“The Fox and the Hare” and “The Golden Antelope”, jewels of Russian animation

Forty-three minutes of poetry and adventure, to be taken and not to be left behind. The distributor Malavida is releasing two gems of Russian animation aimed at young audiences, The Fox and the Hare (1973), by Yuri Norstein, born in 1941, and The Golden Antelope (1954), by Lev Atamanov (1905 -nineteen eighty one). These two authors came from the Moscow studios Soyuzmultfilm, created in 1936, which, during the Cold War, rivaled Walt Disney in inventiveness – at the time The Golden Antelope was released, the American studio released Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Youri Norstein, who dreamed of being a painter, distinguished himself in animation by creating fables with enchanting settings: his floral motifs and his superpositions of cut paper create depth and relief, as well as an atmosphere of an infinite sweetness, which can be read even in the eyes of the characters. Here is the Hare: this long-eared, very friendly animal lives in simple happiness in his log cabin, playing the balalaika while the fire illuminates the stove. A few steps away, the Fox struts in a glittering ice palace, taunting the Hare’s cottage on her pretty skates. But when spring comes, his palate melts down to the last drop. Immediately, the Fox takes possession of the Hare’s cabin and throws him out. The Wolf, the Great Bear, the Bull, etc., may each boast of their strength, but none will have the courage to dislodge the intruder.

Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival

The story creates a comedy of repetition and will bring triumph to a small animal, the Rooster, who will thus restore harmony. We admire the red of the feathers, the silky curtain which serves as a screen for the Hare, the graphics of the forest sketched by lines, finally the naive aesthetic of the characters, with articulated bodies, which sometimes end up blending into the tapestry patterns .

“The Golden Antelope” (1954), by Lev Atamanov.

Quite different is The Golden Antelope , with bright colors, fluid movements and marvelous butterflies. Its director, Lev Atamanov, joined the Soyuzmultfilm studios in 1948, producing a series of short and feature films. Frozen (1957), his animated film inspired by Andersen’s tale, earned him international recognition as well as the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival – Hayao Miyasaki regularly cites it as one of his influences major.

The Golden Antelope is made using the rotoscoping technique, which allows images to be transcribed into real shots through drawing – Disney used this, for example for Snow White (1937). This process gives great flexibility to the movements of the characters, as evidenced here by the grace of the antelope and that of the little boy, another hero of the film. This young orphan lives among monkeys, always quick to rain coconuts on the bad guys, like a nod to Mowgli in The Jungle Book (1894), the work by Rudyard Kipling (1894) which Disney adapted in 1967.

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