Alexander Sedov (alek_morse) wrote,
Alexander Sedov

Some Thoughts about Soviet Animation / Мысли о советской мультипликации

Должен извинится за то, что не будет перевода на русский - текст сочинял на английском, дабы, не торопясь сформулировать мысли и подобрать слова. Первоначально это задумывалось как небольшая ремарка в чужом англоязычном блоге. Но почему-то требовались всё новые и новые пояснения и, в итоге, получилось нечто вроде обзора.
Посколько ответ предназначался человеку из другой страны, другого происхождения и культуры (английскому анимационному критику Йену Лумсдену), то для "нашего брата", подумал я, здесь открытий, пожалуй, не будет (да и, наверное, для "ненашего" тоже). Если в двух словах - я попытался коротко обрисовать ситуацию вокруг советской мультипликации во второй половине ХХ века (такая вот задача). Речь в основном о взаимосвязях "мэйнстрима" и "эксперимента". Повторюсь, всё очень бегло и общо, - но если будут настоятельные просьбы о переводе на русский, может, и сделаю (хотя, сейчас голова занята работой над другими текстами).

Alice in Wonderland, 1981

Some Thoughts about Soviet Animation

author: Alexander SEDOV (c), December, 2009

a free response on Ian Lumsden’s review of Tatiana Mititello’s animation “The Apple Cake”

Reviewing Russian animation “The Apple Cake”, Ian LUMSDEN (UK animation critic) wrote:

I could understand if the movie were made in the 1960s when that sort of thing was allegedly de rigeur. In fact it is from the great Soyuzmultfilm Studio and made in 1991 which goes to show I guess that glasnost had much to answer for in the Soviet era. No wonder there was dissolution of the empire although in fairness everything is harmonious on the floating pie”.


Firstly, I’d like to thank to Ian Lumsden for an interesting review (and recommend his Animation Blog to everyone, who is interested in the cartoons films) and as well for a capability given me by the author translating it into Russian – that I did earlier. I have to confess the above mentioned quote forced me (as I have just read the text) to seriously reflect upon. Because my response outgrown the size of a reply, I have decided to post the text here, in my LJ blog.

Honestly, I don’t see the connection between Tatiana Mititello’s animation “The Apple Cake” and dissolution of Soviet Empire. What might a parallel be here? As I know in USSR long before this film there were done a lot of short animations having so much creative, “improvisation spirit” and unusual artsy forms as well (anyway, on my eye – born in Soviet Union).

Yes, this animated film was filmed in 1991.

In such sense, the only obvious sign/concession of much art freedom for The Apple Cake (more freedom than earlier) is the soundtrack by Sergei Kurekhin (Сергей Курёхин) – in end of 1980s he was a very popular, genius underground jazz composer and multi musical performer. As I guess, the sound is record on normal speed – just Kurekhin liked a demonstrating his brilliant piano technique.

Recently I have come across a reply by (seems) a student of US university, who is confused by Soviet 1981 animation “Alice in Wonderland”, precisely, by surrealism of the film and a fact that is done in Communist state at all ( ). /see aniamtion/

I have to say such replies (they are many ones in Internet) confuse me not less than a Western viewer is amazed by an availability of artsy/psychedelic/surrealism animations produced on Soviet studios. I see that here is some fundamental incomprehension /vagueness. Because all my childhood fell on Soviet era, so, I’m a true eyewitness of Soviet animation mainstream shown on Soviet TV (and not only mainstream).

Although Communist government was dull (that is partially true), it didn’t forgotten to give significant subsidies on animation industry that to be creative/free art/individual style/ psychedelic/surrealism/etc (anyway, in big part of common number). I say about a situation of 1960-1980s mostly. Some ideological agendas were an extremely little. Generally, they were cartoons for children, as a rule, the tales, modern-day humour plots – very heart-felt and some moral (in traditional meaning). On one hand, the Soviet animation theory was based on slightly didactic education science (it is need to remember that Communist project was initially thought up as version of Enlighten Project in Russia of XX century). On another hand, the animators had always a strong tie with the visual arts tradition (many had academic art education), including Russian Vanguard, which was formally as if banned in USSR. But after 1960s Liberalisation (even in era of Stagnation since 1970 to 1985), the animators got an unofficial free to experiment with a visual form and narrative structure.

Animation was likely most free visual art in Soviet Union, because it was formally “frivolous business, especially for children”, and here people of different professions (different tastes, views, ways as well) – artists, writes, actors, composers etc – formed groups. Of course, the artists of painting genre officially had not such degree of creative freedom, and art design had not a commercial market – they were too close to the commissioning on public (ideological) design: posters, billboards, mosaic works on communistic theme (indeed, there were neutral themes too).

Of course, the animation directors were often forced to resist and to act slyly with the conservative studios’ juries. I think, on present-day view, it is difficult to mark where “art recommendations” by the studio jury ended and “ideological censorship” began. In practice, a lot of successful cartoons (not every, indeed) were a mix /synthesis of new /unusual form with a clear strong story. So, you shouldn’t be confused with if you are seeing a fun childhood story, where are interspersed motifs of Mark Shagal or Filonov (instance, animation about a very absentminded man)./see animation/
Вот какой рассеянный, dir. Marianna Novogrudskaya

An Absentminded Man

I have to say that being a little boy, in own imagination I didn’t separate the “experimental” animations from the “traditional/classic mainstream” – and now I see that it’s impossible regarding to a big share (because “creative synthesis”). My separation was (and is) on interesting or boring ones. I think one of most brilliant “synthesis” works is “Vinnie Pooh” series by Fedor Khitruk (Soyuzmultfilm studio, 1969-1972) /see animation/

– it is enough to compare with “Vinnie Pooh” series produced by Walt Disney Company. Another case is earlier mentioned series “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice through the looking glass” (1981 and 1982, Kievnauchfilm studio, Ukraine)
Alice throught Mirror, 1982

– here a literal material itself dictated a bit absurdist style slightly resembling Monty Python’s graphics and gags. It is a mainstream as well (anyway, it became spread popular) – you may compare with Walt Disney’s analogue again.

Nevertheless, Soviet animation studios produced the cartoons of a good genre and theme diversity. If you see compare, for example, Soyuzmultfilm studio’s diversity with the Walt Disney’s studio one (say, in period between 1965 and 1990), you can come to own conclusion regarding a studio’s policy. I highly recommend the MacFadyen’s The Yellow Crocodile and Blue Oranges book telling about post-WWII Soviet animation industry.

review on the book

btw, you may read a part of the book in Google library (public domain)

Tags: animation, review

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic