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The Fly by Ferenc Rofusz

Another contemporary animation classic on YouTube. This 1980 Hungarian short by Ferenc Rofusz won an Oscar.

Hungary was at the time a Communist country and Rofusz himself wasn’t allowed to leave the country to attend the Oscars. Without his knowledge, somebody accepted the award for him during the show. I recall watching an interview once with Rofusz where he explained who the guy was, and how surprised he was during the broadcast to see somebody he didn’t know accepting the award for him.

This excerpt from the LA Times in 1981 discusses the mystery person who took his award:

Academy officials were still wondering late Tuesday night if the real Ferenc Rofusz had accepted his award. Rofusz, the Hungarian producer of the winning animated short film “The Fly,” had not been scheduled to attend the ceremonies. But just as presenters Alan Arkin and Margot Kidder were announcing that the academy would accept on behalf of Rofusz, a bearded man bounded onto the stage, made a short acceptance speech, posed for the obligatory photos and departed with an Oscar, leaving, somehow, an air of mystery…

(Thanks, Philip Rogosky)

  • Incredibly interesting. Was there any resolve to who and if …?
    What’s also very interesting is Mr. Rofusz’ use of roto as reference. When the mocap roto live reference banter can sometimes seem so current. Proof positive in this case… it’s art.

  • Zee

    I met Ferenc Rofusz, in the early 90’s, maybe 1992 or 93. I was just out of the animation program at Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario, and his was the first studio I had an interview at. His studio was called RF FLY PRODUCTIONS, in Oakville. At the time they were doing some commercials and short spots. He also did the intro to The Simpsons for Klasky Csupo, and the Beetlejuice Cartoon for Nelvana; it was on his demo reel, which he made me watch in the studio. I remember walking in to this tiny studio, next door to my Dad’s chiropractor, and the first thing I saw was HIS OSCAR! It was just sitting there on a table in the middle of the room. OH! And I remember him talking alot about Gabor Csupo. I guess they had a falling out at the time. Ferenc was talking trash about Gabor, and how Gabor was a big shot now because of the Simpsons. Ferenc seemed bitter about it. He was a very nice to me though, very friendly. And since I am Croatian, we had an Easter European connection. Alas, I never did end up working for him. Maybe we didn’t have as much of a connection as I thought.

  • mwb

    The Fly. Without even watching it, I knew instantly which short it was. I saw it last when it came out, almost 27 years ago and I still remember it distinctly, which is impressive.

    Well made, clever and funny. You can see why it won.

    Thanks for the link.

  • Amazing! I had never seen it before. I love the moments of stillness when the fly lands.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    There’s probably a lot I can say about this film. I first saw it about 12 years ago through the old Expanded Entertainment release, “The World’s Greatest Animation” my local library had in their A/V dept, a short time later I purchased a 16mm copy of said film that was distributed under the ironic name “Perspective Films”, and later on bought the Voyater LD edition of “World’s Greatest Animation” that explained a great deal over the production-end and one responsible for said film.

    It was produced at Hungary’s most familiar state-owned & cooperated “Pannonia Film” in Budapest by Rofusz around 1980. According to notes I’ve read from the Voyager LD, the original ending to the film would’ve been much different, with the fly killing the human instead, and Rofusz even went to the trouble to animate it against the wishes of the goverment, who had to rip that sequence of the film out of the project at screening and forced him to do the ending he originally submitted and was approved (and what we see here in this clip). In those days, many Eastern European countries had film exportation services that often produced international versions of said films available to potential buyers outside the Soviet Bloc, that would explain how it got into the Oscar running I think. This would not be Pannonia’s first time in the running, as Marcell Jankovic’s “Sisyphus” was nominated for the Best Animated Short Film category in the mid 70’s.

    I once almost delt with somebody I met online who claimed to have had video recordings of most of the Oscar ceremonies going back to the 70’s, and I think he probably had the one from 1981 when this film won. Too bad I couldn’t come to a final agreement with his terms (since I would’ve had to trade a certain amount to get whatever he demanded, reasons why I don’t tape trade anymore), though from what I understand, the guy who accepted the award then was some goverment official from Hungary. Suppoedly Rofusz wanted to go but couldn’t get a visa approved for the matter, and had to make due with listening to a broadcast of the Oscars or reports thereof via radio or something.

    While having the naiive sense that this short was facinating to see the first time around, Iv’e grown to realized the rotoscope inplications many can deduct nowadays, given the nature of the POV. There’s still a lot of unique artwork I see within those frames however I often like to freeze-frame at in a few places especially in the later half of the film where the fly frantically tries to leave the house from an unseen human who later does him in. In one of the audio commentaries done for the Voyager LD by Charles Solomon, he pretty much blasted this film for having won over Frederic Back’s “Tout Rein” (“All Nothing”, the other film that year was Michael Mills’ “History of the World in Three Minutes Flat”) and suggested the artist/s might’ve gotten too involved in the technique and started having fun with it, but found it to be rather poor choice in the process and felt Pannonia Film had better offerings that could’ve won and award than this.

    Rofusz made another film at Pannonia before he left I’ve watched called “Gravitáció” (“Gravity”), that conveys through it’s simple premise the rebellious and unaware intentions of youth verses the serene, contentess and acceptance of old through the visuals of apples in a tree (albeit, each apple has a human face, creepy).

  • This short film is quite sprawling. I have seen a couple of shorts in recent years that employ a similar form of rotoscoping. However, this one is comparatively more literal.

    I find it refreshing to see animated shorts that are done simply with pencil on paper, and in (supposed) black/white. I wonder what Bill Plympton thinks of this short, because he has come upon a look in his recent animation, with just lead pencil on paper, and almost no color.

  • Anastasia Lee

    I hate being the odd voice but I found this clip boring. The buzzing of the fly was unbearable and the animation dizzying. What was the point?

  • SDM

    Wonderful film. Simple, funny, creative. I remember seeing it when it was first released back in 1981. It was a short preview to the movie Arthur and I can recall going back to see Arthur again, just to see this short. It was exciting to see it again as it brings back fond memories. Thanks for the posting! SDM.