After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the functionality and longevity of industry and commerce – once supported by Moscow – was thrown into the hands of fate. Well, that and the efforts, ingenuity and acumen of those inheriting former Soviet enterprises, now tasked with the job of making them work in an essentially free market. The props were removed, now it was time to either fly or crash to the ground.
So it was with the animation industry. Those artists who now embraced the prospect of becoming businessmen, however grudgingly, had a chance. More than a chance even, as their names and the quality of their work were already known and highly regarded. Effectively, their countrymen, potential clients and even international admirers were already familiar with their showreels.
Excellence alone was no guarantee of an easy ride. As mentioned in Animated Russia#15, Yuri Norstein is still waiting for funding to complete his interpretation of Gogol’s Overcoat – Soyuzmultfilm became embroiled in protracted international litigation with Film’s by Jove (as mentioned last week). Oh the joys of open commerce. As a side note, it’s worth stating that not everyone welcomed the Brave New Russia, devoid of its Soviet benefactor and jailer. We tend not to hear about those others here in the West. I digress.
There were significant successes of course, still extant today. A ‘supergroup’ of animators: SHAR Studio was formed in 1993 by the aforementioned Norstein, along with Eduard Nazarov, the late Fyodor Khitruk, and Andrei Khrzhanovsky. Not only is it a studio, proper; but it’s also an animation school covering both directorial roles and the practical aspects of constructing animation.
What better advertisement for such an educational institution than the opportunity to learn ‘under’ the masters of the art. Yes, some of the ‘names’ do take master classes it appears! It’s wonderful to learn that the institution still outputs admired and award winning work (and equally lauded educational programs), both nationally and internationally – having learnt a little about its origins and pre-history.
I took a look at the directorial course, to find that it costs a very reasonable (for us) 250 GBP per month. Before you pack up and head for Moscow however, it’s worth noting that there is an entrance competition and all classes are conducted in Russian: both written and spoken! I can stumble through the basics but I confess that discussing the finesse of an animator’s art is currently beyond me!
In 2013, the studio celebrated its 30th anniversary, where luminaries, successful pupils and admirers attended to watch a documentary on the studio’s past, present and (possible?) future, and also to enjoy some of the many classics in its expansive back-catalogue. Memories were shared and (hopefully) a good time was had by all.
Next time, I’ll take a look at another success story, but one which was also struck by tragedy: Aleksandr Tatarskiy and Pilot Studio.
(Photo of poster courtesy of SHARstudio website)