History of Animated Film in Slovenia

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50s – 60s

Miki Muster (*1925) is considered to mark the beginning of Slovene animation film: In that year, after returning from Prague where he had studied puppet animation under Jiři Trnka, Saša Dobrila completed his first animation film using puppetry called Sedem na en mah (Seven at Once), adapted from a children’s story by the Brothers Grimm. Thereafter for almost 10 years Slovene animated production was entirely based on puppet animation. Since there was no production infrastructure, authors were constantly having to invent new technological solutions. Then in the 1960s a new name appeared on the animation film scene - comic artist Miki Muster, who mixed the Disney and Walt Kelly style with local folkloristic storytelling elements. After experimenting with the creation of animation cells he made three short animated films in the early 1960s. Later he focused only on animated commercials before leaving for Germany, where he was chosen by the Argentinian illustrator and animator Guillermo Mordillo to animate his distinctive characters.

While Muster adopted a very classical approach, his successor Črt Škodlar's work was based on the use of experimental techniques. His film Sintetična komika (The Synthetic Comique, 1967) deals with abstractly-painted forms in an acoustic and pictorial movement, trying to attain synchronisation of their components. Around this time artists from Zagreb (Vukotić, Grgić, Ranitović) and Poland (Gierz, Kijowicz) came to Ljubljana to work with Slovene artists on short animation films. At least one Slovene animator, Marjan Manček, went to Zagreb to develop his practice, learning from his more experienced Croatian colleagues.

70s – 80s

The 1970s brought to the fore a new generation of amateur film makers whose fresh ideas and approaches dispensed with traditional styles of 2D animation. Koni Steinbacher was one of its most original members and he soon began working professionally on short animations. Steinbacher is still very active today, both as a creator and as an event and workshop organiser.

At the start of the 1980s Bojan Jurc entered the scene with a series of humorous cartoons based on proverbs. However, the most successful Slovene export animation project of this period was the animated children's series Medved Bojan (Bojan the Bear), which was launched in 1985 by Zagreb-based Branko Ranitović and continued until 1996 with Dušan Povh providing the stories.

At the end of the 1980s visual artists and illustrators Zvonko Čoh and Milan Erič began collaborating, and in 1998, after almost 10 years of chaotic work, they finished the first Slovene feature animation film Socializacija bika? (The Socialisation of the Bull?). Erič has not continued his animation work due to his appointment as a professor of drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Čoh, who started his career in animation with Poljubi mehka me radirka (Kiss Me Gentle Rubber), which won an award for the best first short animated film in the 1984 Zagreb Animafest, now continues to illustrate children’s literature.

In 1988 Slovene animation received its biggest international award to date. Zdravko Barišič, the author of the film Oblast (Authority), was awarded the Golden Bear for Best Short at the Berlin International Film Festival. Barišič’s narrative is full of symbolism and he has now established himself as a master animation theorist.

Marjan Manček's animation

Marjan Manček is one of the best-known Slovene book illustrators and children’s cartoonists, and his love for animation film has proved so contagious that even his wife and son, Mito Manček, work with him on short animations. Mito, himself just a teenager, has already started to take his own artistic path. Marjan Manček is a self-taught animator with a brilliant sense of humour. Marjan Manček's original animated series Hribci (The Hillybillies) was created in 1993. He started his short animations for adults under socialism, when his grotesque and ironic content was concealed enough not to be censored. Today he continues with his critical approach in a more open but still comedic way.

Infrastructure and festivals

Infrastructure for animated film remains underdeveloped: almost all animation artists work from their homes, and only Barišič has his own studio and production company, called ARF - Atelier for Animation Ljubljana. Slovenia is still without a school or department where students can study animation filming. However, in recent years there has been developing interest and and an increasing number of participants for the animation workshop of the annual Animateka International Animation Film Festival. Since 2000 the biennial Izolanima - Slovene Animation Festival has been organised in the coastal town of Izola.

Grega Mastnak’s animated series The Beezes [Bizgeci] has successfully been brought to a close after 13 series about this bunch of friendly feathered creatures. The outstanding success of The Beezes gave its producer new faith in the box office potential of the Slovene short animated film, paving the way for the latest animated short Bravefarts: Love is in the Air - animated by one of The Beezes' key animators Vladimir Leben - which seems poised to conquer the international festival circuit.

3D shorts and animated music videos

Slovenia has produced some very good 3D shorts, including Miloš Radosavljevič and Franci Slak's Križišče ('Crossroads') and Dušan Kastelic's Perkmandeljc ('Perk'), which were selected into official competition at the Animafest and at other international festivals. The spectrum of animation techniques used in recent productions is very broad, with Marjan Manček still drawing on paper and cells and Zdravko Barišič animating objects. Oliver Marčeta, who studied animation film in Vienna, uses coffee for his animated video clips and short films.

The animated music video is the only form that gives creators the possibility to show their work to a wider audience, since there is a special music video show featured on public television. The Slovene rock band Siddharta recently commissioned Luka Lorenci to create a 3D computer animation for one of its tracks.

Pixellated shorts, cut-out techniques and stop-motion animation

Željko Ivančič works as a cameraman for Radio-Television Slovenia (RTV Slovenia) and in his spare time he shoots pixellated short films. Eka and Brina Vogelnik (mother and daughter) are among the few contract artists hired by television for their children’s animation programme. Eka specialises in cut-out technique, whilst Brina, who sings on almost all of her mother’s productions, was the first Slovene film student to graduate with an animation film, a plasticine study later developed as an educational film.

Kolja Saksida works in the world of stop-motion animation, travelling to London to get the best material for his puppets, which he is developing for a future series within his own Zvviks Audio Visual Association. Matej Lavrenčič began in comics and, after his first attempts in flash animation, self-produced his first short animation which is a tribute to old computer games.

Computer-generated animation

The duos son:DA and Bizjak and Ražman, who established ZAP! Studio for Animation, are the most experimental among new artists. Son:DA calls itself an idea, a process through work, which is a constant exploration of sound, space, moving and static images. ZAP! is open for any kind of projects connected with animation, their best results being in the abstract field. Slovene film director Hanna Slak meanwhile made her first film using computer-generated animation.

Puppet animation

Puppet animation has seen a new lease of life over the past few years. Špela Čadež's puppet animation film Mate to Measure (2004), which includes her own screenplay, puppet and set design, direction, animation and film editing, has successfully been presented all over the world. Most recently Nejc Saje's 25-minute puppet animation film Courtyard (2006), produced by Strup Productions, has attracted considerable acclaim for its original storyline, excellent scenography and puppet design, superior synchronisation and complex animation of as many as 15 characters. Besides this, the film has another positive attribute: it is suitable for the whole family.

Bugbrain Studio

In 2002 Dušan Kastelic made his first attempt in 3D computer animation – a video spot Perk. The next animation film coming from his Bugbrain Studio was Chicory 'n' Coffee [Čikorja an' kafe], a masterpiece, highly acclaimed at the Festival of Slovenian Film in 2008, which has been receiving numerous international awards, e.g. the Best Animated Film Award at the International Film Festival in San Joaquin, and the Best Animation Short and Special Jury Prize at the animation festival Mundos Digitales.

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