Władysław StarewiczOccupation / Title:
08/08/1882Date of death:
Moscow, Russian Empire
Władysław Starewicz was a Russian/French stop motion animator who created the first puppet-animated film, The Beautiful Lukinda (1912). His films are characterized by the use of insects and animals in his films, intricately animated within fairytale-like narratives. He was one of the few European animators known in the US before 1960. His animations use a wide array of advanced techniques, including motion-blur, replacement animation, multiple frame exposure, and reverse shooting.
Family and early life
Władysław Starewicz was born in Moscow, yet soon moved to Kaunas in Lithuania where he was raised by his grandmother. As a young man he was extremely interested in art and entomology. By 1910 he was the Director of the Natural History Museum in Kaunas, and making short documentaries for the museum. For the next film of this series he had wanted to show stag beetles fighting, but found that working with the nocturnal insects. Starewicz therefore created a stop-motion animation instead, called Lucanus Cervus.
The next year, Starewicz moved to Moscow and began working for Aleksandr Khanzhonkov’s film company, which also produced the first Russian feature film, Defence of Sevastopol (1911). Starewicz here began to make several stop motion animated films, including the feature film The Beautiful Lukinda (1912), which garnered international acclaim. His films during this time were extremely successful: his Grasshopper and the Ant (1911) was shown abroad and caused him to be decorated by Czar Nicholas II. Perhaps his best-known work, of this period and indeed across his entire career, is The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912), about an angry husband who exacts revenge on his adulterous wife by filming and publicly showing his wife and her lover (this film was also made using beetle “actors”).
While Starewicz was relatively unaffected by WWI in terms of being able to continue working in film (he worked for several film companies during the war), the 1919 Russian Revolution forced his family to flee to Paris.
In France, he continued to make several puppet films, almost always with the help of his wife Anna Zimmerman, daughter Irina and son Jeane. The subject matter of this set of films produced in France varied dramatically, from an intricately designed Chinese tale to a parody of American physical comedy. In 1933, Starewicz and Irina began work on a film which was to end up as a series of uncompleted animated shorts. The original, which was completed and released in 1934, featured a character called “The Mascot,” who was to be the recurring figure of all the subsequent shorts. A few years later he produced the animated feature The Tale of the Fox, first released in Berlin in 1937. It was only the third animated feature ever to have sound, and has remained an animated classic.
WWII did, this time, halt Starewicz’s production of films. After the war he resumed however, and produced his first colour film with Alkam Films, Fern Flower (1949). Fern Flower went on to win the first prize for animated film at the 1950 International Children Film Festival in Venice Biennale. The then began working with Sonika Bo to try to adapt her story “Gazouilly petit oiseau”, followed by “Un dimanche de Gazouillis” (Gazouillis’s Sunday picnic).
His last two films were based on a bear and rabbit character, telling their stories as friends in the animations Nose to the Wind (1956) and Winter Carousel (1958).
While working on Comme chien et chat (Like Dog and Cat) Władysław Starewicz died, on February 26 1965.
Ford, Charles and Robert Hammond, R. Polish Film: A Twentieth Century History. McFarland: 2005.
Schneider, Eric. ‘Entomology and Animation: A Portrait of An Early Master Ladislaw Starewicz.’ Animation World Magazine 5: 2 (2000).