Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the history of the animation output of the Soviet Union.
Animation created under Soviet rule is a little bit like porn: you know it when you see it. Even if you aren’t a history buff or an animation nerd, I do believe (let me adjust my tinfoil hat) that you can kind of tell when you’re watching Soviet animation. M. Night Shyamalan was wrong. The sixth sense is actually the unfounded ability to tell when something was animated behind the Iron Curtain.
Okay, so maybe all the overt agitprop (a fun and definitely not scary portmanteau of “agitation” and “propaganda”) gives early Soviet animation away. And maybe Soyuzmultfilm’s slightly-off but unmissable parroting of “the Disney style” is a tell. And, hey, maybe the bleak, rebellious uptake of Czech puppetry as a means of rebelling against an oppressive occupation is also a clue. Suffice to say: Soviet animation is distinct and endlessly fascinating. Like all art, it’s political. And because it’s Soviet Art, it’s doubly so.
As the video essay below teases out, it’s fascinating to see the medium transform and flourish in response to political change. The essay is by no means a complete history. But if you’re a fan of animation techniques, production, and Soviet heavy hitters, it’s a marvelous place to start.
Watch “History of Soviet Animation”:
Who made this?
This video on the history of Soviet animation is by Mountains of Media, a channel dedicated to exploring and analyzing, well, media! As of the writing of this article, they are relatively new on the video essay scene. So if you like what you see, give ’em a follow over on YouTube.
More videos like this
- For a more technical deep dive into the medium of animation, here’s a video essay on the mechanics of how rotoscoping works and why the process survives to this day in the form of motion capture.
- Here’s a video that takes a look at how Pixar’s FizT (“physics tool”) software is automating the way the studio deals with ray tracing (a.k.a. the secret to making animated light look believable),
- Open-source animation tools like the graphics software Blender are democratizing animation. Here’s the marvelous Bigtop Burger, a YouTube series (made in Blender) about a clown-run food truck.