Алек Morse

Russian Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1965) - animation in details

In 2012 Russian animation celebrates own 100 years anniversary, so I have to devote some notes in my blog to this event. Here I begin an essay series named "Animation in details" - it's a view on some curious things that unexpectedly catched my mind.


The Harmony and Struggle of Opposites

Animation in details

Alexander SEDOV (c) January 2012


The story about a mongoose gives an extraordinary opportunity to play with an animal’s plasticity on the screen. A mongoose jumps, spins, sneaks, fights with a slithering snake. In fact the entire cartoon film is based on an idea of the static and moving clash, on the conflict of smooth movement with pulsing, the struggle of serene calmness and springy action.


Strictly speaking, the whole cartoon is woven of this dialectics, but primarily its protagonist – a mongoose, a living embodiment of an idea of movement. It is no wonder that Rikki-Tikki-Tavi wins struggle against the cobras, because a mongoose is THE struggle of opposites and their inner harmony: has the springy gait, is able to creep smoothly, suddenly jump up on a place, be like a spinning top… In short, this hero is not just a mongoose, but also a cobra in «the braided kind», secretly owns a plasticity of the opponent. 


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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” (based on Rudyard Kipling’s story), director Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya, art-designed by Maks Jerebchevsky, Soyuzmultfilm studio, 1965

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi - Soviet cartoon film based on R. Kipling's tale (1965) Soyuzmultfilm studio 

! -- See the cartoon (without Eng. subs)

Алек Morse

Some Thoughts about Soviet Animation

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”.


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 into a review/essay.

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.

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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)

'Some Thoughts about Soviet Animation'
cross-posted in my Live Journal
бегущие Холмс и Ватсон по лужам

Help To Create New Master Sherlock Holmes Cartoon!

A Russian animator Alexander Bubnov, author of witty and artsy cartoon ‘Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson. The Murder of Lord Waterbrook’ (2005), addresses to audience to help in making of the sequel

Don’t hasten to take a pencil and a paper – the animator himself shall draw the cartoon (with other professional artists). Don’t rack your brains over the plot – the scenario is already (you may read the fragment here, in Russian). 

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Ladies and Gentlemen! The two years passed by after the cartoon premier. Don’t we really to see the sequel? Alexander Bubnov promises to tell about who fell down in Sherlock Holmes’s flue and why this someone has the brief-case with the secret plans.

Here is the link to animator Alexander Bubnov's post (in Russian)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
SEE Part 1- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HULUEK0PkbU&feature=related
SEE Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2emcWHVULE

Do you want to see the SEQUEL of it? ;)

Алек Morse

Joke Stories of children's and animation writer Eduard Uspensky, author of Three from Prostokvashino


Recently I have seen on telly the very interesting programme of Eduard Uspensky (1). Seems, it’s impossible to screen any TV short film of him with serious face. In any way, Uspensky will not allow doing so, may be, because of that he, famous Russian children’s and animation writer, is a huge joker. You may yourself to appreciate this with children’s poet Yuri Entin, his friend (pardon, it’s my some free exposition of Entin’s story – I didn’t record the short film, but you may be sure, absolutely all facts are reliable). So, Entin tells:


“Someday Eduard Uspensky received the Finnish TV crew. 
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- cross-posting to my Live Journal:
Here you may read English and Russian versions of that text
В моём Живом Журнале вы можете прочесть этот текст по-русски :)
drawing, old man

Pictures of Norshteyn at Work

you_iggy asked about Yuriy Norshteyn's technique at norshtein, so I figured I'd make a quick post to answer. Here are some pictures of Norshteyn at work on "The Overcoat" in his studio:

Characters for future scene - "the arrival of the clerks"

Frame from film.Collapse )
Here are some pictures of the work on Norshteyn's segment for the Japanese collaborative film "Winter Days" (2003):
(by the way, Norshteyn talks about the creation of his segment in this interview)

Sketches of Basho.

