Russian Fairytales: The Animation Edition

Friday’s festive screening of ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ went with a real swing – thank you to everybody who came along.

…but there’s no time to waste, it’s focus forward to our next event: Sing Russian! Earlier this summer Opera Coast approached us to create some animated projections to accompany two concerts of arias and pieces from Russian operas – one concert in Brighton and one in London. We have been beavering away ever since, creating pen and ink drawings of backdrops to create a projected ‘stage set’ for each piece in the performance. We hope you can join us at one of the concerts. Details follow at the end of this blog.

Photographs and clips will be available after the first performance, but in the meantime you might be interested to see some of the fabulous Russian fairytale animations we have come across during our research.

The Snowmaiden (2006)


Fairytales should be, in my humble opinion, 1 part magic, 1 part romance and 2 parts horror! This rather delightful 30 minute stop motion animation adheres to that formula – just check out the wood goblin… *shudders*

Rusalochka (The Little Mermaid) (1968)


An intriguingly stylised combination of hand painted cel animation and cut outs, ‘Rusalochka’ sticks somewhat more faithfully to Hans Christian Anderson’s original tale than the 1989 Disney version. Bold, experimental and beautiful to behold, this is definitely worth a watch.

The Ball of Yarn (1968)


Something about the uncanny nature of stop motion animation gives many stop motion short films a strange atmosphere, but the story of this short also adds in to that strangeness – it is about a ball of yarn, and a knitting hobby which quickly escalates and becomes something altogether more sinister.

Nalim Malinych (2015)


This imaginative mixture of styles and techniques tells a delightful tale inspired by the works of Stepan Pissakhov, famous painter, writer and storyteller in the tradition of North Russia.

Hedgehog in The Fog (1975)


This charming short film is probably the first Russian animation I ever saw. Master animator and storyteller Yuriy Norshteyn weaves a tale that is so enchanting it completely transports you. If you only settle down to watch one film from this list: get yourself and cup of tea, relax and enjoy this atmospheric little tale.

Hopefully that little taster has whet your appetite for some Russian fairy tales and folklore. If so, be sure to come along to ‘The Old Tales of Kitezh Grad’ – to book tickets, at Unitarian Church, Brighton: Saturday 10 December, 7.30pm, click here or Pushkin House, London: Friday 16 December, 7.30pm, click here.

Full details of the project are on our website

Alternative fairy tales

We’re really excited about our screening of Jean Cocteau’s gothic masterpiece, ‘La Belle et La Bete’ this evening (Saturday 25 October) at St Michael’s Hall, Brighton. Full details follow at the end of this blog – there are very limited tickets available for this screening, so get in quick!!

In honour of this, we’ve concocted a list of five rather alternative fairy tale films! So here goes…

5. Little Otik, 2000

This film is certainly not for everyone (particularly not for anybody planning to have children in the near future!), but Czech auteur Jan Svankmajer created a dark masterpiece which is in turns brutal, tragic and absurdly funny. It is based on the story Otesanek by Czech writer, poet and historian K.J. Erben, about a childless couple who bring a baby-shaped tree stump to life with horrifying consequences.

4. Tideland, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s dream-like Tideland plays out like a quirky, morbid update of Alice in Wonderland. Based on a book by Mitch Cullen, the story centres around Jeliza-Rose a girl who is left abandoned when her rockstar father dies of an overdose. She descends into a world of her own imagination, accompanied by her dolls (which are really just the heads of a selection of Barbie dolls) and her neighbours, Dickens, a mentally handicapped young man, and his rather eccentric sister, Dell.

3. The Singing Ringing Tree (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen), 1957

Here’s a nice piece of retro-kitch for you! This colourful German children’s film was originally serialised in the UK on the BBC in the mid-60s. It really is the archetypical fairy story, but with the madness turned up several notches. It follows the fate of a beautiful but haughty princess, who says she will only marry a prince if he brings her the fabled ‘singing ringing tree’ – along the way, the prince comes a cropper to an evil dwarf, who turns him into a bear!

2. Kirikou and the Sorceress, 1998

French animator/ director Michel Ocelot’s enchanting ‘Kirikou’ films are a refreshing antidote to  the rather heartless manufactured films that seem to be churned out one after another for children these days. Based on elements of folk tales from West Africa, it entries on an extraordinary newborn boy called Kirikou who saves his village front he evil clutches of Karaba the Sorceress. Although an enormous success in France, his work has not had as much exposure here in the UK – partly because of TV networks being reluctant to show a ‘family’ film which features realistic nudity. It’s a shame, because the film is delightfully upbeat, colourful and unpatronising.

