Vladislav Starevich, The Old Lion (Two Fables from La Fontaine, 1932)
“A lion mourning, in his age, the wane Of might once dreaded through his wild domain, Was mocked, at last, upon his throne, By subjects of his own, Strong through his weakness grown. The horse his head saluted with a kick; The wolf snapped at his royal hide; The ox, too, gored him in the side; The unhappy lion, sad and sick, Could hardly growl, he was so weak. In uncomplaining, stoic pride, He waited for the hour of fate, Until the ass approached his gate; Whereat, ‘This is too much,’ he saith; 'I willingly would yield my breath; But, ah! thy kick is double death.’” [trans. E. Wright]
Many people consider Starewicz as an important figure in the history of stop motion but at the same time he is also extremely under recognised, a fact which has not been helped by the confusion surrounding the spelling of his name (Ladislaw/Ladislas/Wladyslaw, Starewicz/Starevich, etc.)
Personally think Starewicz animations were ahead of their time, mostly because of the techniques he used to fill his characters with personality, and the various other things he did to make his stories believable – such as producing motion blur by dangling his fast moving characters on a lightly swaying thread while taking shots. And while Disney can take credit for the first cel-animated feature film, Starewicz was another person to push for long films. The animation for Starewicz ‘the Tale of the Fox’ (1934) was finished three years before Disney’s, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was released in 1937.
Starewicz’ stop motion puppets were rigged with such skill that he could make his puppets express subtle changes in emotion with their faces. Just watch the puppy-like character, Duffy in ‘the Mascot’.
Although it is extremely common for animators to try and instil life into inanimate objects, and the topic of toys coming to life has been explored extensively throughout animation history, I can still see how ‘the Mascot’ could have inspired Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’. Duffy is just as determined as Woody to be with the child who owns him, going as far as risking his life to save hers.
The devilish character within ‘the Mascot’ could easily have influenced Tim Burton/Henry Selik’s designs for Jack Skellington from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. The slender frame and angular features of the devil creature remind me of Jack the Pumpkin King.
I also think that the fairly recent stop motion ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ (2009) is remarkably similar to Renard from ‘the Tale of the Fox’.
So although not many people may have heard of Ladislaw Starewicz his work has had some form of influence on a number of popular films.
From Le Lion Devenu Vieux, or The Old Lion (1932) by Vladislav Starevich. An elderly king dreams of romantic adventures inspired by troubadours outside the palace. While dreaming, his cabinet deposes him, and he dies, heartbroken, in a cave.