Ken A. Priebe : The art of Stop-Motion Animation, 350 pages, juillet 2006, foreword by Mike Johnson, Thomson Course Technology PTR, a division of Thomson Learning Inc. 25 Thomson Place * Boston, MA 02210 *

Ken A. Priebe wrote (pages19-20) :

   "Ladislas Starewitch, born 1882 in Moscow to Polish-Lithuanian parents, was responsible for changing stop-motion from a technical novelty to a storytelling art form, much like Walt Disney did for 2D cartoon animation. Starewitch grew up with a keen interest in art and entomology, collecting and studying all varieties of insects. While working as a film maker at the Khanzhonkov Studio in Russia , he began making experimental documentaries about live beetles. His early attempts at making the beetles do anything he wanted under hot lights proved to be frustrating, so, inspired by Emile Cohl’s film Bewitched Matchsticks, he rigged some embalmed beetles with wires and animated them. The stop-motion technique applied to real insects had never been seen in Russia , and many audiences thought that the beetles had been trained to “act” by some odd form of science. In one of his most humorous films, Revenge of the Cameraman (1912), Starewitch told a silent tale of adultery between a group of suburban insects. This was one of the earliest known attempts to actually tell a real story exclusively with stop-motion puppets.

   "The success of these insect films led Starewitch to move to more detailed puppets made of metal armatures, wood, felt, and chamois leather. Due to the growth of the Communist regime after World War I, he moved to Paris in 1920 and began producing two to three films a year. His stories were inspired by Eastern European folklore and fairy tales, ranging from gentle children’s stories like Voice of the Nightingale (1923 ; Hugo Riesenfield Prize winner 1925) to bizarre horror/fantasy films like Fern Flower (1950). The level of detail and emotion that Starewitch was able to inject into his characters was outstanding for the time the films were made, especially those with several different puppet characters, such as The Old Lion (1932). This film featured a flying elephant nine years before Disney created Dumbo (1941), and his 1928 film The Magic Clock featured his own daughter escaping the hand of a giant, similar to scenes from King Kong. These scenes are just a few examples of how Starewitch was very much ahead of his time and had an impact on other filmmakers. Many of his films also featured a motion blur technique for certain quick puppet movements, which may have been created by smearing Vaseline on a plate of glass in front of the camera, or by using wires.

   "One of the Starewitch’s most famous and elaborate films was The Mascot, which was released in 1933, the same year as King Kong. Framed by live-action sequences, The Mascot tells the story of a small dog toy that goes on a quest to find an orange for hungry little girl and ends up at a party thrown by the devil and his guest list of grotesque characters. The macabre imagery of The Nightmare Before Christmas and modern tales of toys coming to life (such as Raggedy Ann or Toy Story) could certainly have been influenced by The Mascot and other films by his creative storyteller. Many of Starewitch’s films are lost in the annals of history, but enough of them remain to inspire us today."

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