Thursday, 12 April 2012

Animator Profile : Ladislaw Starewicz

Fig. 1
Ladislaw Starewicz (1882-1965) was a Russian stop-motion animator, who created many animations using insects and animals as the protagonists. Starewicz interests varied and in 1910 he was the Director of the Lithuanian Museum of Natural History in Kovno. It was there where his passion for stop-motion animation grew as he created a number of short live-action documentaries for the museum. His inspiration for one of his first stop-motion came from Émile Cohl’s Les Allumettes Animées (1908). Using stag beetles as puppets he created what was apparently considered the first animated puppet film with a plot, Lucanus Cervus (1910). From then on his films remain consistent with the protagonists being a non-human species and the contradictory narratives.  

Tim Fitz states, "Wladyslaw Starewicz' childhood passion for entomology led his career: he began producing short documentaries in Moscow around 1909-1910, beginning with a documentary about insects in Lithuania. In his spare time, he experimented with stop-action films using beetles, which he articulated by wiring the legs to the thorax with sealing wax! This, of course, led to his big breakthrough, released by the Van Kanjonkov Studio of Moscow: "The Battle of the Stag Beetles", the first puppet-animated film." (Fitz 1996) Fitz states where Starewicz inspiration was evoked from and continues to discuss in detail how Starewicz created one of his most well-known pieces,  Lucanus Cervus (1910). 

Fig. 2
The animations Starewicz creates seem dark and have hidden connotations portrayed throughout. Adrian Danks observes, "Ladislaw Starewicz (Starewitch) is perhaps the key figure in the history of stop-motion puppet animation. Over a period of 50 years, from Russia to France, he maintained a fascination with the strange, almost surreal properties of the form, exploring both its capacity for rendering realistic motion and movement, as well as its more “fantastic” and explicitly cinematic qualities. His films are marked by a concern with the animated nature of the cinematic medium, its ability to bring things and events to life while also retaining a trace of the arrested motion that is its foundation. His films are often joyful but somewhat cruel celebrations of movement, featuring characters that are often but one step or “stop” away from annihilation." (Danks 1933) Danks expresses in some detail of how Starewicz stop-motion animations have contributed in terms of movement and surrealism within the creative industry. The bitter sweet imagery with The Mascot (1934) seems to be the most appropriate suit to Danks description of his work. There is something so likeable, yet uncanny about the puppets - a child's dream turn nightmare. The dark touches and the fascinating qualities maintained throughout is rather impressive, which can be appreciated by many even if the style isn't to the audience's taste.
Fig. 3
Although some of what Starewicz was considered 'bizarre' he eye for motion and his determination to portray his imagination has to be admired. Marknyc argues, "One of the greatest animated shorts ever made. Starewicz is endlessly inventive and his techniques still astound animation fans 70 years later. We may have computer-generated techniques now, but all he had in 1934 was an imagination that wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Whatever he wanted to see on the screen, he created. And he wanted to see some truly bizarre stuff - every imaginable piece of scrap is called up for service: old shoes, chicken bones, utensils, broken glasses, dolls, monkeys, rats....seems like there was nothing that was off limits. A truly eerie, even unsettling film that should be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in animation. This film must be seen to be believed!" (Marknyc 2004) Marknyc explains how even though technology has progressed over the years the art of stop-motion and Starewicz's work in particular is still revolutionary. He then continues to state some of the 'unique' pieces that were captured within the stop-motion animations. There is a strong admiration portrayed for his work and his determination to capture motion is most definitely appreciated, however Starewicz style suits a particular kind of taste.
List of illustrations
Figure 1. Ladislaw Starewicz. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Figure 2. Starewicz, Ladislaw (1934) The Mascot. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)
Figure 3. Starewicz, Ladislaw (1934) The Mascot. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)


Tim Fitz (1996) Ladislaw Starewicz Biography 1882:1965. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

Adrian Danks (1933) Ladislaw Starewicz and The Mascot. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)
Marknyc (2004) Untitled. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

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