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 Yuri Norstein

Born:   September 15, 1941

Animator, Director


Works by animator and animated film director Yuri Norstein have utterly altered the status of animated cartoon films, not only in Russia, but all around the world. The genre stopped being a marginal art. Just watch his animated cartoons Hedgehog in the Fog or Tale of Tales and you will see what is meant here.

Deliberately or not, Yuri Norstein gained the status of a classic master of animated cartoons upon the release of his Hedgehog in the Fog in 1975. In 1984 the international jury in Los Angeles called his Tale of Tales (1979) ‘the greatest animated film ever’. And in 2003 Hedgehog in the Fog received the same sort of accolade in Japan.

From ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ Norstein has created a special genre of poetic animated cartoons, of pure lyricism developed through a sequence of visual images. Unexpected associations, sensations, reminiscences, fears and dreams are more meaningful than the actual unfolding of the plot in his original works.

Besides his vivid and touching cartoon characters and amazing delicate scripts, one is unmistakably impressed by a stunning effect of a ‘living’ screen, which is due to a special technology Norstein has elaborated himself. This is a most complicated method of multi-level transposition in the course of filming: the images are made as scaly combinations of tiny elements, with each of them able to move separately (each of the eyes, lips or fingers). As a result the character, though not looking like a realistic personage at all, but rather grotesque, amusing and irregular (Norstein deliberately insists on imperfect, ‘non-ironed’ drawing) seems to be really living and breathing.

Yuri Norstein in his studio Yuri Norstein was born on September 15, 1941 in the village of Andreevka of Penza Region, where his parents had been evacuated. He grew up in Moscow. In 1961, after taking two-year long courses for cartoonists he started working in Soyuzmultfilm studio. Yuri worked as an animator with the well-known film director Ivan Ivanov-Vano.

In 1968 Norstein made a debut with the animated film 25, the First Day, a joint work with Arkady Tyurin using works by Soviet artists of the 1920s (Lentulov, Altman, and Petrov-Vodkin).

For many years Norstein has been working together with his wife Francheska Yarbusova, an animator, and cameraman Alexander Zhukovsky.

From ‘The Overcoat’ Actually, Norstein’s filmography is not very great in number. If not taking into account his first films created jointly with other animators, it is as follows: Fox and Hare (1973), Heron and Crane (1974), Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), and Tale of Tales (1975). Since 1981 Norstein has been working on the animated film Shinel (Overcoat) after Gogol’s story. Though his technology is far from being fast Norstein bluntly rejects using computer graphics. The legendary animator has recently turned 65 years old.

From ‘Tale of Tales’ ‘They often told me: you are making an elite film. Nothing of the kind, the film turned important for all. What is essential is that you must remain true to yourself; you must submerge deep down there, into that sheet of paper. You must live with your character’, - Norstein says.

Yuri Norstein never divides animated films into those for children or adults, but only into good or bad animation. And for over 45 years already he has created only very good animation, which is remembered and loved; which is simple, as everything pure and kind; and which is complicated, as true art.


Vera Ivanova


Tags: Russian animation Russian cinema Russian animators Yuri Norstein  

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