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Czech Animators

Defying categorization, Czech animation is as fiercely individual as the artists who create it. Working with a variety of mediums, from cut-out puppetry to cel animation, Czech animators infuse personal style and political and social beliefs into their work. Although every animator's work is distinct, many address the legacy of living under totalitarian rule through their art. Some of the fine filmmakers and animators who have trained and worked in Prague include Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Trnka, Bretislav Pojar, Zdenek Miler and Michaela Pavlatova.

Jan Svankmajer setting up scene
Jan Svankmajer
One of the best known post-war Eastern European animators, Jan Svankmajer is lauded for his philosophically profound, visually rich and stylistically innovative work. Like his contemporaries who include playwright president Vaclav Havel, exiled novelist Milan Kundera and filmmaker Milos Forman, his life experiences have been shaped by the Stalinist system under which he lived for many years.

After training in puppetry and working in the Prague theater, Svankmajer made his first film in 1964. His films question, examine and provoke, conjuring images of a bewildering, absurd and violent universe. He uses his talent for visual arts, such as drawing, painting and creating objets d'art to experiment with a spectrum of animated forms. Often his work contains no dialogue, as the narrative becomes secondary to the textures and shapes of the images in his films.

Despite Svankmajer's success in Europe, his work remained mostly unknown in North America until the 1990s. But in the past decade, he has won many international awards, including the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1997. The Internet has also brought his animation to millions who previously had no access to his innovative work.

Jiri Trnka
After years of work in the puppet theater, the master of stop-motion puppet animation, Jiri Trnka brought his childhood love of puppets to film. His work, often based on Czech classics and fairy tales, is designed for young viewers, but like the finest animation, it also appeals to adult sensibilities.

Considered by many the best puppet animator in the world, Trnka's talent lay in giving the illusion that the puppets are acting out of their own will rather than being controlled by a puppeteer. In 1966, four years before his death, New York Newsday lauded him as "second to Chaplin as a film artist because his work inaugurated a new stage in a medium long dominated by Disney."
animation still - Story of the Bass Cello
Story of the Bass Cello

animation still - The Butterflies Time
The Butterflies Time
Bretislav Pojar
Bretislav Pojar was born in Southern Bohemia and worked as a designer in a special effects studio until 1943 when it was shut down by the Germans. At the end of World War II, he was one of the founders of the animation studio of the master puppeteer Jiri Trnka, with whom he made his first films. Over the years, his reputation grew and he has garnered many awards at film festivals around the world. His most high-profile work was with the Canada Film Board, where he co-directed L'heure des Anges, using a mixture of puppets and pinscreen techniques.

animation still - The Mole
The Mole
Zdenek Miler
Zdenek Miler is the creator of Krtek, or "little mole," the Czech equivalent of Mickey Mouse. Over the past fifty years, generations of Czechs and Slovaks, along with kids from all over Europe, have grown up with the red-nosed, wide-eyed creature Miler created. Krtek is so famous and beloved in Europe, he recently became the first Czech cartoon to appear on DVD. Most of Miler's work has featured the mole, including 30 books the 80-year-old artist has written and illustrated.

animation still - The Crosswords
The Crosswords
Michaela Pavlatova
Michaela Pavlatova is a rising star on the Czech animation scene. Born in 1961, she is part of the next generation of Czech animators who are constantly innovating the form. Although her career has been relatively short, Pavlatova has received numerous prestigious awards for her films, including an Oscar nomination in 1993 for Words, Words, Words. Her pencil drawings are replete with social commentary and dark humor. A teacher of animation at her alma mater, the University of Applied Arts in Prague, she also paints and illustrates magazines and books.




































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