Dušan Vukotić is an important animator and co-founder of the widely acclaimed Zagreb Film Studio. Known throughout the world as the "Zagreb School," the Yugoslavian animation company achieved fame in the 1960s for its political satire expressed through visual experimentation. Vukotić played a significant role in establishing the structure and aesthetic direction of the Zagreb Studio styles.
Vukotić began his animation career shortly after World War II when he collaborated with other artists on an animated cartoon commemorating Yugoslavia's break from the Soviet bloc, A Big Rally. The artists involved in this project had all met working on the satirical magazine Kerempuh, a popular publication which employed young writers and artists (Vukotić himself had been trained as an architect). Using old American cartoons as a guide, the group was so successful in their first effort that they were able to start an animation studio, Duga Film.
The Duga Film studio employed a staff of approximately 100 young artists in four animation units modeled after the Walt Disney studio as well as the Disney aesthetic. Between 1951 and 1952, Vukotić worked at Duga and developed a highly individualistic style of animation. Within the company, he led a rival movement away from anthropomorphic imitation, naturalistic movement, and costly full-animation processes. When, in 1952, Duga closed the studio because it was not economically efficient, Vukotić and others (including Nikola Kostelac, Zlatko Bourek, Aleksandar Marks, and Boris Kolar) left to form an animation company for advertising films.
The success of the new company relied upon the importance of reduced animation. Requiring far fewer animation cels—or drawn frames—for each cartoon, reduced animation was less expensive, quicker, and aesthetically more radical than the full-animation technique of drawing or painting every individual frame in order to achieve the illusion of smooth, naturalistic movement. Influenced by Jiří Trnka's films for their nationalist character as well as by the United Productions of America cartoons that employed streamlined graphics and reduced animation, Vukotić developed a style dependent on minimalized, abstract graphics and upbeat tempos. Freed from anthropomorphic limitations and realistic imitation, the films that Vukotić directed had both a contemporary look and topical subject matter.
Between 1955 and 1958, the new animation company took shape both legally and aesthetically as the Zagreb Film Studio. In 1956 Vukotić directed the studio's first attempt at story animation (The Playful Robot), and in 1958 the company received important international recognition at the Oberhausen, Cannes, and Venice festivals. Vukotić continued the practice that he learned at Kerempuh of employing young writers, architects, sculptors, and painters so that the films assumed important influences from the graphic arts and maintained a vanguard aesthetic quality.
Vukotić's own oeuvre is highly eclectic. His earliest Zagreb cartoons were highly successful satires of American movie genres: Cowboy Jimmie, The Great Fear, and Concerto for Sub-Machine Gun. Piccolo, which Vukotić directed, designed, and animated himself, was among the first in a wave of Zagreb cartoons that reflected Vukotić's strongly held belief in auteurism and individual style. In the late 1960s Vukotić experimented with live-action combined with animation in such films as Ars Gratia Artis, a satire on contemporary art and on general relationships between an individual and the masses. In addition to winning many international animation awards, Vukotić was the first artist to receive an Academy Award for a cartoon produced outside the United States, Ersatz.
—Lauren Rabinovitz (via)
"Last Waltz in Old Mill"