Current Affairs New publication presents early years of Czech animation
The Czech National Film Archive has come out with a new publication entitled Czech Animated Film from 1920 to 1945. The publication follows a six-part series that the archive published last year about Czech feature films. This book, though, looks at a rarely mentioned period in Czech animation. Although most of the famous Czech animated films came after the war, the seeds were planted in the interwar period. The book is also accompanied by a DVD with a rare collection of over 70 films from this period. Radio Prague spoke to Michaela Mertová from the National Film Archive and asked her what is significant about the new publication.
“This publication follows a six-part edition about Czech feature films. The publication is meant to help the reader understand the history of our animation, and how Czech animation got started before the war. Most of the [academic] texts that were written about Czech animation are about films that were made after the Second World War. And we wanted to fill the gap with information about animated films from the preceding period.
“Most of the films [from before the war] were advertisements and were made for distribution only in this country. Some of the films have only one print, and we are very happy that some of them are available today.”
Beside advertisements, what other genres was animation used for in that period?
“There were also a few fairytales. Before the Second World War it was hard for producers to find the money for projects with animation technology. Animation was very expensive and they didn’t have much experience.”
What are some of the most interesting films that viewers can see on the DVD?
“I think that a lot of the early films, the advertisements are very funny and I think that technically they are also very good. Producers cooperated with foreign artists like George Pal, who was very well known after the war. But before the war, he made a few films for Czech distribution and two of them are on our DVD. They are very interesting. For example, the story of a king, which is an advertisement for Sana margarine, is fabulous. Two other films are very famous – Ferda the Ant by Hermína Týrlová and Christmas Dream by Karel Zeman.”
“There are 76 films on the DVD and some of them are very short and very old. We were not able to restore the whole of the films, we just did the restoration of the sound. But we hope that in the future we will have the money to restore some of the films as well. The process of restoration is very long and very complicated and very expensive. We only had one print for some of the films.”
The publication Czech Animated Film 1920- 1945 came out in Czech, but parts of it are translated into English, and the animated films on the DVD have English subtitles.