Dear Russian Steampunk Opera People,
I love you. We at the Steampunk Opera love you. You deserve a post that rubs up against your leg and purrs.
The last night of performance a woman named Natasha showed up with gifts from several people who live in Russia and apparently really enjoy the steampunk opera. There was a gingerbread man, whole bunch of chocolate, a DVD of a Russian rock opera, notes of kindness and pictures.
I know at least one of these people is a fan of animation. Well, in Pittsburgh where i grew up there was this little, tiny local channel that every winter would play all these Russian cartoons. I didn’t know they were Russian until years later. These cartoons made a huge impact on me as a kid.They had a feel that the cartoons i was normally surrounded with didn’t have.
My guess is since the TV station was a tiny little local one, much of its programming was up to whoever worked there. It was this same station where a little later i was to discover Monty Python and Blake’s 7. I bet a Russian immigrant worked there and put all these on. I’ve since learned that most of these are classics of old Soviet animation (and by “since: i mean today when i was tracking them down) and perhaps favorites of his childhood.
I’ve tracked down a few of them i can remember and presented them here. How does this possibly thank these kind people? it doesn’t, but it suggests that we all sit here together on a winter’s night, watch some old cartoons and drink some kind of warm, spiced wine.
1. The Snow Queen
The best thing to do in a list post like this is to play shorts. And i have shorts. Full length movies are a bad idea because no one is going to actually sit through them. However, The Snow Queen was a major, MAJOR influence on me as a child. SO major, when i grew up i made a song/story cycle in homage to it. So i HAVE to post it and it has to come first. This cartoon was a big deal for me. (also note the utter ripping off of Jiminy Cricket)
2. Tales of the Fisherman And The Fish
I mean come on, just LOOK at this thing. It was made in the 1950s and yet 60 years later it STILL look utterly amazing. As it turns out, animation studios of the stalin era were pressured to use a rotoscoping method of animation (tracing over live footage). This caused a dwindle in creatively with different styles, but an absolute mastery of the technique which i think this film shows.
3. Story Of One Crime
So after Stalin’s death, Krushchev came in with a new broom and changes in the many of the arts began to sweep across Russian culture. Thus it came to pass that Russian animators began to start experimenting with new styles, which resulted in this classic.
4. Zhil-byl pyos (There Once Was a Dog)
It’s really sweet. A dog and wolf help each other out. Apparently it’s based on a Ukranian folk tale. An interesting aspect for me is the singing that happens towards the end, a style that living in Serbia, i hear a lot but which then was just weird.
5. If i was doing this for history i would have included Hedgehog In The Fog, but since i’m doing this for persoanl reasons, i’m including another full length movie from the era of classic Russian animation. The Humpbacked Horse or Конек-горбунок.
It’s GORGEOUS, i remember it fondly from that TV station playing it every December, it’s my wife’s favorite cartoon EVER (she grew up in Yugoslavia where it was a staple) and my 4 year old is begging me to watch it. So we end with it.
SO there you go my Russian friends, love from me to all of you.