Still Life With Animated Dogs


Czech Animation

Jan Svankmajer animation stills
Jan Svankmajer images
From writers and composers, to architects and painters, Czech artists have made significant contributions in the 20th century. Even under the most repressive totalitarian rule, sometimes working under severely restricted conditions, animators at state-run studios, as well as independent artists managed to produce their art.

Saturday Morning Cartoons...
From Prague?

At the height of the Cold War, hundreds of cartoons shown in the United States were actually made in the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia. Throughout the 1960s, episodes of "Tom and Jerry," "Popeye" and "Krazy Kat," as well as animated versions of classic children's books like Madeline were created in animation studios in Prague.

The stories were written and directed by Americans, but Czech studios did the art, composed the music and created the sound effects. Gene Dietch, the Oscar-winning American animation film director and creator of "Tom Terrific," oversaw episodes of "Tom and Jerry," "Popeye" and "Krazy Kat" from within the state-run Bratri v Triku animation studios. That these cartoons were made behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War expressly for American audiences in an above-board business deal between a Western enterprise and a Communist company is astounding, but logical. The Czechs were producing some of the best animation in the world at the time.

Kratky Film
Animated film continued to flourish in the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia in the mid-20th century, supported by a generous animation budget from government-supported Czech TV, the largest financier of animation.

Referred to as the "jewel in the crown of animated filmmaking," Kratky Film has trained some of the greatest Czech animation artists of the past 45 years. Under the Kratky umbrella, Animation Brothers Studios was founded in 1945 during the Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia. The studio became a secret boot camp for artists who surveyed Walt Disney movies and learned how to make animated films by studying Disney's finished product. When the Communist regime moved towards centralizing movie production in 1957, it folded Animation Brothers into Kratky Films.

Czech Animation Today
Kratky film continues to produce the lion's share of television cartoons for children. Czech TV faces dwindling funds, however, and animation costs are on the rise. Even still, Czech artists continue to play an influential role in global animation, and directors from as far away as Japan, Iraq and the U.S. often travel to Prague to gain expertise from world-class Czech animators.

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