niffiwan (niffiwan) wrote,

Soviet animation distribution overview from 1979

The following is an article recently posted on the blog of director Michael Sporn, who copied it from the pages of ANIMAFILM #1, 1979 (original author: N. Venzher). I've fixed up some spelling errors and added links to the filmographies of the directors mentioned (I also changed the director spellings to this standard). Also, Michael Sporn recounted an interesting story about Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin's and Rein Ramaat's visit to New York. This entire distribution network broke down shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, and even today, animation distribution in Russia is a poor shadow of what was.

Русская версия статьи тоже существует - надеюсь, Майкл Спорн найдёт время её отсканировать. (также, alek-morse сделал русский перевод)

Animation in the USSR

The Sauna, by Sergey Yutkevich, Anatoliy Karanovich ____
Animated film is a welcome guest everywhere. It fills people with joy and expectations. It is a cathartic and rejuvenating agent. Its magic holds people of all ages spellbound. The Home Committee for the Art of Animation, meeting in a plenary session in Kishinev, has deliberated upon Soviet animated film-making as an international art. Prominent Soviet artists, who have laid down the foundations for domestic animated film production, animators of international repute as well as young newcomers to the art, have thoroughly and seriously discussed the further possibilities for developing animated film.

Gaidar’s little boy and Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, Charles Perrault’s Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, Alexei Tolstoy's Buratino, and Ilya Muromets - the protagonist of the “billins” (fables). Pushkin’s Duke Gwidon and the czar’s daughter-turned-swan by magic, Yershov’s Hunchbacked Pony, or Samuel Marshak’s and Korney Chukovsky’s enchanted animals - are the dearest friends from our childhood days. Animator’s hands and imagination have breathed new life into literary characters, making them available to young audience even before they can write and read. Actually, such encounters are for young viewers their first ineffaceable lesson in beauty, as well as a school of character because the stories deal with friendship, valiance, goodness and justice. This is what the tremendous, inimitable value of animated film consists in. “Animated films cannot be compared to anything else”, said the great Soviet animator F. Hitruk at the Kishinev session.

Two-thirds of the animated film production in the Soviet is addressed to children. But adults value animated films equally highly. Its form makes this branch of art an ideal go-between linking adults and children. It is characterized by a variety of subjects, and a richness of styles, genres and ideas. The animated film industry is now developing in every Soviet republic.

Film, film, film, by Fyodor Hitruk

The production of twenty-two republican film studios was reviewed in Kishinev. The Chairman of the Home Committee for Animation, B. Stepantsev, who holds the title of the Merited Artist of the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic, pointed to the very important fact that young film makers in Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine and Estonia have become widely known for their courageous study of current customs, morals and philosophical problems. This group of artists derives inspiration from native folklore and everyday events. Another notable group is the animators from Moldavia who are busy searching for unconventional forms of artistic expression.

The Kishinev session has shown that the Soviet art of animation is expanding vigorously. (ATEM)

The distribution of short animated films, as other films not quite fitting the established standards of distribution, encounters problems. However, over the past 10 years the Soviet’s movie industry and distribution workers, cooperating closely with civic organizations and animated films popular both with children and adults.

(Left) Farewell, Green Forest, by Mikhail Kamenetskiy
(Right) One White Horse, by Vladimir Danilevich

The Soviet animated film studios annually turn out about 80 short films for children of different ages, not counting the films commissioned by various organizations, and didactic and advertising films. Every year the Soviet distribution network channels to viewers about 60 new animated films made in the USSR and about 20 such films made in socialist countries. On top of this the movie theatres have at their disposal about 500 archival films. Altogether, they avail themselves of a repertory of over 600 animated films, and that number is on a steady rise. Between 600 and 1000 copies of every film are made, some of them being reproduced on 16-mm tape for screening in schools and by traveling movie theatres.

There are various forms of film distribution, the most popular of them being feature-length package programmes. Sometimes such programmes exceed the standard length when a feature film is preceded by several, rather than one, short animated films. All in all, the package programmes are categorized into those addressed to children and those addressed to adults. Children’s programmes are mostly shown in special children’s cinemas (of which there are 300 at present) and during morning film sessions in standard cinemas on Sundays and holidays.

Gilt on Their Foreheads, by Nikolay Serebryakov

Animated films for adults chiefly accompany evening feature length film sessions or are shown in special short-films-only cinemas, of which there are over 200.

There also are four cinemas in Moscow which are exclusively used to show animated films. Their combined capacity is 1.200 seats.

The methods of popularizing animated films are multifarious. For example, there are animated-film lovers’ societies attached to movie theatres attended by both adults and children.

The societies organize film shows to which they invite both domestic and foreign film animators and directors. Soviet audiences have already met with such animated film celebrities as Todor Dinov, Popescu-Gopo, Paul Grimault, Nedelko Dragic, Otto Koky, Stefan Janik and many others. Regular displays of works by the animators from the “Soyuzmultfilm” studio, and of children’s drawings, are held in cinema foyers. Every year animated film theatres have a turnout of 1,500 000 viewers.

The Spear, by Rein Raamat

Soviet film-makers lake an active part in popularizing the animated film art. The most effective means they employ are the folk festivals organized in the individual republics, regions and districts with the help of the USSR Film-makers’ Association and film distributors. The festivals provide a broad forum for presenting the top achievements of Soviet animated film in cities, towns, and villages. The events are widely advertised and covered by the local press, radio and television networks. Special documentaries on the films shown, stories about the film-makers and interviews with the participants are regular items attendant on the festivals. The “Soyuzmultfilm” studio has already organized folk festivals in Western and Eastern Siberia, in the Caucasus and northern regions, the Far East and Central Asia. Artists from the “Kievnautchnyifilm” [sic] (educational film studio), which has an animation branch, take part in the festivals held in Ukraine. Also film-makers from Estonia keep in close touch with audiences. The folk festival in Moldavia marking the 40th anniversary of “Soyuzmultfilm” was a resounding success. Over 120 meetings between animators and audiences took place in the republic’s capital, Kishinev. Undeniably, the folk festivals stir popular interest in animated-film production and enlarge the scope of its influence.

The publishing house of the V/O “Soyuzingormkino” enterprise regularly brings out advertising and informative material on animated films meant for local film distributors and advertising and information centres.

(Left) Where Is Baby Elephant Going, by Ivan Ufimtsev
(right) Wait a Bit, by Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin

Animated films are regular fixtures in central and regional television broadcasts. Every month the television networks in the Ukraine and Georgia sponsor special broadcasts entitled the “Animated Films Panorama” and introduced by the well-known animated film directors, Yevgeniy Sivokon and Vakhtang Bakhtadze.

N. Venzher

Tags: 1970s, bakhtadze, danilevich, history, hitruk, kamenetskiy, karanovich, kievnauchfilm, kotyonochkin, raamat, serebryakov, sivokon, soyuzmultfilm, stepantsev, ufimtsev, yutkevich

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