Ladislas Starevich

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Ladislav Starevich
Starevich 1.jpg
Born Władysław Starewicz
(1882-08-08)August 8, 1882
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died February 26, 1965(1965-02-26) (aged 82)
Fontenay-sous-Bois, France
Nationality Russian
Ethnicity Polish[1][2]
Occupation Film director, stop motion animator

Vladislav Starevich (Russian: Владисла́в Алекса́ндрович Старе́вич, Polish: Władysław Starewicz; August 8, 1882 – February 26, 1965) was a Russian, Lithuanian and French stop-motion animator notable as the author of the first puppet-animated film (i.e. The Beautiful Lukanida (1912)). He also used insects and other animals as protagonists of his films. (His name is variously transliterated into English as Starewicz, Starevitch, Starewich and Starewitch.)

Early career

File:Strekosa i muravei (1913).webm
The Ant and the Grasshoper (1913)

Władysław Starewicz was born in Moscow, Russia to Polish parents[1][3] (father Aleksander Starewicz from Surviliškis near Kėdainiai and mother Antonina Legęcka from Kaunas, both from "neighbourhood nobility", in hiding after the failed Insurrection of 1863 against the Tsarist Russian domination), and had lived in Lithuania which at that time was a part of the Russian Empire. The boy was raised by his grandmother in Kaunas, then the capital of Kaunas Governorate. He attended Gymnasium in Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia).

Starewicz had interests in a number of different areas; by 1910 he was named Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania. There he made four short live-action documentaries for the museum. For the fifth film, Starewicz wished to record the battle of two stag beetles, but was stymied by the fact that the nocturnal creatures inevitably die whenever the stage lighting was turned on. Inspired by a viewing of Les allumettes animées [Animated Matches] (1908) by Émile Cohl, Starewicz decided to re-create the fight through stop-motion animation: by replacing the beetles' legs with wire, attached with sealing wax to their thorax, he is able to create articulated insect puppets. The result was the short film Lucanus Cervus (1910), apparently the first animated puppet film and the natal hour of Russian animation.

In 1911, Starewicz moved to Moscow and began work with the film company of Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. There he made two dozen films, most of them puppet animations using dead animals. Of these, The Beautiful Leukanida (premiere - 1912), first puppet film with a plot inspired in the story of Agamenon and Menelas, earned international acclaim (one British reviewer was tricked into thinking the stars were live trained insects), while The Grasshopper and the Ant (1911) got Starewicz decorated by the czar. But the best-known film of this period, was Mest' kinematograficheskogo operatora (Revenge of the Kinematograph Cameraman, aka The Cameraman's Revenge) (1912), a cynical work about infidelity and jealousy among the insects. Some of the films made for Khanzhonkov feature live-action/animation interaction. In some cases, the live action consisted of footage of Starewicz's daughter Irina. Particularly worthy of note is Starevich's 41-minute 1913 film The Night Before Christmas, an adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol story of the same name. The 1913 film Terrible Vengeance won the Gold Medal at an international festival in Milan in 1914, being just one of five films which won awards among 1005 contestants.[4]

During World War I, Starewicz worked for several film companies, directing 60 live-action features, some of which were fairly successful. After the October Revolution of 1917, the film community largely sided with the White Army and moved from Moscow to Yalta on the Black Sea. After a brief stay, Starewicz and his family fled before the Red Army could capture the Crimea, stopping in Italy for a while before joining the Russian émigrés in Paris.

After World War I

At this time, Władysław Starewicz changed his name to Ladislas Starevich, as it was easier to pronounce in French. He first stablished with his family in Joinville-le-pont, while he worked as a cameraman. He rapidly returned to make puppet films. He made "Le mariage de Babylas" (Midnight wedding), "L'épouvantail" ("The scarecrow", 1921 ), Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi (Frogland [US]) (1922)), "Amour noir et Blanc"("Love in black and withe", 1923) "La voix du rossignol" ("The voice of the nightingale", 1923) and "La petite chateuse des rues" ("The little street singer", 1924).In these films he was assisted first by his daughter Irina (who had changed her name to Irène) who collaborated in all his films and defended his rights, his wife Anna Zimermann, who made the costumes for the puppets and Jeane Starewitch (aka Nina Star) who was engaged by his father in some films (The little street singer, "The queen of the butterflies", "The voice of the nightingale", "The Magical clock" etc...) In 1924, Starevich moved to Fontenay-sous-Bois, where he lived until his death in 1965. There where made the rest of his films. Among the most notable are The Eyes of the Dragon (1925), a Chinese tale with complex and wonderful sets and character design, in which Starewitch shows his talent of decorator artist and ingenious trick-filmmaker, The Town Rat and the Country Rat (1926), a parody of American slapstick films, The Magical Clock (1928), a fairytale with amazing middle-age puppets and sets, starring Nina Star and music by Paul Dessau, The Little Parade, from Andersen's tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Six weeks after the premiere of "The little parade", sound was added by Louis Nalpas companny. Starewitch started a collaboration with him, wishing to make a feature full-length film : "Le Roman de Renard". All his 20's films are available on DVD.

