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Zagreb Film Tribute – by Malcolm Turner

Satemania – Zdenko Gasparovic

Satemania – Zdenko Gasparovic

In the years following WWII, Yugoslavian animation companies of various sizes had been struggling along working in isolation. By the early 1950’s, organizations such as Duga Film, Zora Film and Nastavni Film had reached the end of their respective roads.

Although their output of work was unspectacular creatively, they had provided a first-start for a generation of animators and designers such as Nikola Kostelac, Dusan Vokutic, Vladimir Jutrisa, Aleksander Marks and Boris Kolar.

As the Yugoslavian economy took off these men effectively pooled their resources, combined their talents and the early version of Zagreb Film was born. Around them the world of animation was changing and they were desperate to be a part of that. Mostly they disparaged the ‘drawn reality’ approach of Disney, instead gaining inspiration from German expressionism and the stylistically designed UPA films coming from New York. In 1961 Dusan Vokutic put Zagreb Film on the map when he became the first non American to win the Academy Award for short animation with Ersatz / The Substitute (sometimes also known as Surogat)..

Surogat Ersatz – Dusan Vokutic)

Surogat Ersatz – Dusan Vokutic)

Despite a decade of upheavals, an organisational structure and a creative vision emerged at the fledging studio. Increasingly, Zagreb Film learned to accommodate both the older generation of master animators and the up-and-coming artists that demanded a voice of their own. In responding to this demand, Zagreb Film became one of just a few studios worldwide that would grant each animator full control over the direction, design, drawing and storyline of their film.

A new generation of animators grasped this blank cheque and went on to create a body of work of stunning originality. Zagreb Film has, to date, made more than 600 short films, 14 features, 600 educational films, countless commercials and several internationally acclaimed TV series including ‘Professor Balthazaar’, which has screened in more than 50 countries. Zagreb Film remains by far the dominant force in Croatian animation today. They provide a home for the majority of Croatian working auteur animators and a comprehensive distribution service for most Croatian animation. Their archive, meticulously cared for, must surely contain one of the most fascinating and important collections of creative animation that there is. LIAF showcased some of those precious, sparkling gems in 2009 providing an insight into the golden era of the studio.

Malcolm Turner, 2009

Films screened:

  • Surogat/Ersatz (The Substitute) – Dusan Vokutic, 1961
  • Dnevnik (Diary) – Nedeljko Dragic, 1974
  • Satemania – Zdenko Gasparovic, 1978
  • Riblje Oko (Fish Eye) – Josko Marusic, 1980,
  • Znatizelja (Curiosity) – Borivoj Dovnikovic (Bordo), 1966
  • Koncert Za Masinsku Pusku (Concert For The Sub Machine Gun) – Dusan Vokutic, 1958
  • Mali I Veliki (Little And Big) – Zlatko Grgic, 1966
  • Samac (Alone) – Vatroslav Mimica, 1958