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Lost Classics from Zagreb Film DVD & Contest

Zagreb Films

Last year saw the release of lots of rare animation (Popeye, Lantz cartoons, Oswald, etc.) but perhaps none so rare as a dvd that came out last winter: “Lost Classics from Zagreb Film”, a collection of many of the studio’s most experimental and distinctive early shorts, almost none of which have ever been released before. (Full disclosure: I was an unpaid consultant on the set and the dvd follows very closely the lineup of films that I’d suggested.)

There are no words to describe how happy I become when I watch these films. The Zagreb filmmakers were willing to try just about anything, and their films are packed with tons of inventive visual ideas. Sometimes the risks they took paid off handsomely, sometimes they flopped. One can’t help but admire their fearlessness though. They managed to create these films with limited resources, limited budgets and next to no animation training. The animators were self-taught and as a result their timing and the way things move can be utterly bizzare. Concepts like squash-and-stretch were foreign to a lot of these artist so they figured out graphic solutions of their own and came up with some wildly eccentric styles of movement in the process. Thematically, the films tackle a broad range of subject matter from alienation to militarization, topics that were hardly common fare in animated shorts of the time.

There is a downside to the dvd: The prints, which come directly from Zagreb Films, are unrestored and in fairly poor shape. This is doubly a shame because color and design are such an integral part of these films. Nevertheless, these films have never been available on any home video format, and not having any major studio support behind them, don’t hold your breath for a restored edition of these films anytime soon. This dvd is the only way you’re going to be able to see the following films:

Opening Night (1957)
Alone (1958)
The Great Jewel Robbery (1959)
The Inspector Returns Home (1959)
At the Photographers (1959)
La Peau de Chagrin (1960)
A Man and his Shadow (1960)
The Boy and the Ball (1960)
Perpetuum & Mobile, Ltd. (1961)
Boomerang (1962)
Typhus (1963)

The distributor, Rembrandt Films, also recently released DuÅ¡an Vukotić on DVD, a collection of the works of Zagreb’s most famous director. Owning this and the “Lost Classics” dvd will give anybody a solid collection of the studio’s early work. The films on the Vukotić dvd are:

Playful Robot (1956)
Cowboy Jimmy (1957)
Concerto for a Machine Gun (1958)
Revenger (1958)
The Great Fear (1958)
Piccolo (1959)
My Tail is My Ticket (1959)
The Game (1963)
A Stain on His Conscience (1968)
Ars Gratia Artis (1969)

UPDATE: Thanks to all who entered. The contest is now over. The correct answer was DuÅ¡an Vukotić’s 1961 short Surogat (also known as Ersatz and The Substitute). The two winners are Scotty Arsenault and Gail Veillette.

And here are a few frame grabs from the animated shorts on the “Lost Classics from Zagreb Film” set:

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  • Alexander Rannie

    The first film produced outside of the US to win the Animated Short Oscar was “Surogat” (also known as “Ersatz” or “The Substitute”), 1961, directed by Dusan Vukotic.

  • Oh, shoot! This set has some of my favorite Zagreb Films shorts (including ERSATZ and COW ON THE MOON)! I am SO getting this!

  • gimpyeyes

    Thanks for sharing Amid. Just ordered one of the DVD’s hope it has the short with the guy fishing that you posted a while ago.

  • Thanks for sharing, Amid!

  • amid

    Gimpyeyes: The short with the guy fishing is DuÅ¡an Vukotić’s Surogat (also known as Ersatz and The Substitute). That is on Volume 1: The Classic Collection. I don’t believe it’s on either of these two new dvds.

  • Wow… those stills look absolutely phenomenal.

  • OM

    …Man, as much as I love this Sovblock style, I still can’t help recalling that one episode of The Simpsons where Krusty was forced to use a substitute cartoon for Itchy and Scratchy that came from 1950’s Soviet propagandists – Worker and Parasite!

    “What the hell was that all about?” – Krusty

    …On a side note, there’s one screen grab that would make one really fun decal sheet!

  • Blasko

    Wow! There hasn’t been a new DVD classics release from the Rembrandt Film folks in quite some time. I’m glad to see that you and Jerry are doing some important work with this company. I’m happy to support it, and I hope it continues!

  • Those things are gorgeous!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Of course it should be noted these films came from what was once Yugoslavia, which wasn’t operated by the Soviets despite its location close to the rest of the Soviet Bloc. And as usual, people often think of that clever Simpsons gag whenever a mention of anything ‘animated’ coming out of Eastern Europe happens, and I wouldn’t blame people for getting the idea from that. Of course I like to think the style of the characters in that “Worker & Parasite” bit awfully reminded me of “Ersatz” and other Zagreb Film productions of that period.

  • I tend to think of “Worker & Parasite” as being all the more clever a gag because it’s clearly an animation-industry injoke more than something they expected their typical prime-time audience to get. The animators knew these cartoons, and they relished the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reference them.


  • doug holverson

    “Worker & Parasite” thread reminds me of the English redubbed Eastern Block cartoons played on “The House with the Magic Window” in Ames, Iowa, and I suppose other markets. What were the origins of these?

  • Thank you very much Zagreb animated films are my personal favorites. I love how they broke the rules without even knowing it and what came from out of it.

  • I am very glad you introduced this dvd, Amid. It is nice to see animators around the world remember Zagreb’s Animation school.

    I am an animator from Zagreb – too young to participate this golden era, but I had the opportunity to talk with Dusan Vukotić couple times – he was a humble animator who never understood all this noise after winning Oscar, without even enough funds to travel to Usa and accept the Award. Great, great man.

  • Wow, it’s really great to support company which takes down Zagreb Film classics from youtube and claims the rights which they don’t own. Two great ones for Rembrant film supporters and