"Le Roman de Renard"

Often mentioned as being among his best work, The Tale of the Fox (French: Le Roman de Renard, German: Reinicke Fuchs) was also his first animated feature. It was entirely made by him and his daughter, Irene. Production took place in Fontenay-sous-Bois from 1929–1930. When the film was ready, the producer, Louis Nalpas, decided to add sound by disc support but this system failed and the film was not released. German film studio UFA got interest to show the film in two parts. Sound was added in German and it premiered in Berlin in 1937 . Later, in 1941, Roger Richebé (Paris Cinéma Location) produced a French sound version, which premiered on April 1941 . It was the third animated feature film to have sound, after Quirino Cristiani's Peludópolis (1931) and The New Gulliver (1935) from the Soviet Union.

The "Fétiche" series (Mascott)

In 1933 Ladislas and Irene Starewitch produced and directed a film about 1000 meters title at first in the laboratory "LS 18". Under pressure from distributors, length was greatly reduced, the film became "Fetishe Mascotte" (The mascot), about 600 meters, distributed in 1934. Starewitch made a contract with Marc Gelbart (Gelma Films) to make a series with this character. It was intended to make 12 episodes, but for economic reasons, only 5 where made between 1934 and 1937 and distributed in all the world. These are "Fétiche prestidigitateur" (The ringsmater, 1934), "Fétiche se marie" (The mascott's wedding, 1935), "Fétiche en voyage de noces" (The navigator, 1936) and "Fétiche et les sirènes" (The mascott and the mermaids, 1937) which was not released because sound could not be added. There is an unfinished film, "Fétiche père de famille" (The mascott and his family, 1938).

In 1954, L. Starewitch conceived "The Hangover", using the images not included in "The Mascot". Just recently, Léona Béatrice Martin-Starewitch, his granddaughter, and her husband, François Martin, started the reconstruction of the original movie from multiple copies of "The Mascot" distributed in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, negative of "The hangover" and material from the archives of Ladislas Starewitch. In 2012 "LS 18" has found its length and momtage from 1933. It was named "Fetish 33-12".

During and after World War II

During this period (1937- 1946), Starewitch ceased his productions. There was some intents to make commercial films, but none have seen the light or have been accomplished.

After World War II

In 1946 he tried to make The Midsummer night's dream but abandoned the project due to financial problems. Next year, he made "Zanzabelle a paris" adapted from a story by Sonika Bo. In 1949, he met Alexandre Kamnka (Alkam Films), an old Russian friend, who produced Starewitch's first colour film "Fleur de fougère" (Fern Flower). It's based on an East Europe story, in which a child goes to the forest to collect a fern flower, which grows during the night of Saint-Jean, and which makes wishes come true. In 1950, Fern Flower won the first prize as an animated film in the 11th International Children Film Festival in Venice Biennale. Then he started a collaboration with Sonika Bo to adapt another of her stories, "Gazouilly petit oiseau", followed by "Un dimanche de Gazouillis" (Gazouillis's Sunday picnic). Again produce by Alkam films, Starewitch made "Nose to wind", which tells the adventures of Patapouf, a bear who escapes from school to play with his friends the rabbit and the fox. That year, his wife Anna died. Due to the success from the previous film, "Winter carrousel" was made, starring the bear Patapouf and the rabbit going through seasons. This was his last completed film. All his family co-labored on it, as remembers his granddaughter Léona Béatrice, whose hands can be seen in animation tests from "Like dog and cat", Starewitch's unfinished film.

Ladislas Starewitch died on 26 February 1965, while working on Comme chien et chat (Like Dog and Cat). He was one of the few European animators to be known by name in America before the 1960s, largely on account of La Voix du rossignol and Fétiche Mascotte (The Tale of the Fox was not widely distributed in the US). His Russian films were known for their dark humor. He kept every puppet he made, so stars in one film tended to turn up as supporting characters in later works (the frogs from Grenouilles qui demandent un roi are the oldest of these). For example, in "Fétiche mascotte" (1933) we can see puppets from "The Scarcrow", "The little Parade", "The Magical clock". The films are united, incredible imagination and development of techniques, like motion blur, replacement animation, multiple frame exposing, and reverse shoting.


