Estonian Animation
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A fascinating new look at animated film in Estonia

Ever wonder why Estonian animation features so many carrots or why cows often perform pyramids? Well, neither question is answered in Chris Robinson's new book, Estonian Animation. Robinson's frank, humorous, and thoroughly researched book traces the history of Estonia's acclaimed animation scene from early experiments in the 1930s to the creation of puppet (Nukufilm) and cel (Joonisfilm) animation studios during the Soviet era, as well as Estonia's surprising international success during the post-Soviet era. In addition, Robinson writes about the discovery of films by four 1960s animation pioneers who, until the release of this book, had been unknown to most Estonian and international animation historians.

1. Previous Attractions
2. The Lost Films
3. The Dictator and the Democrat
4. The Missing Links
5. The Preachers
6. Estonia Catches Up wtih Modern Art
7. Fast Chicks and Imbeciles
8. Nukufilm: Changing of the Guard
9. Music...Please
10. Uncorked
11. The Next Wave
12. Will the Strip Snap?
Select Filmography



Publié par
Date de parution 20 février 2007
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9780861969357
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 13 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy
To Tom McSorley
For showing me the rink and putting me on the ice
Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy
By Chris Robinson
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy
A catalogue entry for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: 0 86196 667 8 (Paperback)
This book was first published as Between Genius Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation (Varrak, 2003). The Estonian Animation Association has granted full rights to John Libbey Publishing for this revised edtion.
Published by
John Libbey Publishing Ltd, 3 Leicester Road, New Barnet, Herts EN5 5EW, United Kingdom e-mail: ; web site:
Distributed Worldwide by
Indiana University Press , Herman B Wells Library-350, 1320 E. 10th St., Bloomington,
IN 47405, USA.
2006 Copyright John Libbey Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised duplication contravenes applicable laws.
Printed and bound in the United States of America..
1 Previous Attractions
2 The Lost Films
3 The Dictator and The Democrat
4 The Missing Links
5 The Preachers
6 Estonia Catches Up With Modern Art
7 Fat Chicks and Imbeciles
8 Nukufilm: Changing of the Guard
9 Music Please
10 Uncorked
11 The Next Wave
12 Will The Strip Snap?
Select Filmography
Pedantic history prose
I t is not only astonishing that a country like Estonia, with a population of only 1.4 million (of which 1 million are native Estonians), has created very unique and challenging animation over the past thirty years, but also that it has been accomplished in a short time frame under often hostile circumstances. Led by the likes of Priit P rn, Mati K tt, Rein Raamat and Elbert Tuganov, Estonian animation can be characterized by its strange combination of the rational and absurd. While the work varies from animator to animator, there is an underlying philosophical, political and ethical nature to the films, which examines how individual identity is affected by shifting ideological structures. In the world of Estonian animation there is no good or bad, no black or white, no single truth. Instead, we find, as Heraclitus once said, combinations, wholes and not wholes, concurring differing, concordant discordant, from all things one and from one all things. Oh and hey, before you run off in fear of DARK EASTERN EUROPEAN ANGST, let me tell you, many of these films and filmmakers are damn funny, not in a Benny Hill manner, but more in a Monty Python-Marcel Duchamp-Hugo Ball vein.
It was recently discovered that Estonian animation dates back to the early 1930s and a film entitled Kutsu Juku seiklused (The Adventures of Juku The Dog, 1931). However, the first Estonian animation studio, Nukufilm, a division of the State s live-action studio Tallinna Kinostuudio, was not created until 1957. Headed by Elbert Tuganov and Heino Pars, Nukufilm s early films, all puppet or cut-out animations, were aimed primarily at children, but as the films grew more satirical and at times poetic, the studio s output eventually became more tailored to an adult audience. In the 1960s, Kalju Kurep ld and Ants Looman made the first drawn animation films for the Soviet Newsreel, Futile (Fuse), followed by commercials for Eesti Reklaamfilm (Estonian Advertisingfilm). Shortly thereafter Ants Kivir hk and Jaak Palmse made animation telefilms for Estonian Television, and Rein Raamat, a classically trained artist who had worked as a designer with Tuganov, teamed up with Russian animator Fedor Chitruk to establish a cel animation division, Joonisfilm, within Tallinnfilm (formerly Tallinna Kinostuudio).
Under the direction of Raamat and Avo Paistik, Joonisfilm produced ambitious, philosophical films, of which many were based on Estonian folklore. During this period a number of artists emerged from Joonisfilm, most notably Priit P rn, a former ecologist. In direct contrast to the very traditional and heavily symbol-prone works of earlier animators, P rn, was influenced by black, absurd humour and the strong caricature tradition in Estonia. P rn s success and influence led to the development of a new generation of artists with backgrounds not in classical arts, but in political cartoons and surrealism: Mati K tt, Janno P ldma, Heiki Ernits, Rao Heidmets, and later, Kalju Kivi, Hardi Volmer and Riho Unt.
