One of the giants of 20th century animation, Czech animator and director Břetislav Pojar, died last Friday evening [link to story in Czech newspaper]. He was 89. After studying architecture in college, Pojar started his animation career in the early-1940s. He was among the first group of artists to work at the state-run Studio Bratri v triku in Prague. There, he met Jiří Trnka, and in the mid-1940s, he left with Trnka to start a new animation studio. Pojar became Trnka’s key animator on numerous puppet shorts in the late-1940s and early-1950s, including Story of the Bass Cello, The Emperor’s Nightingale, and Old Czech Legends. Even after Pojar became a director, he continued to animate on Trnka’s later films like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Pojar began directing his own films with the 1951 short Gingerbread House (Pernikova chaloupka). Among Pojar’s first important films was the anti-drinking short A Drop Too Much (O sklenicku víc. The film is a mixed bag: “Today’s viewer might find [it] melodramatic and artificial,” says historian Giannalberto Bendazzi, but he also praises “a rare cleverness in its camera movements, expressionist illumination and visual invention.”
Pojar’s 1959 short The Lion and the Song (Lev a písnicka) is an allegorical tale about the struggle of art against power. The short won the top prize at the very first Annecy animation festival held in 1960.