Elbert Tuganov (1920-2007)

Elbert Tuganov (1920-2007)

Pioneering Estonian animator Elbert Tuganov has passed away at age 87. Chris Robinson, author of Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy, writes in with some details about Tuganov’s life and work:

Elbert Tuganov, the father of Estonian animation, died on Thursday, March 22, 2007. He was 87. Tuganov was actually born in Baku, Azerbaijan and began his animation career in Germany. When Hitler took power, Tuganov returned to Estonia. He joined Estonia’s state film studio, Tallinnfilm in 1946. For eleven years, Tuganov shot, drew, and painted titles and credit sequences. During this time Tuganov built an animation stand that would allow the studio to do frame by frame shooting. A visiting Moscow official was impressed by the new apparatus and suggested that Tuganov make animation films.

Tuganov immediately set out to find scripts and landed a Danish story called Palle Alone in the World. This became the basis for the first Nukufilm (the name of the puppet animation division of Tallinnfilm) production, Little Peter’s Dream (1957). For the next four years, Tuganov and his small crew of six people worked on films alongside artists from the Estonian puppet theatre. After his fourth film, Mina and Murri (1961), animation production received a budgetary blessing from Tallinnfilm. The division’s staff grew to twenty and it was decided that the puppets would then be fashioned in the studio.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Tuganov made a number of innovative puppet and cutout films for both adults and children including the satires, Park (1966) and Bloody John (1974); the astonishing time-lapse film Inspiration (1975), a document of the famous Estonian song festival; and what may be the world’s first stereoscopic puppet animation films Souvenir (1977). In total, Tuganov made 38 animated films and received numerous international awards. He remained at Nukufilm until his retirement in 1982 and later wrote an autobiography, Walking Through the Century, that detailed his failed attempt to flee the Soviet Union in 1982.

Tuganov’s passing comes as Estonia celebrates Nukufilm’s 50th anniversary this year. In November, an international puppet animation symposium is being held in Tallinn to commemorate Nukufilm’s anniversary.

A complete list of his works can be found on the Nukufilm website.

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