Monday, April 18, 2011


Tale Of The Fox
by Wladiyslaw Starewicz

In Six Parts

Władysław Starewicz  

Russian: Владисла́в Алекса́ндрович Старе́вич), was a Polish stop-motion animator who used insects and animals as his protagonists. (His name can also be spelled Starevitch, Starewich and Starewitch, and hee is also referred to by some as Ladislaw Starewicz).  Władysław Starewicz  ((1882 - 1965)) was born in Moscow, Russia of Polish parents: father-Aleksander Starewicz from Surviliškiai near Kėdainiai,, and mother-Antonina Legęcka from Kaunas, both from "neighbourhood nobility", were in hiding after the failed Insurrection of 1863 against Tsarist Russian domination, and had previously lived in Lithuania, which at that time was a part of the Russian 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 his 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, apparently the first animated puppet film with a plot, it  marked the birth of Polish and Russian animation.  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, which premiered in 1912, a fairy tale for beetles, earned international acclaim.  One British reviewer was tricked into thinking the stars were live trained insects. 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 is Starevicz'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.  Wishing to remain independent, Starewicz moved to Fontenay-sous-Bois and started on a series of puppet films that would last for the rest of his life. In these films he was assisted first by his wife France Starewicz and later by his daughter Irina (who had changed her name to Irène). The first of these films was Les Grenouilles qui Demandent un Roi -The Frogs That Demand a King, aka Frogland in the US -1922, probably the closest Starewicz ever came to political commentary in his French films.

Wes Anderson has mentioned in recent interviews that Starewicz's animation - and this film in particular - was one of his primary influences for the animation in Fantastic Mr Fox.
The Fabulous Mr. Fox
Official Trailer
 based on a story by 
Roald Dahl

Wes Anderson

Mrs. Dahl & Mr. Anderson

see the archive of fantastic foxes

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