Beginnings of Hungarian animation
The Hungarian journey with animation is almost as long as the Danube itself – it started as far as 1709, when professor István Simándi of Sárospatak assembled one of the first projectors. His creation resembled in function today’s transparencies and was predominantly used for educational purposes. The art of animation was later almost absent from Hungary only to return in the beginnings of the twentieth century.
The revival of magyar animació – hungarian animation was sparked by István Kató Kiszly, graphic artist, who known for weekly cartoon news, tried to transfer them to the small screen. His work focused on caricatures, which were broadcasted on the evening news, however, they did not attract bigger audience. Still, the interest in animation and cartoons remained, to spread widely in the late 1930s.
János Halász and György Marczincsák (George Pal) were one of the most prominent ‘travelling’ Hungarians connected with the animation industry. The first one settled in London, where together with his wife, he founded the Halas and Bachelor studio of animated cartoons. The other moved at first to The Netherlands and later to Hollywood, where he worked for Paramount and received seven nominations for the Oscars.
Communism and the Golden Era of Hungarian animation
The advent of Communism was responsible for the nationalisation of Hungarian animation – a fact that some interpret as a mixed blessing. On one hand, nationalisation brought state funding. On the other, the range of topics which artists were allowed to cover shrinked; common themes of cartoons created in that era were legends and folk tales. Yet, the ‘relaxation of rules’ slowly introduced after 1956 saw rapid development of animation. In fact, in 1970s Pannónia Film Stúdió entered the global top 5 major cartoon studios alongside companies such as Walt Disney or Hanna-Barbera. The most famous works from that period include A Mézga Csalad (The Mezga Family), Sisyphus (nominated for the Academy Award), Küzdők (Fight; winner of Palme d’Or) or Frakk, a macskák réme (Frakk, Terror of the Cats).
The Mézga Family
Frakk, the Terror of Cats
Modern Hungarian animation
The end of Communism limited the state funding for Hungarian animation industry and a decline in numbers of productions. Nevertheless, the free market saw emergence of multiple privately-owned studios, such as Kecskemétfilm Kft. or Studio 2. Currently, the studios are focusing on the introduction of new technolgies, especially computer generated imagery, producing masterpieces like 2007 Academy Award nominee Maestro and Szél (Wind), which won Palme d’Or in 1996.
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