Yuri Norstein- cutout
Yuri Norstein is one of the most well known Russian animators for a few reasons, and one is that he played by the Soviets rule. This rule was only animating for children through fairy tales and the use of animals. Even with following the rule he would break it by how he was telling the stories to make them not just for kids, often they would have another layer to them. Norstein has gained the nickname “The Golden Snail” for the amount of time he spends on making his animations; he is a perfectionist. His animation style is cutout animation, yet he is still able to make it feel three dimensional All the characters are so detailed and precise that they can be easily confused with cel animation; this is caused by his use of the multiplane. Norstein’s animations are easy to pick out due the reasons listed before, this is caused by his mastery of the multiplane and his attention to detail in his characters and the movement of anything that is animated.
Yuri Norstein uses cutouts as his way of animating all his animations. The cutouts were mainly painted by Francheska Yarbusova, whose artwork was colorful, precise, and unique in themselves. For example, when looking at The Fox and The Hare the characters and the settings were very colorful and had this unique style to them, it is easy to tell its a Norstein animation. He used Francheska for most of his films he made as the artist behind them. (Bendazzi, 1994, p. 372) This is how he was able to get so much detail in the characters, because he had an artist that could paint precisely and replicate the real thing on small pieces of canvas. He would use replacement series often in his animation to get the motion of something smoothly, because just moving cut outs would limit the ability of doing certain motions. Like again in The Fox and The Hare at 2:38 to 2:43 when the Fox first steals the house from the Rabbit, replacements were used to get the fox to bend down and enter the building. Replacement series involve making more than one cutout of the same thing just with minor differences in it so when animating with it you can get the motion that you want easier and clearer than just with using one cutout of same thing. This technique is commonly used in cutout animation for it produces the best results when looking at fluid motion. This technique eliminates the choppiness that cutout animation can produce when trying to do something that requires a full range of motion. Look at The Heron and The Crane at 2:29 to 2:49 the swing she was sitting on was created using replacement series to get the fluid motion of going back and forth. Also Norstein made the characters arms and legs go behind the main body to make it easier to move them when animating them and to make them look more realistic. Yuri Norstein could not get a field of depth that was similar to cel animation with just cutouts, so he had to use the multiplane.
Norstein’s use of the multiplane is what allows his animations to feel like they are cel animations and not cutouts. This is due to his ability to use the device in his animations. Norstein heavily uses the multiplane for its ability to create depth of field, for without it he would have trouble creating such detailed backgrounds that had different distances from the characters. Plus his characters would have trouble walking behind things, for example look at Hedgehog in The Fog at 0:50 to 0:53 where the hedgehog walks behind a bunch of trees and you can see him through the holes in the trees walking. Also in Tales of Tales when the wolf has the baby and is running in the woods with it there are trees in front of him and behind him, that gives effect of depth. Without the multiplane that scene would have been a pain to pull off, because how would one move the character without moving the trees at the same time. This tool allowed Norstein to pull off some complex cinematography, because he was able to get his characters to walk around or behind objects and then pop in partially in front of it with an arm or head. Like in Hedgehog in The Fog at 5:44 he is behind a tree and sticks his head out to look into the tree. The tree is on a layer above the hedgehog to give that look of depth to it. He does close up shots to get more detailed looks at the character’s motion and emotion and to add a layer of suspense to some of his scenes. The music that he chooses to use often invokes emotions in the viewer’s mind, which helps set the mood or tone of the scene. Yuri Norstein’s mastery of the multiplane made films that had a depth of field where other cutout animators did not, yet what sticks out even more is the fluid nature of motion in all his animations.
The reason he gained the nickname “The Golden Snail” is because he took so long to make a film, but when it comes out the motion in the film is top of the line. This is caused by the amount of time he spent on making sure the animation turned out exactly the way he wanted it to. His characters do not move like they are cutouts, but instead like cel animated characters; he focuses on the motion of everything in the film. (Kitson, 2005) For example look at the scene from Tale of Tales where the wolf cub is cooking and eating the potatoes, the wolf plucks each root out of the potato, the arm is on top of the main body and the arm moves like a real arm would move. His motion is very realistic and clear in all his films. He is not one to push the bounds of what humanoid creatures can move like. They are all based off of how a human normally moves. When a leaf falls in Tale of Tales if falls down like a real leaf would do in nature, the motion is almost dead on to what the real thing looks like. Tale of Tales has been called his best work and Russia’s best animated work, which is hard to argue with due to the amount of detail, to every little thing that moves, and to the backgrounds. (Kitson, 2005) The motion in the film is spot on to how a human would move. Also the use of the multiplane here is on the level that no film of his is in. There are so many different things on the screen at once and they all fit in and flow together.
Yuri Norstein is one of the most famous Russian animators, this is partly due to the harsh laws the Soviets placed on animation. So creativity was restricted and animators had to find ways to get around it, and Yuri Norstein was one of them. He was able to create masterworks, while mostly staying within Soviet rules. He used the multiplane to get a depth of field that was obtained normally from cel animation. This tool in combination with the art style by Francheska Yarbusova makes his films memorable and unique. The art style was unique and different from many of the other Russian animators. He also took his time in making his films to insure they were top of the line. All these things, combined with his attention to detail of motion, are why he is called “The Golden Snail,” and also why he is called one of the greatest animators of all time.
- Bendazzi, G. (1994). Cartoons: One hundred years of cinema animation. London: Libbey.
- Kitson, C. (2005). Yuri Norstein and Tale of tales : an animator’s journey. London: Libbey.
I took the multiplane that Norstein often used and made one myself to use for the animation. Plus I used cutouts like he did in my animation. I tried to get as detail as Norstein did, but realize that would not work with the time constraints I had. I first me and my dad designed and built the multiplane for it, and found heat lights for lighting. Took one of in my parents house and turned it into a studio, we blacked out all the lights and the windows to keep the lighting the same throughout the animation. Two days were preproduction and one day of filming and animating. I feel like the strongest animation is where my guy grab his food and sit down to eat it, which from 7 seconds to 13 seconds. The sitting and standing motions are clear and are anticipated before they are done. Plus the design of how he is sitting and eating is good use of staging and timing. The exaggeration could have been more but it was still clearly there, same with an arcing motion.