Eastern European Animation


Czech animators are considered pioneers in film animation. Czech animation began in 1920s. Most early animation was commercial and some children’s animation. , but there were some experimental films such as Myšlenka hledající světlo (Thought looking for light).

The “Golden Era” dates between 1950s and 1980s. The roots of Czech puppet animation began in the mid-1940s when puppet theater operators, Eduard Hofman and Jiří Trnka founded the Poetic animation school, Bratři v triku. Czech animators include Jiří TrnkaKarel ZemanBřetislav Pojar,  or Jiří Barta. Czech animators have employed Cutout animationPuppet animation and Clay animation. Animated films were funded by the State during Communism but were censored and many projects couldn’t be realised as a result.

3D animation is seldom used due to lack of finances and trained 3D animators. This led to downturn in the years after 1989.

Film industry was privatised after 1989 which resulted in lack of finances for animated films and limitation of films produced by Czech animators. On the other hand, there are still successful films made. Jan Švankmajer made films such as Faust. Other successful animators include Aurel KlimtPavel Koutský or Michaela Pavlátová.

Jiří Trnka

Jiří Trnka was a part of Puppet Films Studio. He made 3 full-length and some short animated films in the end of 1940s and was one of the most productive animators in the world. His films in the 1950s such as Prince BayayaOld Czech Legends or A Midsummer Night’s Dream earned him nickname “the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe”. His final film The Hand was declared the 5th best animated picture in history.


Jan Svankmajer
Břetislav Pojar

His debut film One Glass Too Much was successful worldwide.

(1981) A giant statue of the letter “E” arrives in the park. One man sees it as “B”; they are preparing to cart him off to the looney bin when a doctor arrives and determines the man needs glasses. Then the king arrives; he also sees “B”. He tries on the glasses, sees “E”, and pins a medal on the doctor then has his goon squad come and bash on everyone’s head until they too see “B”.

Karel Zeman

Zeman’s films mixed animation with live-action actors. His films drew inspiration from novels Jules Verne.[10] His The Fabulous World of Jules Verne is considered the most successful Czech film ever made


Second animation studio was based in Zlín. Karel Zeman and Hermína Týrlová are considered the main figures of Zlín animators. Týrlová earned fame for her children’s films. Her most famous film is The Revolt of Toys. .


Estonian animation tradition dates back to the 1930s when the first experimental films were made. The only surviving short film from the era is Kutsu-Juku seiklusi (Adventures of Juku the dog) (1931). After the Great DepressionWorld War II, and Soviet Occupation interrupted its development, Estonian animation was reborn in 1958. Elbert Tuganov founded a puppet film division Nukufilm in Tallinnfilm Studio. The first film was titled Peetrikese unenägu based on a Danish writer Jens Sigsgaard’s children story Palle alene i verdenJoonisfilm a traditional cell animation division of Tallinnfilm was founded by Rein Raamat in 1971. Films like Põld (1978), nominee for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979; Lend (1973), the winner of Special Jury Award at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films; the Suur Tõll (1980), 2nd place at Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1982 and Põrgu (Hell) (1983), the winner of FIPRESCI Prize and Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival made Raamat the first internationally recognized Estonian animation director.

Since Estonia regained independence in 1991 Nukufilm and Joonisfilm continued to operate as private companies owned by the filmmakers. During the era internationally most successful Estonian animation director has been Priit Pärn[1] the winner of Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1998 for Porgandite öö (Night of the Carrots). Crocodile by Kaspar Jancis was selected to be the Best European Anima film at Cartoon d’or 2010. The other film of Jancis “Villa Antropoff” was awarded with the Special Mention on Scancroma Festival[

The country’s animation industry got under way in the 1950s, under the aegis of the state film studio. The first directors were amateurs: trained biologists or wannabe architects who learned to animate by improvising in the studio. Steady funding from above gave them the leeway to experiment. On the other hand, scripts had to be approved by Moscow mandarins, who tended to ban films they didn’t like and take credit for those they did. Censorship fostered a flair for coded satire among many Estonian filmmakers. The country’s location on the fringes of the USSR let them get away with more than artists closer to Moscow, while also putting them in touch with western culture through such media as Finnish television.

Tuganov1959. Atmospheric hero and ring fairy tle in puppet animation.

Pars Nails animation political satire scenes of seduction and violent confrontation are acted out by two pliable nails. The risqué subject matter troubled Moscow, but it was the virtuosic manipulation of the props that caught my eye. You wouldn’t guess that the nails are made of rubber. https://www.awn.com/animationworld/keep-it-motion-classic-animation-revisited-nail


Rein Ramaat

Avo paistik


Priit Parn

Commercially and creatively, however, it has been eclipsed by cel animation. This is mostly due to the output of one man: Priit Pärn. Starting out as a caricaturist, Pärn flourished as an animator in the dying days of the USSR, by which time his art was stretching the censorship laws to breaking point. The characters in Triangle (1982) and Breakfast on the Grass (1988) are ugly and poor, and dream of being elsewhere. The films enliven their dreary routines with garish colours and a fiendish comic timing. Social realism this ain’t.

After the USSR crumbled, Pärn turned his sharp sights on everything from capitalism to movies themselves. His masterpiece 1895 (1995) marked the centenary of cinema by skewering it, arguing that it has warped and falsified our historical memory. A grim, absurd humour permeates all his films, saving them from mere political didacticism. The retrospective of his works in Hiroshima was enhanced by the presence of the man himself, who came in a Je Suis Pärn T-shirt and spent the week casually flouting the decorum of our Japanese hosts.

Pärn’s films are hugely charismatic, his crude visuals easy enough to imitate, and almost every major Estonian animator in his wake bears his influence. This was very apparent at the festival, where I watched his shorts and those of his acolytes Ülo Pikkov and Priit Tender in quick succession. In their positions as teachers at Estonia’s sole animation school, Pärn and his wife Olga continue to train the country’s youngest artists – including foreigners who have moved there to learn from them. The Pärn style has gone global, impressing itself on everything from Rugrats to a whole generation of Japanese filmmakers (just watch Nihei Sarina’s Small People with Hats, 2015).

Priit Parn 1984. Surreal Daliesque animation on nonsensical but often funny transformations about absurdities of life.
Ja Teeb Trikke 1978
animation is like poetry. No favourite technique. The story comes first. Then see what style fits. But sometimes you find a technique you like and then the story comes.