Shareholders

It seems as if the entire history of Russian animation is now on You Tube if you search deep enough.

Here’s a good one and certainly worth a look if you’ve got a spare 22 minutes (it’s broken up in three parts). It’s called Shareholders (1963, directed by Roman Davydov) and it’s quite a scathing look at American capitalism. A real piece of cold-war propaganda:

(Thanks, Mike Stanfill)


  • Vince P

    Awesome, wow. I love it! Propaganda or not, the old russian animations never cease to amaze me.

  • http://www.goodaboy.com Rajesh

    It’s a gorgeous looking film.

  • Mark
  • Mark

    And…a clip from one of Billy Wilder’s best films:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4RMwEYrOE8&feature=related

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    I made the subtitles for this one before belatedly finding out that it had already been translated earlier by Films by Jove for their “Animated Soviet Propaganda” DVD set. Their version has not been posted onto an online video site, though.

    That DVD set can still be bought, though Films by Jove itself exists no more; they sold their rights and huge library of Russian animation off to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov in Sept. 2007. Since then, nothing has been done with that material as far as I know.

    If anyone would like to read a little more about this film and some of the main people behind it, you can go here:
    http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/31128.html

  • mrscriblam

    the entire history of russia might as well be on youtube because its so awesome. no other country has seen as much blood.

    back on subject, this was a great cartoon. i love the style of timing and movement these old propaganda films have. its very bizarre.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tony Mines

    That was gorgeous. Has anyone showed it to Robert Valley yet?

  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch
  • Chris Sobieniak

    “That DVD set can still be bought, though Films by Jove itself exists no more; they sold their rights and huge library of Russian animation off to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov in Sept. 2007. Since then, nothing has been done with that material as far as I know.”

    I’m still wondering what may happen as well. Could Usmanov re-license the work to another American distributor one day, say Kino International? The effort Films By Jove did on those releases was ten-fold, regardless of those who hated the overlaid subtitles/captions during the work.

  • it’s pat

    Oh wow, thanks! That was totally worth 22 minutes. It was rigid with the story but so much personality in the style. I like some of the sly humor touches- check disney’s Pluto at 1:15 in part 3. Nifty music. I wonder what reference they used (or not) for imaginary america. What’s with some of the framing that cuts off heads, was this badly letterboxed? And am I right to assume some of the color has faded from age- the blueness does give a very particular look (that doesn’t hurt). I’d love to see that DVD set of other russian films.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    “I’m still wondering what may happen as well. Could Usmanov re-license the work to another American distributor one day, say Kino International?”

    Usmanov did this as a “public service” – as PR to help repair his bad image, basically. He then gave everything to the state children’s TV station, Bibigon. And after that, it’s like a black hole opened up and swallowed everything. Maybe making any releases outside of Russia is simply not considered profitable, and Bibigon is a big organization that has enough things to worry about without starting any financially dubious overseas ventures. The Vidovs (who owned Films by Jove) were, for all their many missteps and dishonesties, genuine fans who went above the call of duty to spread the word. Sometimes, way too far. Their “overlaid subtitles/captions” were not so bad; their worst offence was replacing the carefully-crafted soundtracks with newly-composed music and big-name American actors. The results were truly dreadful. The American and Russian concepts of “cartoon” proved to be incompatible, as the American actors did not take the animated characters seriously but imbibed them with “funny” voices and endless chatter, a la Popeye. Thankfully, in their later DVDs they stopped doing this and kept the original soundtracks.

    @it’s pat, this was the original aspect ratio. Heads are often cut off for a reason – i.e. to show aloofness in a character. I’m not 100% sure, but I get the feeling that this is the original colour scheme. This looks like it came from a very well-preserved print.

  • NC

    Does anyone know if it was rotoscoped? I have a feeling that it was but even if it was it was still a huge notch higher than Bakshi.

  • Karen

    Another incredible film. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    @NC, nope. Anatoliy Petrov was responsible for a lot of the animation. Article about him over here:
    http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/29239.html

    He’s the guy who later made “Heracles Visits Admetus”, which is also not rotoscoped at all despite some very realistic art direction:
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cOZyj6rkE4
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiuLcupvwj8

  • Jay Sabicer

    Don’t let Michael Moore get a hold of this, we’ll never hear the end of it.

    Astounding stuff, it really captures the time (with typical Soviet inaccuracies – paramutual betting on auto races, robotic replacement of workers [20 years ahead of its time] and ranch-style homes for bachelors.) For a while though, I was actually rooting for Pearson, achieving the American Dream and offering employee ownership, until it’s revealed the poor shmoe only got 1 share in something that probably trades billions.

    Ironic that communist party bosses more than likely lived like Pearson and had just as much empathy toward the working class.

    OK, rampant capitalism doesn’t work. Neither does socialism (in the Soviet version). Where be the middle ground?

  • http://animationinventory.blogspot.com/ Teodor

    In Yugoslavia

  • Dave O.

    Very lovely, especially in the art direction drawn from American print advertising. It even looks like the animators managed to have some fun -especially in the nightclub scene- which is rare for agitprop.

  • http://www.antoniolinhares.com Antonio

    I was very impressed too! Such beautiful drawings and storytelling.

    I found it brilliant that Michael Chase’s dog goes inside the car with him in that race. Just awesome.

    Thanks a lot Jerry and Niffiwan!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    @Niffiwan, Yeah I remember those “Stories from my Childhood” episodes they used to ran on PBS.

    Still, seems kinda sad what we lost now that I could’ve bought more of back in the 90′s when they still had it. It’s like finding out what anime licenses have expired or gone out of print these days and thinking, nobody’s ever going to pick up “Project A-Ko” again. I wouldn’t mind asking Bibigon if it was possible in doing so (without feeling like some obsessive fanboy jerk). There’s still many interesting gems in that library that deserve a proper release if handled right (or else go back to the internet like I did 10 years ago when it was discovering this stuff on early P2P clients).

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    @Chris Sobieniak, Russian animation is being taken good care of, released and restored – but only within Russia. It seems that the entire work of opening them up to the rest of the world is currently being done non-profit by fans, the first of whom started in early 2007. Most are Russian immigrants now living in other countries… I guess it’s our attempt to influence the new places in which we live by bringing over the best parts of where we came from. I do think that we’re doing a better job than Films by Jove was in many areas, though technology has made our task easier. A nice overview of our work can be found on the “Animatsiya Wiki”.

    Russia currently is in one of its more “insular” phases. They are not very interested in spreading their culture abroad unless there is direct monetary incentive. In my experience, anyway.

    But technology means that this doesn’t matter as much as it once would have; most things that have been released only in the internal Russian market can be downloaded anywhere in the world. From a number of places; some legal, some not (in general, the non-legal ones have a better selection).

  • manny

    love it! the designs and art style are just sooo strong and single minded!

  • purin

    That was a very stylish film. It’s so fascinating to see what images, names, and concepts get distilled into another society’s vision of America and its way of life.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    I don’t know if anyone’s still reading this, but what the heck… :)

    purin,

    Here’s another good example of a Russian take on America (the Wild West in this case):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvLTjef-CuU