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Cartoon Friday Watercooler


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

A praying mantis statue in a Santa hat

Ho Ho Chirp Chitter! Merry Bugmas!

Yesterday, MyFDL’s mafr asked:

have you seen the ones from starewic who used real insects for stop animation?

insect’s christmas 1913

Wow! I had not, thank you. The YouTube description offers some great background on this weird stop-motion animation:

This fascinating stop motion animated film was produced in 1913. The quality of film I had to work with was pretty rough. I removed the poor textual elements. It’s a silent film, but I replaced the cutaway text with overlaying text. However, I kept the same dialogue as it’s original lower quality version. I enhanced the image and it became a wonderful dreamlike state. I typically leave silent films silent, but, I created a layered audio effect and remixed elements from the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack. … Produced by the Khanzhonkov Company in 1913 … ‘Froeliche Weinachten’ appears in the animation near the end, however, they should have spelled it ‘Froehliche Weihnachten,’ which is German for ‘Merry Christmas.’

Vladislav Starevich (1882 – 1965), born W?adys?aw Starewicz (?????????? ?????????????? ?????????), was a Polish stop-motion animator who used insects and animals as his protagonists. (His name can also be spelled Starevitch, Starewich and Starewitch.) He is also referred to by some as Ladislaw Starewicz.

W?adys?aw Starewicz was born from Polish parents (father Aleksander Starewicz from Surviliškiai near K?dainiai and mother Antonina Leg?cka from Kaunas, both from ‘neighbourhood nobility,” in hiding after the failed Insurrection of 1863 against the Tsarist domination), and had lived in Lithuania which at that time was a part of the Empire. The boy was raised by his grandmother in Kaunas, then a capital of Kovno Governorate. He attended Gymnasium in Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia).

Starewicz had interests in a number of different areas; by 1910 he was director of a museum of natural history in Kaunas. There he made four short live-action documentaries for the museum. For the fifth film, Starewicz wished to record the battle of two stag beetles, but was stymied by the fact that the nocturnal creatures inevitably went to sleep whenever the stage lighting was turned on. Inspired by a viewing of Les allumettes animées [Animated Matches] (1908) by Emile Cohl, Starewicz decided to re-create the fight through stop-motion animation: he removed the legs and mandibles from two beetle carcasses, then re-attached them with wax, creating articulated puppets. The result was the short film Lucanus Cervus (1910).

In 1911, Starewicz moved to Moscow and began work with the film company of Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. There he made two dozen films, most of them puppet animations using dead animals. Of these, The Beautiful Leukanida (premiere – 1912), a fairy tale for beetles, earned international acclaim (one British reviewer was tricked into thinking the stars were live trained insects), while The Grasshopper and the Ant (1911) got Starewicz decorated by the czar. But the best-known film of this period, perhaps of his entire career, was Mest’ kinematograficheskogo operatora (Revenge of the Kinematograph Cameraman, aka The Cameraman’s Revenge) (1912), a cynical work about infidelity and jealousy among the insects. Some of the films made for Khanzhonkov feature live-action/animation interaction. In some cases, the live action consisted of footage of Starewicz’s daughter Irina. Particularly worthy of note is Starevich’s 41-minute 1913 film The Night Before Christmas, an adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol story of the same name. The 1913 film Terrible Vengeance won the Gold Medal at an international festival in Milan in 1914, being just one of five films which won awards among 1005 contestants.

More: simple Starewicz homepage by his granddaughter Beatrice Martin Starewitch.

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Photo by Patrick Fitzgerald released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and