Brief History into Jan Svankmajer

Jan Svankmajer was born in 1934 in Prague and was grew up in what was a hostile and repressive environment, due to the political turmoil Czechoslovakia had to endure during 1939 until The Velvet Revolution in 1989. In 1939 Czechoslovakia was invaded by Nazi Germany up until 1944 where Czech soldiers fighting alongside the Russian army liberated Czechoslovakia, after the second world war the restored Czechoslovakia Republic became part of the Soviet power and experienced a limited period of democracy but eventually ended in 1948 by a Communist takeover and Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state, where industry was nationalized and political and human rights were suppressed.

Svankmajer was introduced to puppetry when he was given a puppet theatre in his early childhood years, and first discovered surrealism whilst studying at the college of Applied Arts in Prague in 1950, where he was introduced to Karel Teige’s work, who was a member of the Czech Surrealist Group. Svankmajer later went onto to study the art of puppetry and became strongly influenced by Soviet avant-garde theatre and film.

Svankmajer later became involved in the Theatre of Masks and the black theatre, and moved onto the Laterna Magika Theatre in Prague where he got his first taste of film and his experiences from the Theatre later influenced his first film in 1964, The Last trick. Throughout his career Svankmajer has directed a total of 26 short films and 5 feature length films.


Is Animation essentially an entertainment, or can it make more serious, perhaps political points.

For my question I Intend to research various methods of animation, that are directed at a serious and political issues within Western Capitalism and the Soviet Union Communism. Through my research I aim to inform my understanding of the issues plagued by these two factions, by reviewing each animated film. My intention is to produce a body of work that illustrates that animation is just not an entertainment for children, but can be used as a tool for a more serious and often dark underlining issues.

I will attempt to show animation has a more serious side, rather than just an entertainment value, by studying Russian propaganda animation.

I will also intend to draw comparisons between Western Capitalist and Communism animations.

Soviet Union Communism animations tend to concentrate more about the messages it is trying to portrait rather than a creative input.

Windsor McCay

Windsor McCay born in 1867, an American Cartoonist and Animator better known for Little Nemo, a series of weekly comic strips and Gertie the Dinosaur which was the first animated charater with a storyline, McCay also gave Gertie personality and emotions.

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) by Windsor McCay

J. Stuart Blackton

J. Stuart Blackton Producer and Animator, born in England before emigrating to the US at the age of 10, worked as a Cartoonist for the New York Times, and was one of the first Animators to use the technique of Stop-Motion “Blacton’s 1906 film Humorous phases of funny faces is often cited as the first animated cartoon” Beck, J (Nov 2004) Animation Art. Collins Design.

Blackton’s Humorous phases of funny faces, used the technique of Stop-Motion and features an artist hand drawing faces of a man and a women using chalk on a blackboard, and shows the two faces interacting with each other before the man blows smoke from his cigar into the woman’s face. I feel at the time this must have been a milestone in the terms Animation, showing chalk drawings coming to life through the illusion of stop-motion. We must remember this was something totally new and would have been very exciting at the time.

Eadweard Muybridge Photographer 1830 – 1904

Eedweard Muybridge born in 1830 was an English Photographer, who was better known for his pioneering work on animal locomotion which was created using multiple camera’s to capture motion. Muybridge was much an artist for Scientists, and set out to investigate a popular debated question at the time; if a horses hooves are off the ground at the same time during a gallop? in which he triggered camera shots as the horse galloped, see image below. What Muybridge had discovered and successfully photographed a horse in fast motion.

Bouncing Ball

Yay created my first Animated Bouncing Ball using Maya, just as well Steve downloaded the tutorial as it helped me jog my memory from last Tuesday, I tried to texture the image ground, wanted a wooden floor effect but looked unrealistic so I just submitted a simpler version. Overall quite happy plus I feel I am getting to grips with the Graph editor and Dope sheet.