Children's film series

Ladislaw Starewicz's (1882-1965) films, an unavoidable reference for stop-motion technology, are notable for their unique staging, usually done with sophisticated animals straddling the zoo and surrealist fantasy. An entomologist by training, and a self-taught filmmaker, Starewicz filmed over one hundred movies in Russia and France, starting at the beginning of the 20th century, and continuing until his death in 1965. After studying Khanzhonkov and directing films with actors, he realized that animation was an ideal means of developing his overactive imagination, his technical ability, and his adeptness as a puppeteer. One hundred years later, thanks to the contemporary nature of his films, and how they are told, his puppets are still completely relevant.

Starewicz started using the stop-motion technique in order to document and reproduce his Beetle-Deer, which was impossible to render live at that time. So, with Lucanus Cervus (1910), he accidentally becomes a pioneer in animated puppetry. Though Emile Cohl, Mélièsm, and Segundo de Chomón had used this technique before, Starewicz got the most out of his surprising and imaginative stories. Starting with Lucanus Cervus, which has since been lost, Starewicz disappears into the world of fables and fiction interpreted by amazing creatures of his own design. His characters, some of which are made based on the skeleton of a bird and anthropomorphic animals covered in real skins, appear to come from a very strange magical closet. His technique and artistic quality have been eulogized by directors such as Terry Gilliam, Nick Park, and John Lasseter, and have notably influenced the work of directors such as Tim Burton, the Quay brothers, Joel Meter-Witkin, and Kyle Cooper.
Though Starewicz was famous in his day—he was compared to Walt Disney in the 1930s—, following his death, his films were slowly forgotten. It was not until the early 1990s, at special festivals such as those in Annecy and Ottowa, that historians such as Giannalberto Bendazzi and Jane Pilling rescued them. In 2002 all of his French films (animated) were restored. The films from his Russian period (previous to 1920, when he moved to France) have not been so lucky.

The following schedule brings together some of the director's most recognized films, along with those recently restored, never before seen in Spain. Starewicz's vivid imagination, as well as his passion for stories kept him in tune with children viewers.

"The fable has always existed. Created by the people, children's love has kept it alive (…) For me, the child's opinion and preferences are precious because they are sincere and authentic" (Ladislaw Starewicz: Le Conte, le Jouet et le Cinéma, 1930)

Programmed by Carolina López Caballero

Special thanks to:
Béatrice Martin-Starewicz
Master Joan Pineda


Every other Saturday at 5:30 pm.

Saturday, January 19

In these early films of this entomologist cum filmmaker, insects are the stars. He mixes observation of nature with a prodigal imagination. Beetles, butterflies, spiders and other bugs imitate human behavior with humor, and move with a precision that is still, today, admired by the best animators.
The first two scheduled films were part of his Russian period, during which he also directed films with actors, such as The Night Before Christmas (1912). The ensuing French period was completely centered on animation.

Rozhyestvo Obitateli Lyesa* (The Insects' Christmas), 1911, 6 min
Miets Kinooperatora* (The Cameraman's Revenge), 1911, 10 min
La reine des papillons (The Queen of the Butterflies), 1927, 20 min
Dans les griffes de l'araignée (In the Claws of the Spider), 1920, 25 min

Silent films accompanied by piano
Total running length: 61 minutes

Saturday, February 2

His interest in animals and criticism of human behavior lead Starewicz to be interested in fables and stories with a moral. In debt of Krilov, the modern-day Aesop (nickname bestowed on him by Marie Seton in 1936) he made a version of The Fountain, but also created his own stories. The originality of some of them, as is the case of Fern Flowers, remind us of contemporary directors such as Tim Burton and the Quay brothers.

Fleur de Fougere (Fern Flowers) 1949, 25 min, sound
Les grenouilles qui demandent un roi (Frogland) 1922, 9 min, silent
La cigale et la fourmi (The Ant and the Grasshopper) 1927, (remake of the 1911 Russian version), 13 min, silent
La voix du rossignol (The Voice of the Nightingale), 1923, 13 min, silent

Silent films accompanied by piano
Total running length: 66 minutes

Saturday, February 16

The first part is dedicated to Starewicz's own original stories. The Mascot, in which the protagonist is a plush dog, now seen as a precursor to Toy Story, is one of the director's most important films. The charismatic character appears in half a dozen short films, among which you will find The Ringmaster. In his final films, Starewicz caters even more to children, such as in Nez au Vent where a teddy bear and his friends go to school. In the second part, Starewicz shows his narrative power in a peculiar interpretation of Andersen's toy soldier.

First part
Fetiche mascotte (The Mascot), 1933, 20 min
Nez au vent (Nose to the Wind), 1956, 12 min
Le mariage de Babylas (Babylas's Marriage), 1921, 13 min
Fétiche prestidigitateur (The Ringmaster), 1934, 11 min

Second part
La petite parade (The Little Parade), 1928, 20 min
Session performed by live actors

Dubbed by actors
Total running time: 78 minutes

Saturday, March 1

The Tale of the Fox is the only feature-length film animated by the author. He worked on it with his daughter Irene, who gets credit for the original idea. It is a fable about a smart fox and his avatars in an animal world in which they all dress and think like humans. Impressive are the quality and complexity of his work, as well as the quantity and variety of puppets, and the technological resources and the narrative devices employed. Starewicz's films are homemade and a family affair, particularly since his eldest daughter Irene and the youngest Jeanne (Nina Star) were present both in front of and behind the camera. His wife Anna Zimmerman created and sewed all of the puppet's clothes, and today his granddaughter Béatrice has taken the dynastic reins. She conserves, restores and distributes the animated master's films and puppets.

Comme naît et s'anime une cinémarionnette (How a Puppet is Born.Document that shows Ladislaw and Irene Starewicz working in their studio) 3 min
Le roman de Renard (The Tale of the Fox), 1941, 65 min
Directed by Ladislaw and Irène Starewicz

Dubbed by actors
Total running time: 68 minutes

All films projected from 35mm film, except those of the Russian period (*)
Live piano music (sessions 1 and 2), and dialogues and subtitles dubbed live by actors (sessions 3 and 4).

[Program subject to last-minute changes]

MACBA Public Programs
Tel. (+34) 93 481 46 81
programespublics [at] macba [dot] cat