aleksander Gusev.

Seee also: History of Russian Animation, Part I



Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian animation Russian caricature Russian Cinema   

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