Wednesday, May 23, 2018

JIŘÍ TRNKA: AN ANIMATOR'S APPRECIATION, by Seamus Walsh & Mark Caballero

We asked the founders of Screen Novelties, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in stop-motion puppet animation, to give us some words about Jiří Trnka" (1912 – 1969) on the eve of the American Cinematheque’s tribute to the Czech animator. "The Puppet Master: The Films of Jiří Trnka" runs at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, May 30 – June 3, 2018.

Trnka working on Bajaja (1950). What a badass!

The films of Jiri Trnka immerse the viewer in the best kind of cinema magic. They appeal directly to your imagination; they are entrancingly tangible, yet dreamlike and diaphanous. Atmosphere and elegant design combine to totally draw you into Trnka’s ethereal miniature world.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959)

All of this delicate, sophisticated beauty sprung from the mind and hands of a man who, it seemed, was still connected to his peasant roots. This shouldn't be surprising, as authenticity produces the best art. The misty, wooded climes of Bohemia would of course be the perfect palette to draw from in Trnka’s prodigious imagination.

The Story of the Bass Cello (1949)

The Archangel Gabriel and Mrs. Goose (1964)
One of the things we admire most about Trnka is his mastery of several mediums. His interest in puppets as a child led him to apprentice with master puppeteer Josef Skupa. His book illustrations as a young adult showed an amazing design sense. Then, he translated those illustrative skills into the making of drawn animation films, and finally merged his love of puppetry and animation to become one of the most revered stop-motion animated filmmakers of all time.

Animating on Cybernetic Grandmother (1962)

Trnka's studio logo. If you see this, you're in for a treat!

Please do your imagination a favor and take time to immerse yourself in Trnka’s beautiful realms. Rarely does animation reach this level of pure artistry. (And also, he looks like he’d murder you. We love that.)


A prolific artist, beloved book illustrator and author before making his first movie, Czech animation master Jiří Trnka (1912-1969) had an enormous impact on the development of animation in his country, and he inspired the careers of an entire generation of filmmakers around the globe. With 18 short and six feature-length animated films, Trnka was rivaled only by Walt Disney Studios in output. Revered as the pioneer of a remarkable new genre of animation that utilized puppets, Trnka conveyed the drama and psychology of his characters through his figures’ body language, expressive lighting, and camera movement.

The touring retrospective "The Puppet Master: The Films of Jiří Trnka" is produced by Comeback Company and originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, curated by Irena Kovarova. The films are provided by the Czech National Film Archive.

The 2018 touring program offers the United States’ first complete retrospective of the Trnka's works. In Los Angeles, there are four nights of highlights from this essential series, including such dazzling shorts as the surreal “Cybernetic Grandma” and anti-totalitarian allegory “The Hand,” and such fantastical features as Bajaja and Trnka’s takes on Hans Christian Andersen (The Emperor's Nightingale) and William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream).

Seamus and Mark work in stop-motion animation due to the influence of animators such as Jiri Trnka. Along with Christopher Finnegan, they formed Screen Novelties in 2003 with the goal of bringing the whimsy and dynamism of classic cartoons into the realm of stop motion animation. We have a studio in Los Angeles full of fabric, feathers, foam, and glitter. Screen Novelties is also home to a talented circle of freelance animators, sculptors, designers, photographers, and digital artists. They’ve worked on everything from SpongeBob Squarepants to Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas special. Past and current clients include Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, Nike, Hallmark, FOX, and Paramount.