Yuri Norstein - Good Night, Children

Michael Sporn posted this on his Splog, and it's a great surprise. This is an animation created by Russian master Yuri Norstein in 1999. These are the opening and closing sequences to a popular children's television show. Norstein spent a year and a half making these two scenes, which are brilliant and entertaining in the way that all of his work is. This is remarkable to watch in the age of computers and software programs. Everything is meticulously created and animated by hand, with the skill of a true artisan.

It goes without saying that this kind of painstaking art will disappear after the passing of Norstein - an event that is, we all pray, many many years in the distant future. These animations are already like museum exhibits, time capsules from the long forgotten past. I think that's what I enjoy about his film shorts so much. They carry the weight of history. The feel like works of art that have aged for centuries.

As always, these two scenes are far too short. One only desires more of Yuri Nortstein's classical art. To my mind, he remains the world's greatest living animator.


Chris said...

You know, I sometimes get into the habit of constantly criticizing average Americans for their limited views on animation, but that fact is it's probably a world-wide phenomenon. Here's a quote from the program director of the Russian TV show:

“Norshteyn is a famous artist, but he does not make good opening/closing sequences. We get calls and letters every day about this sequence from people who tell us that it is terrible, that it is dark, that children do not want to watch our program.”

Oh, well. I found that short two minutes to be amazingly lyrical and touching.

Chris said...

You know, speaking of Yuri Norstein: When I first visited the Ghibli Museum, in the reproduction of an animator's room with the walls covered ceiling to floor with Miyazaki's drawings, I noticed a bunch of crude ink on paper drawings scattered all throughout the room. They were most certainly not the work of Miyazaki or any of his co-workers.

This was a long time ago, and I didn't know as much about animation as I do now. But the second time I went, some years later, I realized that all of these drawings were Yuri Norstein's. They are all very crude and many of them look like no more than elaborate doodles, but there is something in them that sticks to you. You can recognize in a few of them the wolf from "A Tale of Tales". There is also this amazing viewing box in the room that has a few plates from "Hedgehog in the Fog" that are lighted from behind. You have to kneel down awkwardly to see it (it's made for kids to easily look through as is everything in the museum), and Bam! you are suddenly transported into that amazing and foggy little film.

As for the crudeness of the drawings, I've always found this rough quality of Norstein's to be similar to the way Willam Faulker wrote in books such as The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. Faulkner's words seem crudely thrown out on the page. They are rough and give the feeling that they were not edited, just written as they were thought, but man, oh man, what amazing, amazing literature he created. The rough, crude quality is a kind of artless beauty. When I finally saw (no, make that devoured) the works of Yuri Norstein, I felt that same rough, crude beauty like genius unfettered.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's amazing! And it's all cutouts, right? Awesome. Two years...

Hmm... Speaking of hand-made animation, do you have any thoughts about 'Coraline'? :)

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