Russian Animation Day Date in the current year: April 8, 2024

Russian Animation Day Russian Animation Day is an annual holiday celebrated on April 8. It commemorates the screening of the first Russian animated film, which took place in 1912.

People had enjoyed moving figures long before the introduction of animation: puppet theatre, shadow play, automata, magic lanterns... The technical principle of modern animation was introduced through the invention of the stroboscope in 1832, but the active development of the medium didn’t begin until the invention of celluloid film in 1888, which resulted in the breakthrough of cinematography.

The first animated film in the Russian Empire was made by the Polish-Russian animator Ladislas Starevich (Władysław Starewicz). While working at the Kaunas Museum of Natural History in Lithuania, he created four live-action documentary shorts. His fifth film was supposed to be a recording of the battle of two stag beetles, but the “actors” refused to move under the stage lighting, so Starevich decided to use stop-motion animation.

He used dead beetles, wires and sealing wax to create insect puppets, which he used to make a stop-motion animation film entitled The Beautiful Leukanida. Inspired by the Iliad and chivalric romance, it told the story of two male beetles fighting for a beautiful female beetle. The first screening of the film took place on April 8 (March 26 O. S.), 1912. Its anniversary has been celebrated at Russian Animation Day since 2012.

Starevich emigrated to France after the Russian Revolution, and the development of Russian animation was halted for while. It continued in the mid-1920s thanks to Yuri Merkulov, Daniil Cherkes, Nikolai Khodataev, Dziga Vertov, Ivan Ivanov-Vano, and other pioneers of the Soviet animation school.

The largest and most famous animation studio in the Soviet Union, Soyuzmultfilm (“Union Cartoon”), was founded in 1936 and is still operational. Some of its best-known films include The Bremen Town Musicians and its sequel On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians, Hedgehog in the Fog, Gena the Crocodile and its three sequels (Cheburashka, Shapoklyak and Cheburashka Goes to School), the Well, Just You Wait! series, the Karlsson-on-the-Roof series, Three from Prostokvashino and its sequels, and more. Other prominent Soviet animation studios included Kievnauchfilm (Kyiv, Ukrainian SSR) and Studio Ekran (Moscow).

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russian animators left the state-owned Soyuzmultfilm and founded independent studios, such as Christmas Films, Pilot, Animation Magic, and Melnitsa Animation Studio. The development of independent web animation in Russia began in the early 2000s; one of its pioneers was Masyanya, an adult animated web series created by Oleg Kuvaev.

Some of the most popular animated films and series created in post-Soviet Russia include The Old Man and the Sea, which won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, The Three Bogatyrs animated franchise, Masha and the Bear, and Kikoriki (also known as GoGoRiki or BalloonToons, originally named Smeshariki).

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Russian Animation Day, holidays in Russia, cultural observances, Ladislas Starevich, The Beautiful Leukanida