1. Kwaidan, 1964

To end on something both relevant for our fairy tales theme, and also Hallowe’en, coming up at the end of next week. The title of this translates as ‘ghost stories’, and is a series of four short films based on the Japanese folk tales collected together by Lafcadio Hearn. Directed by Mitsaki Kobayashi, the films have many fairy tale elements, for example, the etherial appearance of Yuki-Onna (a ghostly apparition who resides in snowy landscapes). This hauntingly beautiful compendium of folk tales is definitely one to watch if you haven’t already!

Hopefully you are now feeling inspired for some fantastical cinema, so why not join us for our special screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete tonight (25 October) at St Michael’s Hall, Brighton? There are limited tickets left, so it is advisable to book in advance  by emailing info@lja.uk.com – tickets are £5 in advance, and a limited number will be on the door for £6. Doors open at 7pm, for a 7.30pm film. We hope to see you there!

Shadows and fairytales after dark!

Firstly, we were really delighted to see so many people at our screening of ‘A Very Long Engagement‘ (Un Long Dimanche de Fiancialles) at Eastbourne Redoubt in April. Thank you to all of you who came along and enjoyed a really lively event with us!

We are very excited to be revisiting Eastbourne Redoubt this coming Saturday evening (12th May), to contribute to their upcoming After Dark at The Redoubt event.

Filmspot will be screening a selection of charming short silhouette fairytales by pioneering animator, Lotte Reiniger – and there will be the chance to try your hand at shadow puppetry with the Filmspot team.

Films on view will be ‘The Magic Horse’, The Ant and the Grasshopper and ‘Cinderella’ [all 1954] – wonderful fantastical stories, just right for bedtime! As well as the Filmspot activities, there will be atmospheric torchlight tours of the museum and free astronomy on the gun platform. It promises to be an evening to remember!

We will be at Eastbourne Redoubt from 7pm until late, this Saturday 12th May. For full details, please see Eastbourne Redoubt’s website: http://www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk/ 

So, in keeping with the theme of bedtime stories, we thought we’d come up with a few other suggestions for fairytale films!

1. The Singing Ringing Tree [Das singende, klingende Bäumchen] (1957)

This German feature-length film for children was originally shown in the UK when it was serialised by the BBC in the 19560s. It has a real cult following, and it’s easy to see why. It features many of the elements that gained some of the fantasy films of the 80s, such as Labyrinth or  Legend, their cults: colourful characters, surreal scenarios and wonderous fantasy landscapes.

2. La Belle et La Bete (1946)

Jean Cocteau‘s fantastical rendering of this classic fairytale is one of his finest films. Although in places the film does look a little creaky because of its age, if you can suspend your disbelief, it does conjure up a childish sense of wonder in the viewer. The haunting soundtrack and beautifully surreal visual tricks create a fantasy atmosphere.

3. Snow White (1937)

The first feature cel animation, ‘Snow White’ was not only a milestone in animation, it was the inspiration behind thousands of other beloved childhood films, such as ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It went on to be an unprecedented success, much to the surprise of a skeptical film industry, with many Hollywood insiders labelling the project ‘Disney’s Folly’ while it was in development.

4. The Princess Bride (1987)

In our opinion, this is the funniest combination of comedy and fairy tale committed to film. You can forget your oh-so-‘witty’ Matrix-style princesses and faux-Scots ogres – this screen adaptation of William Goldman’s book is, quite rightly, a cult classic. It contains sword fighting! giants! a very short Sicilian! rodents of unusual size! heroes being brought back from the dead! priests with speech impediments! Peter Falk! …and that’s just for starters.

5. Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

A musical? With Danny Kaye? As Hans Christian Andersen? Well, that had to make it onto the list! This delightful film reminds us of sleepy bank holidays, as only a big Hollywood musical can. All the well known HCA fairytales are here, in sung form. The ‘Ugly Duckling’ is a particularly catchy little ditty.

We look forward to seeing you this Saturday!

Filmspot and Redoubt Fortress – a great start to 2012 season

To kick off our 2012 season, we have two special events coming up at the Eastbourne Redoubt

Saturday 21st April, 8pm

A Very Long Engagement‘ (Un Long Dimanche de Fiancialles) [Cert 15] (2004)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s (director of Amelie) quirky romantic film tells the story of Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), and her search for her fiance, who is believed by most to have been killed on the Somme. Tickets: £5 (£4 concessions), from the Eastbourne Redoubt: 01323 410 300

Saturday 11th May, drop-in screenings 7-10pm

 Lotte Reiniger Fairy Tales [Cert U]
Filmspot will be screening three  silhouette-animated fairy tales by pioneering film-maker, Lotte Reiniger as part of Redoubt’s ‘Museum at Night’ event – plus there will be the chance to try your hand at shadow puppetry.  Details will follow shortly.

The Eastbourne Redoubt formed part of a chain of fortifications built to deter Napoleon’s forces in the early 1800s. Garrisoned by troops until the early 1900s, and again during WWII, it is now an atmospheric museum housing three military collections.

See www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk for full details.

We hope to see you all there!