Norshteyn's workplace for "Winter Days". I have no idea about the location.Collapse )

Cross-posted with the "old animatsiya".
drawing, old man

Estonian animation: Toell the Great (Suur Tõll)

I recently stumbled across a very interesting film while browsing the emult community (this entry). The film itself is based on Estonian myth, and the main character is Toell the Great, the giant leader of the island of Saaremaa. Regardless of what you think of it, this is undoubtedly a film that you won't forget, and not just because of its unusual imagery and majestic soundtrack. It reveals a side of Estonian animation that I had not seen before. It is also probably one of the scariest animated films to air widely on television - a lot of Soviet children saw it, judging from the comments on emult. If you are squeamish, you really should think twice before watching it.

A few years after its 1980 release, it was adapted into a children's book. Because there is a small bit of untranslated Estonian dialogue in the film, and because some things will be quite difficult to understand unless you're already familiar with the story, I've translated the book into English. I highly recommend reading it before you watch the film, since I think you'll get a lot more out of the film that way. Otherwise, you probably won't have a clue as to what is going on.

Higher-quality scans of the Estonian version are posted over here (the Russian version can be seen over here).

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And now... you can watch the film in high quality or in low quality:

Watch part 2 over here (for some reason I can't make both of the videos show up here).

Crossposted with my own blog.
drawing, old man

Weightless Life 1 - Dialogue With Disney

Crossposted with the older "Animatsiya".

The first of a four-part documentary series about Russian animation which recently aired, translated into English by yours trully. This episode is a good, fun overview of Russian and early American animation history.


Here are the notes; a list of the people and films mentioned (that I've been able to identify):

From the intro:
Oleg Anofriyev
Iosif Boyarskiy
Fyodor Khitruk
Yuriy Norshteyn
Inessa Kovalevskaya
Aleksandr Kurlyandskiy
Aleksandr Tatarskiy

The footage from 1:17-1:45 is from Man with a Movie Camera (1929), directed by Dziga Vertov:

The short man on the lower right corner who sometimes frames certain images is the "director" from Fyodor Khitruk's "Film, film, film" (1968):

3:24 - "Interplanetary Revolution" (1924) - can be seen in its entirety (with commercial breaks) on Memocast over here, unless you live in any of the CIS countries.

4:54 - "We Don't Bite Here" (1937), "It's Hot in Africa" (1936), "Little Liar" (1938), "A Noisy Voyage" (1937)

6:04 - "Little Red Riding Hood" (1937). It's now in the public domain (as are all Soviet films prior to and including 1954), and can be downloaded here. You can use the ed2k link, or read this guide on how to download directly from the website (look for the settings you need to have on your download manager).

7:33 - list of Soviet children's artists whose styles could no longer be used in animation because of Disneyification: Vladimir Lebedev, Cherushin (can't find any info), Vladimir Favorskiy (russian link).

11:19 - Disney's "Steamboat Willie" (1928), the first animated film with synchronized sound. Can be found in many places, for example here.

12:06 - Messmer's "Woos Whoopee" (1930), starring Felix the Cat:

12:30 - "Down With the Second International", "China in Flames", "How Avdotya Became Literate". "China in Flames" can be viewed on Memocast over here.

12:59 - Samuil Marshak, well-known Russian children's poet.

13:03 - "Post" (1929, sound added in 1930), a classic of Soviet animation but one which is impossible to see anywhere nowadays outside of occasional special festivals/museum exhibitions. Animator.ru says that it was actually coloured on the film positives.

13:33 - "The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda (Bazaar scene)" (1930s). Same situation as "Post". This feature film was never finished, but most of it once existed. Everything except the market scene was destroyed by German bombing in WW2. Shostakovich's music for it can be bought on CD at sites like amazon.com

15:10 - "Film Circus" (1942) - watch it over here on Memocast.

15:57 - "The Little Grey Neck" (1948). Public domain, so it can be downloaded in high quality over here or over here (again see my earlier post about how to download from those websites).

16:41 - "The Little Humpbacked Horse" (1947).

17:40 - "The Snow Queen" (1957), "Mitten" (1967), "Boniface's Holiday"

18:21 - "Glass Harmonica (1968). It's available on Youtube, but it's a pretty dark image...

