13 January 2012

Yuri Norstein’s Animation Top 20 (2003)

The great Russian animator Yuri Norstein (aka Yuriy Norshteyn, b. 1941) is widely admired in Japan by both mainstream and independent animators alike.  His works The Hedgehog in the Fog (1975) and The Tale of Tales (1978) topped the Laputa Top 150 Japanese and World Animation poll done in 2003.  His work is so beloved that even his unfinished adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story The Overcoat entered the list at #92.  Norstein himself participated in the 2003 poll and his picks are listed below. 

But first, a bit of background information:

Yuri Norstein has close ties to the Laputa International Animation Festival.  The festival began in 2000 and semi-annually presents the Yuri Norstein Award (ユーリ・ノルシュテイン大賞) – with, I believe, Norstein himself acting as the head of the jury. The prize was jointly awarded in its inaugural year to Hiroyuki Tsutita for his film Mutate and to Hiroshi Okuda for Prisoner.  Oscar-winner animator Kunio Katō won the Yuri Norstein Award twice:  first in 2001 for The Apple Incident and again in 2004 for The Diary of Tortov RoddleHosokawa Susumu won the award in 2005 for Demons and Yusuke Sakamoto won in 2006 for The Telegraph Pole Mother.  In 2008, the award was given to a non-Japanese for the first time.  Latvian animator Vladimir Leschiov took the prize for Lost In Snow.  It was my understanding that the award would be given out again in 2010, but I have been unable to find any evidence of this happening – though they did show a retrospective of Norstein’s works at the festival that year.  The next festival will have an activist theme as they put out a call for “Fukushima Animation” last autumn.  It is unclear when the 11th festival will take place.

2007 saw the establishment of the Laputa Art Animation School – a “small school” where they teach the art of making animation by hand (puppet, cutout, drawn, etc.).  The school creation is credited to Norstein’s insistence that Japan needed its own school of animation in the vein of the great Eastern European centres for  training animators.  The school even uses Norstein’s iconic hedgehog as their logo.  At Laputa, indisputed masters of the art of animation including Fumiko Magari and Sumiko Hosaka – puppet masters who worked for Tadanari Okamoto and Kihachirō Kawamoto – and the avant-garde legend Yōji Kuri teach students the tricks of the trade. 

There are no surprises in Yuri Norstein’s top 20.  He lists a cross-section of some of the very best in world animation with nods to both early animation pioneers (Ladislaw Starewicz, Alexandre Alexeieff, Claire Parker, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, Norman McLaren, David Hand, Jiří Trnka) and terrific contemporary work (Nick Park, Aleksandr Petrov, Michael Dudok de Wit).  He even gives a nod to his Japanese hosts in recognizing the work of Osamu Tezuka and Kihachirō Kawamoto.  If you were teaching a course on world animation of the 20th century and could only show 20 films – this list would suit nicely.  Though you would be hard-pressed to find a copy of Frantisek Vystrcil’s The Place in the Sun.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012


Night on Bald Mountain / Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve
(禿山の一夜, Alexandre Alexeieff/Claire Parker, 1933)


The Street / La rue
(ストリート, Caroline Leaf, 1976)


(クラック!, Frédéric Back, 1981)


(バンビ, David Hand/Disney, 1942)


Hand / Ruca
(, Jiří Trnka, 1965)


Blinkity Blank
(線と色の即興詩, Norman McLaren, 1955)


Father and Daughter
(ファーザー・アンド・ドーター, Michaël  Dudok de Wit, 2000)


Ali Baba
(アリババ, Giulio Gianini / Emanuele Luzzati, 1970)


The Substitute / Surogat
(代用品, Dušan Vukotić, 1961)


The Cow / Корова
(雌牛, Aleksandr Petrov, 1989)


De Facto/ De fakto
(デファクト, Donyo Donev, 1973)


The Lady and the Cellist / La demoiselle et le violoncelliste
(お嬢さんとチェロ弾き, Jean-François Laguionie, 1965)


 Post / Почта
(郵便, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, 1929)


The Island / Остров
(, Fyodor Khitruk, 1973)


The Place in the Sun / O misto na slunci
(太陽の下の場所, Frantisek Vystrcil, 1959)    


Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
(ウォレスとグルミット〜 ペンギンに気をつけろ!, Nick Park, 1993)


(タンゴ, Zbigniew Rybczyński, 1980)


(ジャンピング, Osamu Tezuka, 1984)


Dōjōji Temple
(道成寺, Kihachirō Kawamoto, 1976)


The Cameraman’s Revenge
(カメラマンの復讐, Ladislaw Starewicz, 1912)

Norstein's complete works is available to order from Japan:
Yuri Norstein Sakuhin shu (collection) / Animation
Russian with Japanese subs