While P rn s success as a film director signalled a new era in Estonian animation, it was the convergence of a variety of cultural, political, and geographical factors that made this shift possible. The art scene in Estonia, thanks in part to the Khrushchev thaw , changed dramatically during the late 1950s and well into the 1960s and 1970s. Avant-garde ideas gained wider significance and international art began to filter through to Estonia. Translations of classic Western literature by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Luigi Pirandello, and Bertold Brecht became available in 1957. In music, numerous cultural exchange programs with the West were set up. All of this led to increased contact with Western artists and an influx of new artistic thinking.
This development was also made possible by Estonia s unique geographical position as an intersection of Western and Eastern cultures. Owing to Estonia s close proximity to Finland, access to Western culture (through Finnish television) was more readily available than for other republics in the Soviet Union, while Estonia s distance from Moscow made it virtually impossible to completely contain nationalist tendencies. Therefore, Estonia was able to get away with a lot more than other republics. In fact, by the mid-1980s and Glasnost, Soviet funding remained strong, but censorship had eased up. At the same time, as evidenced by the increasing number of public protests taking place, the desire for autonomy in Estonia was becoming stronger than ever. For Priit P rn, this was one of the richest periods for Estonian animation; he fondly refers to it as the golden age .
Ironically, this golden age ended with Estonian independence in 1991. With freedom went both Moscow and funding. Both animation divisions of Tallinnfilm were closed in 1991 and resumed operations under their respective banners: Nukufilm and Eesti Joonisfilm. These studios, owned by the animators, now relied on smaller state grants from the Estonian government and were forced to negotiate a place in the global marketplace to survive. While this dramatic shift has virtually destroyed independent animation in many former Communist countries, the transition to a capitalist marketplace has been relatively smooth for Estonian animators who continue to make their unique and personal films. Of course, the future remains uncertain. Funding could stop tomorrow, forcing the studios to seek industrial support. Additionally, there are new studios (A Film Estonia, Multifilm) competing for the already small pot of available funding. For now, Estonian animation, like the country itself, moves on, however awkwardly.
This book combines interviews with various Estonian animators, critics, and producers, analysis of a variety of films, and introductions to prominent animators, all placed within the backdrop of their respective historical and cultural frameworks.
While we could argue endlessly about the merits of a specific film or filmmaker, what undeniably calls for examination is the historically important uniqueness of this nation. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, state studios have collapsed everywhere. This has been reflected in the decrease of quality films shown at festival competitions over the last decade. Remarkably, Estonian animation has not only continued to receive state backing, but it has maintained a high level of quality while remaining personal and innovative. Of course, this could all end tomorrow; so all the more reason for us to savour this rigorous and rewarding body of work.
Personal history prose
Ok, now that I ve got all that pedantic prose out of the way, let s be clear about one thing: this book does not pretend to be an objective history of Estonia or Estonian animation. This is my take. I ve tried to cover all the bases, but I obviously have my own tastes and beliefs. My history with Estonia is professional, but also deeply personal. Many of the animators are my friends. There are many fond moments between us. I cannot, in fact, I will not push those feelings aside. To do so would be false. This does not mean that I will digress into memories of drunken evenings or brothel visits. No, it means that many of these words are laced with an intimacy and awareness that the professional historian might not possess. You ve been warned.
Why Estonia? You cannot imagine how many times I ve heard that bewildered, face-scrunching response when I told someone I was writing this book. I guess it s a good question and ideally this book will serve as its answer.
I first encountered Estonian animation at the Stuttgart Animation Festival in 1996. I was seated comfortably in the upper balcony with a newfound Scottish friend and some cans of some so-so German beer. The first film in competition looked interesting. It was a history of cinema. I had just graduated from Film Studies and was, naturally, interested. The screen went bright white and I saw the line The cinema it is a lie come on the screen. An unusual start, I thought. The film continued and before I knew it I was upright for the next thirty minutes, utterly flabbergasted by what I saw before me. The film had this rough, unpolished design style, and a character that looked like a po

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