Since 1991, Leona Beatrice Martin-Starewitch, Ladislas Starevich's granddaughter and her husband, François Martin, restore and distribute her grandfather's films.

Filmmaker Terry Gilliam ranks "The mascott" among the ten best animated movies of all time.

In 2005, Xavier Kawa-Topor and Jean Rubak joined three Starewitch short films in a feature film, with music by Jean-Marie Senia. The film, entitled "Tales of the Magical Clock" contributes to the recognition by the press and the public of Starewitch Engineering.

In 2009, Wes Anderson made tribute to "Le Roman de Renard in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

In 2012, a new film by Ladislas Starevich was reconstituted Fetish 33-12. This is the original version of the film "The mascot", 1933 film about 1000 m, but decreased by 600 m distributors by the time.

In 2014, the town of Fontenay-sous-Bois and service Documentation Archive with the family Martin-Starewich organized projections of Ladislas Starewich films in municipal Kosmos cinema with the release of all the preserved films, more than 7 hours on two projection days.


Films directed in Kaunas, Lithuania (1909–1910)

(with original titles in Polish)

  • Nad Niemnem (1909) - Beyond the River Nemunas
  • Zycie Ważek (1909) - The Life of the Dragonfly
  • Walka żuków (1909) - The Battle of the Stag Beetles
  • Piękna Lukanida (1910) - The Beautiful Lukanida (the first puppet animation film)

These films are currently considered lost.

Films directed in Russia (1911-1918)

(with original titles in Russian)

  • Miest Kinomatograficheskovo Operatora (1911) - The Cameraman’s Revenge
  • Rozhdyestvo Obitatelei Lyesa (1911) - The Insects' Christmas
  • Strekoza I Muravei (1911) - The Ant and the Grasshopper
  • Aviacionnaya Nedelya Nasekomykh (1912) - Insects' Aviation Week
  • Strashnaia Myest (1912) - The Terrible Vengeance
  • Noch' Pered Rozhdestvom (1912) - The Night Before Christmas
  • Veselye Scenki Iz Zhizni Zhivotnykh (1912) - Amusing Scenes from the Life of Insects
  • Puteshestvie Na Lunu (1912) - A Journey to the Moon
  • Ruslan I Ludmilla. (1913) - Ruslan and Ludmilla
  • Snegurochka. (1914) - The Snow Maiden
  • Pasynok Marsa (1914) - Mars’s Stepson
  • Kayser-Gogiel-Mogiel (1914) - Gogel-Mogel General
  • Troika (1914) - Troika
  • Fleurs Fanees 1914 - Faded Flowers
  • Le Chant Du Bagnard (1915) - The Convict's Song
  • Portret (1915) - (May Be Produced By The Skobeliew Committee) - The Portrait
  • Liliya Bel'gii (1915) - The Lily of Belgium
  • Eto Tyebye Prinadlezhit (1915) - It’s Fine for You
  • Eros I Psyche (1915) - Eros and Psyche
  • Dvye Vstryechi (1916) - Two Meetings
  • Le Faune En Laisse (1916) - The Chained Faun
  • O Chom Shumielo Morie (1916) - The Murmuring Sea
  • Taman (1916) - Taman
  • Na Varshavskom Trakte (1916) - On the Warsaw Highway
  • Pan Twardowski (1917) - Mister Twardowski
  • Sashka-Naezdnik (1917) - Sashka the Horseman
  • K Narodnoi Vlasti (1917) - Towards People’s Power
  • Kaliostro (1918) - Cagliostro
  • Yola (1918) - Iola
  • Wij (1918) - Vij
  • Sorotchinskaia Yarmaka (1918) - The Sorotchninsk Fair
  • Maiskaya Noch (1918) - May Night
  • Stella Maris (1918) - Starfish

Films directed in France (1920–1965)

(with original titles in French)

