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: