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Opinion and Insight

5 of Central and Eastern Europe’s Most Exciting Young Animators

LBB Editorial, 1 month ago

With the abundance of award-winning animation currently coming out of the region, LBB shines a spotlight on the fresh talent behind the work

5 of Central and Eastern Europe’s Most Exciting Young Animators

Central and Eastern Europe is currently buzzing with fresh animation talent that isn't afraid to push the limits of the medium. Their work, rich with innovative new forms of visual and narrative expression, hasn't gone unnoticed by the awards scene.

LBB catches up with five young, up-and-coming animators to find out what they think about it all...


Péter Vácz (Hungary)

Peter burst onto the animation scene with his graduation film, Rabbit and Deer (2013), which attracted international acclaim and won over 120 awards. Since then, he has continued to impress, winning Gold at the 2016 Kinsale Shark Awards for Best Animation in the Music Video category for Dear John, and having recently made the official selection at the Toronto Short Film Festival. 



Q> How would you describe yourself and your work?

PV> I like character-based stories. I’m more and more keen in these past years to experiment and to try to keep mixing new techniques to find new forms to express these stories. I want to make it very accessible and open animation up for people. Animation takes so many forms and it’s always reinventing itself as visual storytelling, which is very exciting.


Q> Hungary is home to so many great young animators at the moment. What do you think it is about the country that produces such a high calibre of animation talent? 

PV> I was lucky enough to have been taught by brilliant teachers at MOME (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design). From around 2005 onwards, the animation department began to expand, thanks to these devoted people, who worked hard to secure funding and broaden international connections with other schools, and international collaborations followed.

I think this is really important and it was certainly something that had a very positive impact on me. I was able to go abroad whilst studying; being exposed to the energy of these studio leaders and professionals broadened my mind. 

The internet has also been instrumental in raising the profile of Hungarian animation, both within the country and internationally. Now, our animation schools are held in high esteem so applicants are familiar with its legacy and enter more prepared in terms of software and styles. I think that’s a huge change because they’re able to develop faster so this is great news for new talent in animation. The festival scene is strengthening within Hungary too. 


Q> If you had to, how would you describe Hungarian animation in its own unique style (compared to the rest of the world)?

PV> Hungary had a golden age of animation in the '70s and '80s. Nowadays, there’s less focus on that, which is maybe a good thing. Because of the decade-or-two-long gap between that era and the animation that’s blooming now, I think current Hungarian animation is more of a fresh start than a continuation of this legacy, so this is an exciting time. 

I’d say that the new generation turns more to Vimeo, festivals, or animation blogs for unique styles and good storytelling. I think the legacy of recent Hungarian animation inspires and feeds back into more fresh animation. 

From my own experiences, the strength of MOME is that it inspires animators to find their own voice and gives plenty of space to develop an individual style, which is perhaps unique compared to other universities that may be more focused on technical directing or making more polished work. It’s a less controlled teaching technique that allows you to take risks with the storytelling so there’s more chance to come up with something surprising and fresh.

If I had to describe Hungarian animation, I’d say that it’s very different. There’s a lot of focus here on stop motion, and good storytelling, particularly ones that draw on personal experiences. 


Q> What is it like working in Hungary as an animator now, and how do you think this has changed in the past decade? 

PV> There’s a contrast between new Hungarian talent and the larger, more established studios that specialise in more traditional styles. I think the challenge for the next few years is whether there’ll be strong studios coming up like the ones in London – because I think that’s what we’re lacking right now.

But it’s certainly improved. When I graduated, the Hungarian-American film producer Andrew Vajna returned from the USA after producing films like Terminator 3. One of the main sources for grad funds was cut around 2010-2012 but he established the Hungarian film fund. From there, the grad each year gets around 100,000 euros. Each grad film can get around 1500 euros, which is really important. 


Q> What do you think about the future of animation in your country? Do you think that the number of collaborations between Hungarian animators and international productions is increasing? If so, why do you think it's increasing?

PV> I’ve been teaching in Budapest for the past year alongside my personal work and it’s certainly brought me closer to Hungarian animation. There’s a lot more buzz surrounding animation. I’m hopeful because the selection of students is far stronger than before. 

There’s a certain fragility. Animation here is something that really has to be nurtured and pushed. We need people who have strong vision and charisma to lead an animation department. But there’s definitely a lot of promise. 


Peter is represented by Picasso Pictures in the UK



Paul Mureşan (Romania)

Paul’s film Baby Nap (2014) won Best Romanian Film at Anim’est. As the protagonist dreams, we follow them on a journey into the depths of the subconscious. Laden with visual metaphors, Paul’s film pushes the boundaries of animation narrative.


Q> How would you describe yourself and your work?

PM> In one word: Doodle 


Q> Central and Eastern Europe is home to so many great young animators at the moment. What do you think it is about this region, or your own country, that produces such animation talent? 

PM> I think that Romanian animation is still maturing. Animation is the art of the impossible. There is no boundary to what can be animated, yet we are still animating like we are shooting a live-action film, and thinking through a camera instead of bringing the impossible to life. 

On the bright side, there are a few examples of Romanian animation that try to break that filmmaker wall. Unlike in famous schools where there can be the danger of students being influenced by one similar style, these few examples can grow in Romania, not like small trees in a forest of giant oaks, but with plenty of space to expand and to cultivate a personal style. 


Q> If you had to, how would you describe Romanian animation in terms of its own unique style (compared to the rest of the world)? 

PM> It’s still pretty young and slowly starting to take shape. I think that Romanian animation is divided into two big blocks that are sliding apart. One of them is the influence from cartoons, which Romanians are big fans of (in fact, many Romanians that speak English learn it from Cartoon Network). Animators that are big fans of this style tend to stick to a more goofy, slightly funny or simplified manor of expression. 

The other style, which is still growing and discovering itself, is the spontaneous freestyle that’s influenced by everything from Asian to Polish animation. It’s slightly more suited to telling local stories, myths, and events because of certain nostalgic storytelling elements such as abandoned factories, realistic landscapes, stillness and a sprinkle of mystery; appropriate, considering that Romania is a land soaked in superstition. Animators of both styles are doing a pretty impressive job on describing the changes Romania is going through. One is representing the past and the other one is trying to forget it.


Q> What is it like working in Romania as an animator now, and how do you think this has changed in the past decade? 

PM> Animation is starting to be respected and to be considered as something more than a distraction for children. It’s everywhere and there is a high demand for it. I think that, in the past decade, there have been a considerable number of new animators popping up out of nowhere partly because of YouTube and increasing resources on animation tutorials. It is no longer something that only a handful of people know but a very accessible medium.


Q> What do you think about the future of animation in your country? Do you think that the number of collaborations between Romanian animators and international productions is increasing? 

PM> There is definitely an increase in collaborations. Anim’est, the Romanian international animation festival is doing its best to build bridges that connect local talents to legends of animation in workshops and animation projects. I’m very proud of their effort to do so. I’m pretty optimistic about the future of Romanian animation (and I am not an optimistic person)!



Michał Poniedzielski (Poland)

Michał’s witty animated short film, A Film with No Flies On (2014), was awarded at festivals and gained popularity on YouTube. His animated short, Moonshine, which won Best Animation at Tampere Film Festival, demonstrated his mastership of telling darkly humorous stories and using a mixture of different techniques.



Q> How would you describe yourself and your work?

MP> Divided. I’ve worked in graphic design, motion graphics, game development, and in films. That requires constant switching but I know that it trains my brain.

I'm fascinated by modern storytelling language emerging from the video games world, but also by good, old cinematographic styles, and an in-your-face approach of graphic design. Where it's possible, I like to let in the language - spoken, or written - into the animation, especially to convey comedy. I'm very much driven by sounds - music, sound beds, dialogues - sound effects are an ocean of opportunity. There's no faster way of building immersive worlds, believable characters, and emotions. You instantly have a story and a feeling. I love to use sound editing as a development tool at a beginning. 


Q> Poland is home to so many great young animators at the moment. What do you think it is about the country that produces such animation talent?

MP> I think the answer lies in a specific Polish mixture of over-sensitivity, over-self-reliance, and under-funding. When you’re over-sensitive, there's a lot of stuff you have to sort out internally. It makes you inquisitive and want to share the things you see. Over-self-reliance makes you create this expression by yourself in your basement. And under-funding gives you time. There's nobody giving you money, so you’re not responsible to anyone. 

However, the under-funding issue is slowly dying these days, because of the Polish National Film Institute and the general growth in the animation market growth. This is good! But I also think that, at the beginning, under-funding was crucial in shaping the funny and beautiful crippled bizarre creature that is Polish animation.


Q> If you had to, how would you describe Polish animation in its own unique style (compared to the rest of the world)? 

MP> Bold and shy. Bold, because Polish animation speaks very honestly and proudly for its authors. The uncompromisingly hard or even harsh ways of visually depicting this honesty makes this believable in my eyes. Shy, because they don’t glitter or try to catch anyone’s attention. They simply are. Also, the majority of Poles are allergic to self-promotion. 

We tend to work across several different mediums, because I think that self-reliance pushes us into collecting skills like tools. In our part of Europe, it's pretty common, almost genetic, to be prepared with a multi-tool factor. 


Q> What do you think about the future of animation in your country? Do you think that the number of collaborations between Polish animators and international productions is increasing? 

MP> There's definitely a boom in the Polish animation market. International co-productions are slowly heading towards becoming a standard here. I believe that Poles truly like to collaborate, especially outside of our country. Our skillset is wide and we are determined to deliver the best quality possible, but all we need is some freedom and decent money. In those international co-productions, there's a big chance for artistic and collaborative freedom. If that freedom is granted, I think that’s where Polish animation thrives and delivers magic. 


Michal is represented by Lava Films in Poland



Umbrella (Hungary)

Umbrella is an award-winning full-service production collective based in Budapest. One of their talented young directors Dávid Dell’Edera’s short film Balcony (2016) recently won the Jury Prize at the 2016 Annecy International Animation Festival.



Q> How would you describe yourself and your work?

U> The whole collective was built on the idea to find people with different disciplines and approaches with some sort of story to tell and some sort of message. We have a studio space where they can work together and develop their ideas.

By putting our skills together, we can cover most of the styles. Some of us are very strong on 2D animation, or vector-based styles. Other people are better at artistic 3D, or realistic animation. We particularly like mixing techniques. 


Q> Hungary is home to so many great young animators at the moment. What do you think it is about the country that produces such animation talent? 

U> Hungarian animation and puppetry has a very long history. Animation is still one of the leading styles of filmmaking. 

Since the '90s, when we broke out of the Eastern block and had to start everything from scratch by ourselves, things have been going in a different direction. There’s a new generation that wants to tell fresh stories. Now that we can access influences from all over the world, I wouldn’t say there’s a distinctive Hungarian look. I think it’s more about individuals and collectives that are building their own styles. There’s a lot of creativity now and a lot of potential.


Q> What is it like working in Hungary as an animator now, and how do you think this has changed in the past decade? 

U> Working in Budapest is really inspiring. There are a lot of progressive studios that collect talented directors and animators so the atmosphere here’s great.

It’s a very vibrant city. It’s in transition again and so is the animation here. It’s become very cool and laid-back but still has a solid history and artistic roots. Budapest is like a melting pot and it’s attracting a lot of talented artists from overseas. It’s a great place to be inspired, work, and meet other people from around the world. 


Q> What do you think about the future of animation in your country? Do you think that the number of collaborations between Hungarian animators and international productions is increasing?

U> The number of collaborations is slowly but surely increasing. Both commercially and in longer formats, Hungary is getting more and more recognition. I think one of the big draws is also Hungary’s tax incentives for live action features, animations, or post production 

Right now, it’s much better than it was before. It used to be impossible to get any kind of financial support from the state for animation, especially for shorts. Now there’s two support channels: one is for feature direction and another is for standalone short pieces or for sequels. It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s at least something to start with. We’re lucky because we have strong ties with our commercial clients and partners and they sometimes act as sponsors to our artistic projects. 


Umbrella are represented by Picasso Pictures in the UK


Kijek/Adamski (Poland)

Kijek/Adamski (aka Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski) are a directing duo. They create fun and innovative work and specialise in creating mixed media music videos, short films, and commercials. 


Q> How would you describe yourselves and your work?

K/A> We engage ourselves in very diverse projects, so there isn’t really a neat description that fits our whole body of work. We try to constantly experiment and we love a challenge. We like to provoke situations rather than tell stories.

We always search for the technique that's the most suitable answer to the given topic. We don’t restrict ourselves to working in one style so we tend to search for new forms of expression. That's how we ended up with such diverse portfolio.


Q> Poland is home to so many great young animators at the moment. What do you think it is about the country that produces such animation talent?

K/A> There are many fields of animation and we believe each of them is stimulated in a different way. When it comes to commercial work, the local market is growing and clients are becoming more aware of the possibilities of animation. Artistic projects are often co-founded by state programs which is very helpful. These grants are an interesting phenomenon.

We also believe that growing globalisation makes it easier to aim for high standards and proves that there are ambitious people everywhere.

 

Q> If you had to, how would you describe Polish animation in its own unique style (compared to the rest of the world)? 

K/A> Our first thoughts about Polish animation are always associated with established masters like Jan Lenica or Julian Antonisz. Their unique style grew within the social and political reality they lived in. This reality changed and styles of contemporary Polish animators became polarised. We find them to be more comparable with general global trends.

Many of our animators have an art school background and at these universities in Poland, there is still a strong tradition of graphics and painting. 


Q> What is it like working in Poland as an animator now, and how do you think this has changed in the past decade? 

K/A> The main change we noticed occurred globally and animators all across the world profit from the technological shift and democratisation of the medium that comes with it.

At the same time, we feel that the professional market is not yet fully developed in Poland and it can sometimes be difficult to achieve world class production values when working with local teams in the commercial field.


Q> What do you think about the future of animation in your country? Do you think that the number of collaborations between Polish animators and international productions is increasing? If so, why do you think it's increasing?

K/A> We have a good feeling about it! We definitely see a growing number of international productions collaborating with Polish animators. Thanks to greater connectivity allowing work to be shared across the world in a matter of minutes, physical location is becoming a minor obstacle.


Kijek/Adamski are represented by Strange Beast in the UK

Genre: Animation