Several years we wrote about a subtle and delicate stop motion animated film created from tea leaves by Natalia Mirzoyan. This holiday season, Soyuzmultfilm released her new work, Merry Grandmas! In Russia, kids typically spend a lot of time with their grandparents, usually with their grandmothers, many of whom still inhabit shabby apartments filled with all kinds of curiosities – fur coats long gone out of fashion, dim crystal vases, elaborate tea sets, dusty photo albums, and sleepy cats. Wise and grumpy grandmothers are matriarchs of many families.
On the New Year’s Eve, parents bring a little girl named Masha to her grandmother who lives in the center of Saint Petersburg. Masha anticipates an extremely boring evening with grandma and her elderly friends, but things turned out quite differently. Crafted in a wonderfully naive style, this film is a loving depiction of Russian grandmas, their vanishing world, and New Year magic set in the old quarters of Saint Petersburg.
“The Nose”, a short phantasmagoria written by Nikolai Gogol back in 1836, is among the most famous masterpieces of Russian literature. The protagonists, Major Kovalev, finds that his nose is missing from his face. Later he finds out that his nose – the Nose – becomes a high ranking official in the bureaucratic empire of Nicolas the First. In 1963 the animated version was created by a Russian emigre, Alexandre Alexeieff, made in his unique pinscreen style. Recently, Andrei Khrzhanovsky presented a new vision of the Gogol’s work featuring music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Khrzhanovsky, a veteran of the Soviet/Russian animation, is a director of many animated and mixed media pieces, including critically-acclaimed “The Glass Harmonica” and a somewhat less successful biopic of a Nobel prize laureate Joseph Brodsky. Stylistically and historically eclectic feature-length animation combines the original story taking place in the 19th century Saint Petersburg with the more recent Soviet and contemporary Russian artifacts and characters, including young pioneers and militia. The Nose grows and transforms into the menacing symbol of the authoritarian state, yet despite beginning an autonomous and sinister existence, it is still a part of the person, the dark side that dwells in everyone.
Here’s the teaser featuring an image of Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Nikolai Gogol – ingenious mavericks of the filmmaking, theater, music, and literature.
Soyuzmultfilm, a prominent Russian animation studio with a rich history, has a new site featuring information about the popular Soviet-era animation films from the 1960s-1970s, including such iconic productions as Chebursahka (aka Topple, a friendly furry creature that befriends a crocodile called Gena who works in a local zoo – as a crocodile), Winnie the Pooh, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, action-packed I’ll Get You!, an eclectic anthology Happy Merry-Go-Round, adventures of a polar bear cub Umka, rock musical The Bremen Town Musicians, and art-house The Glass Harmonica. The site contains unique production shots, script scans, sketches, storyboards, and photos. The content is in Russian. Heroes of Soyuzmultflilm.
Eduard Nazarov, an acclaimed artist, book illustrator, and animation director, passed away yesterday in Moscow. Nazarov, closely associated with Fyodor Khitruk, was involved in several of his projects, including Winnie the Pooh (1969-1972). In the 1990s, he became one of the co-founders of the SHAR studio, and later supervised a highly successful Mountain of Gems animated series based on folk tales of peoples of Russia. Nazarov is best-known as the creator of such classics as Once Upon a Dog / Once There Was a Dog (1982), a tragicomic story adopted from Ukrainian folklore about an old dog expelled by his owners, and Travels of an Ant(1983), a small ant’s quest to find his home. His beloved works feature a distinct visual style and combine lyricism with a mellow sense of humor.
Apart from “Cat in the Hat”, several books by Dr. Seuss inspired Russian animators. The most notable adaptation is Welcome (Добро пожаловать) based on “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.” A constellation of talents worked on this short piece. Yuri Koval, author and artist who was involved in the creation of such popular cartoons as Laughter and Grief by the White Sea, wrote a screenplay. Yevgeny Leonov, a beloved comedian actor and voice of Russian Winnie-the-Pooh, provided his voice. Alexander Petrov, an innovative animator and the 1999 Academy Award for Animated Short Film winner, created a unique style of this paint-on-glass animation.
Paint-on-glass involves manipulation of paints (oil or gouache) or other media like charcoal and creates a uniquely recognizable style featuring a smooth, fluid movement. Among the animators who employed this style is Caroline Leaf. Alexander Petrov often uses his fingers for painting. In the last decades, he created critically acclaimed animated films in this style based on stories by Platonov, Dostoyevsky, and Hemingway. As a bonus enjoy his paint-on-glass winter advertisement for Coca-Cola
Hedgehog in the Fog (Ежик в тумане) released 40 years ago is a critically acclaimed cartoon by Yuriy Norshteyn based on short stories by Sergey Kozlov. A journey of Hedgehog through the misty forest to meet his friend Bear is among the most well-known Russian cartoons. Check out an interactive guide with comments of Norshteyn about unique solutions employed to create paper puppets, fog, and shadows in this stop-motion masterpiece.
E.T.A. Hoffmann was always one of the most beloved German writers in Russia. We already wrote about the animated version of Nutcracker (1973). Tatyana Ilyina produced her full featured version of Nutcracker in 2004. Hoffmaniad (Гофманиада), the most recent stop-motion animated film with elements of computer animation, has been in the works since 2001. It will combine elements of several novels, including Little Zaches, The Golden Pot, and The Sandman. It features art and design of a prominent Russian-born artist, Mikhail Shemyakin. As of now, a 20-minute version is available (based on The Golden Pot). The quality of puppets and design is amazing. Fantasy and reality blend together, and the world of the protagonist, Hoffmann, who serves as a low-rank official, is more tragic and surreal than magical adventures he writes about. Unfortunately, no exact release date is given.