18:25 - "Story of One Crime" (1962):

18:50 - Disney's "Fantasia" (1940)

20:04 - Disney's "Cinderella" (1950), "Sleeping Beauty" (1959)

20:44 - Disney's "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" (1977, made up of 3 short films released in 1966, 1968 and 1874). Fyodor Khitruk's "Winnie-the-Pooh" (1969). Only one of the Russian films has been posted on Youtube with English subtitles, and it is the second one (although their timing is rather wonky - the text sometimes flies by very fast).

22:27 - Dyozhkin's "Shaybu! Shaybu!!" (1964, a wordless, action-filled hockey cartoon) can be seen over here on Youtube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The Extraordinary Match (1955)

22:48 - "You Just Wait!" (Nu, pogodi!), a very famous Soviet series. Many of them can be found on Youtube. They are practically wordless; the only thing you need to know if you watch them is that "nu, pogodi!" means "you just wait!", "volk" means "wolf", and "zayets" means "hare" (another meaning of "zayets" is "stowaway", which is used in one episode). The series started in 1969 as part of "The Happy Merry-go-Round", another series which featured various animated sketches.

24:16 - In 2003 at the Laputa Animation Festival in Tokyo, Japan, 140 animators from around the world were asked to choose their top 20 films. From that list, 150 films were chosen. "Hedgehog in the Fog (1975) and "Tale of Tales" (1979) were chosen as #1 and #2, with Disney's Fantasia a more distant #3. I can't find any English information about it, but there's some info in Russian over here, listing the Russian films which made it on there.

24:20 - scene from Petrov's "The Cow" (1989), on Youtube over here.

24:27 - scene from Yuriy Norshteyn's unfinished feature film "The Overcoat", started in 1981 (30 minutes will be released by the end of this year).

24:30 - scene from Petrov's "The Old Man and the Sea" (1999), which won an Oscar.

24:39 - Frank Thomas (1912-2004), Ollie Johnston (1912-).

25:16 - "Alosha" (2004) revitalized the genre of animated feature films in Russia.
drawing, old man

Russian classics return to Russia

Crossposted with the older "Animatsiya".

An animator.ru report (translated by me):

The businessman Alisher Usmanov has bought the international rights to a library of classic Soviet animated films from the American company Films by Jove and given them to the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company. The collection was priced between 5-10 million dollars. The management of the Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund, which has been fighting with FBJ for the legal rights to the library for several years, has already promised to raise objections to the new owner of the collection, writes "Kommersant".

The Americans owned the screening/video rights to about 525-550 Soyuzmultfilm films (about 80 hours) outside the borders of the CIS, including "Cheburashka", "The Snow Queen" and "Maugli". FBJ is owned by the American residents Oleg Vidov (who played the main role in the film "The Headless Rider") and his wife Joan Borsten. According to a close source, the sum paid was between 5-10 million dollars.

The first word about talks between FBJ and Alisher Usmanov appeared this April. Back then, the two sides could not agree on a price: Mr. Usmanov offered FBJ 2-3 million dollars. According to a close source, the owners of the company appraised the archive as being worth 10-20 million dollars. Television market rights experts believed that the maximum price of the collection was 10-12 million dollars, taking into account the fact that the library is the object of a legal battle between FBJ and the Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund in American courts. The Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund owns the rights to the Soyuzmultfilm library on the territories of Russia and the other CIS countries.

According to Joan Borsten, one of the conditions which FBJ insisted on was the creation of a fund for supporting Soyuzmultfilm veterans in Russia by Alisher Usmanov. Mr. Usmanov refused this condition. His representatives have abstained from commenting about the matter.

Anton Zlatopolskiy, the "CEO's first replacement" [?] of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company insists that the collection will become the property of the children's channel "Bibigon", launched by the company last week. The ARSTRC also plans to use "Usmanov's library" in its international channels -- "RTR-Planet", "RTR-Planet CIS" and "Planeta-Sport". The company is willing to grant the rights to the collection to the government in "certain isolated cases".

