Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Karel Zeman's Imaginary Worlds

Czech filmmaker and animator Karel Zeman used a variety of techniques: stop motion, puppetry, live action, and miniatures to create imaginative films. 

According to the YouTube description, "This film takes a look behind the scenes of motion pictures made between 1947 and 1980 and shows how some of his special effects were achieved. Examples range from early shorts like "Inspiration", "King Lavra" and those featuring the popular character of Mr. Prokouk, to such features as "An invention for destruction", "Baron Munchausen" and "A jester's tale". In today's world of technology, Zeman's work has a home-made quality, but the designs have a beauty and elegance that has seldom been equaled." 


Pierre Fontaine said...

This hits home. Ever since I was a kid and saw a film called "The Fabulous Worlds of Jules Verne" on TV around the mid-1970s (a dubbed version of "Invention of Destruction), I've been a Karel Zeman fan. I immediately saw a connection between Zeman and Harryhausen's work, crossed with the visual look of Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python.

The short film you've linked to here is a treasure trove of information regarding his techniques, many of which are incredibly low-tech yet remarkably clever (the glass shot of the children walking on a dinosaur is especially inspiring). While he didn't invent many of these techniques, he made them his own while developing his own unique visual style.

Most of his films are available on DVD and Blu-Ray and are a real treat. The pacing is very different from contemporary films from the West, but they are so jammed pack with visual wonders that you get caught up in the visual worlds he created.

I'm also a fan of a fellow Czech who was working around the same time as Zeman. Vojtěch Kubašta's pop-up books are equally unique and inspiring. There are quite a few good YouTube videos showing off some of his work.

Eugene Arenhaus said...

There is a museum in Prague (on Kampa, right below Charles' Bridge) dedicated to Karel Zeman. Quite good for visiting with kids.