  • Dans les Griffes de L'araignée (1920) - In The Claws of the Spider
  • Le Mariage de Babylas (1921) - Babylas’s Marriage
  • L’épouvantail (1921) - The Scarecrow
  • Les Grenouilles qui Demandent un Roi (1922) - Frogland
  • La Voix du Rossignol (1923) - The Voice of the Nightingale
  • Amour Noir et Blanc (1923) - Love In Black and White
  • La Petite Chanteuse des Rues (1924) - The Little Street Singer
  • Les Yeux du Dragon (1925) - The Eyes of the Dragon
  • Le Rat de Ville et le Rat Des Champs - (1926) The Town Rat and the Country Rat
  • La Cigale et la Fourmi (1927) - The Ant and the Grasshopper
  • La Reine des Papillons (1927) - The Queen of the Butterflies
  • L'horloge Magique (1928) - The Magic Clock
  • La Petite Parade (1928) - The Little Parade
  • Le Lion et le Moucheron (1932) - The Lion and the Fly
  • Le Lion Devenu Vieux (1932) - The Old Lion
  • Fétiche Mascotte (1933) - The Mascot
  • Fétiche Prestidigitateur (1934) - The Ringmaster
  • Fétiche se Marie (1935) - The Mascot’s Marriage
  • Fétiche en Voyage De Noces (1936) - The Navigator
  • Fétiche Chez les Sirènes (1937) - The Mascot and the Mermaids
  • Le Roman de Renard (1930–1939) - The Tale of the Fox
  • Zanzabelle a Paris (1947) - Zanzabelle in Paris
  • Fleur de Fougère (1949) - Fern Flowers
  • Gazouilly Petit Oiseau. (1953) - Little Bird Gazouilly
  • Gueule de Bois (1954) - Hangover
  • Un Dimanche de Gazouilly (1955) - Gazouilly’s Sunday Picnic
  • Nez au Vent (1956) - Nose to the Wind
  • Carrousel Boréal (1958) - Winter Carousel
  • Comme Chien et Chat (1965) - Like Dog and Cat

A documentary about Starevich was made in 2008.

DVD Editions

  • Le monde magique de Ladislas Starewitch, Doriane Films, 2000.

Content: The Old Lion, The Town Rat and the Country Rat (1932 sound version) The mascot and Fern Flowers.

Bonus: The Town Rat and the Country Rat (1926 silent version)

  • Le Roman de Renard(The Tale of the fox), Doriane Films, 2005.

Bonus: The Navigator

  • Les Contes de l'horloge magique, Éditions Montparnasse, 2005.

Content: The Little Street Singer, The Little Parade and The Magic Clock.

  • The Cameraman's Revenge and other fantastic tales, Milestone, Image Entertainment, 2005

Content: The Cameraman's Revenge, The insect's christmas, The frogs who wanted a king (short version), The voice of the nightingale, The mascot and Winter Carrousel.

  • Les Fables de Starewitch d'aprés la Fontaine, Doriane Films, 2011.

Content: The Lion and the Fly, The Town Rat and the Country Rat (1926), The frogs who wanted a king (original version), The Ant and the Grasshopper (1927 version), The Old Lion and Comment naît et s'anime une ciné-marionnette (How a Ciné marionette born and comes to life).

Bonus: The Old Lion (French narrated version) and The Town Rat and the Country Rat (1932 version)

  • Nina Star, Doriane Films, 2013.

Content: The Sacarecrow, The Babylas's wedding, The voice of the nightingale, The Queen of the butterflies.

Bonus: The Babylas's wedding (tinted colours), The Queen of the butterflies (United Kingdom version), Comment naît et s'anime une ciné-marionnette.

  • L'homme des confins, Doriane Films, 2013.

Content: In the spider's claws, The eyes of the dragon, Love black and withe

Bonus: The eyes of the dragon (1932 sound version), Love black and withe (1932 sound version), Comment naît et s'anime une ciné-marionnette

  • Fétiche 33-12, Doriane Films, 2013

Bonus: The mascot, Gueule de bois, Comment naît et s'anime une ciné marionnette.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ray Harryhausen. Tony Dalton. A Century of Model Animation: From Méliès to Aardman. 2008. Watson-Guptill. p. 44.
  2. Richard Neupert. French Animation History. Wiley Blackwell. 2011. p. 61.
  3. Nicholas Rzhevsky. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture. Cambridge University Press. 2012. p. 317.


  • Donald Crafton; Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928; University of Chicago Press; ISBN 0-226-11667-0 (2nd edition, paperback, 1993)
  • Giannalberto Bendazzi (Anna Taraboletti-Segre, translator); Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation; Indiana University Press; ISBN 0-253-20937-4 (reprint, paperback, 2001)
  • Liner notes to the DVD The Cameraman's Revenge and Other Fantastic Tales

External links