The process of turning over the rights is not yet complete. According to Mr. Zlatopolskiy, the ARSTRC's and Usmanov's lawyers are currently working on the possibility of the agreement, "in order to abide by all the formalities", because gift-giving between two legal entities is impossible by law. It is not out of the question that Alisher Usmanov will give the animated collection as an individual: in that case, ARSTRC will avoid large tax payments.

The film library remains a subject of legal contention, reminds Vasiliy Shilnikov, director of the Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund. He stated yesterday that while he has no official information about the agreements between FBJ, Usmanov and ARSTRC: "In any case, none of this removes our ambition to prove the nullification of the 1992 agreement between FBJ and the leased enterprise of Soyuzmultfilm. At that time, the leased enterprise made a 10-year contract with FBJ (with the right to extend it to 30 years) for the rights to 1259 films (running 320 hours) beyond the borders of the CIS. The leased enterprise itself only owned these rights from Soyuzmultfilm until the year 1999. Mr. Shilnikov is ready to start "flexible talks" with ARSTRC: "If they return the international rights then we, for example, will grant them the Russian rights under beneficial arrangements, or find another way of settling the question". "The most important thing is that the collection has returned to our country, to a government film company," stated Anton Zlatopolskiy, "the rest is just a theoretical dispute between rightholders."

Some more information::

According to Akop Kirakosyan, current director of the OTHER Soyuzmultfilm (the one which focuses on the creative work of making new films), the original deal seemed promising at the time but turned out to be "deadly" for the studio.
The deal was the first international offer that the studio had received. As part of the return, Soyuzmultfilm would receive 37% of the net profits.
The expected payouts never materialized because Films by Jove never posted any net profits; all of the money officially went to things like new soundtracks, lawsuits and anti-pirating measures.

In 1993, newly-elected director Skulyabin extended the agreement by a further 35 years (those are Akop Kirakosyan's words... I'm not sure if that's an error or not). Films by Jove restored many of the films and released many of them on television, video and DVD in the United States and Europe, albeit usually with dubbed voices and changed music. More recently, they've released some DVDs with films in the original Russian soundtrack with English subtitles (probably due to the complaints about the lackluster English dubs). Much of their collection can currently be viewed for free (with commercial breaks) on the website Memocast, which I talked about earlier. In accordance with the agreement as FBJ interpreted it, the films on Memocast's site don't show up within the CIS. I don't know what will happen to Memocast now that this change of ownership is taking place. ..
drawing, old man

Welcome to the Animatsiya Community

It's been suggested to me by Alek-morse that it might be a good idea to allow other people to post in the "Animatsiya in English" blog. I thought that the idea had some merit, but the LJ system wouldn't allow anyone to post there but myself; I had to create a community. This community, rather than being something new, is a continuation of the same idea: Discussing mostly Russian animation in the (more-or-less) international English language, and thus making it accessible to a wider audience. The reason I originally decided to start "Animatsiya" on LJ is that very many Russian animators have LJ accounts (though most don't speak English).

From now on, anyone can sign up to be a member here and write entries, though all posts must still be approved before they appear.

All of my writings will be posted both here and at my own journal from now on (nothing at the original "Animatsiya in English" blog will change in the near future). I don't post very frequently, so it's probably a good thing to open up the forum.

Here are the links to all the previous posts on "Animatsiya in English":

18/04/07: Soyuzmultfilm today
22/04/07: Gofmaniada website goes live!
05/05/07: Goat Tale - Stories of Old Prague
14/05/07: Russian animation: The Cat Who Walked by Herself
27/05/07: Belarusfilm - a glimpse
28/05/07: On money and artistic freedom under communism
10/06/07: If you are in Moscow...
12/06/07: How to find and download Russian animation
14/06/07: Russian films at Annecy
23/06/07: Laughter and Grief by the White Sea
23/07/07: Death of an icon...
27/07/07: Last rites
28/07/07: Aleksandr Petrov turns 50!
04/08/07: A study in contrasts
05/08/07: Winter Days interview with Yuriy Norshteyn
16/08/07: March 13, 2007 interview with Yuriy Norshteyn