This short is generally considered to be the first film to feature animated puppets performing an actual story.
Ladislaw Starewicz (1892-1965)- (also spelled Ladislas Starevitch, Ladislas Starewitch, or Wladyslaw Starewicz)- was an innovative independent stop-motion puppet animator who worked in Russia and France during a 40-year career which began in 1908 in North-Eastern Poland (modern Lithuania).
Born Władysław Starewicz in Moscow, Russia, he was raised by his grandmother on the Baltic coast. As the director of a natural history museum in Kaunas, Lithuania, he made a few live-action films before attempting stop-motion. For the fifth film, Starewicz wanted to document the battle of two stag beetles, but was frustrated when he found that the nocturnal creatures would go to sleep whenever the stage lighting was turned on. Inspired by a viewing of Les Allumettes Animées [Animated Matches] (1908) by Emile Cohl, Starewicz decided to re-create the fight through stop-motion animation: he removed the legs and mandibles from two beetle carcasses, then re-attached them with wax, creating articulated puppets. The result was the short film Walka Żuków (1910), the first animated puppet film with a plot, and the first animated film from the Sino-Polish region.
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. Strekoza I Muravei [The Grasshopper and the Ant] (1911) got Starewicz decorated by the czar. The best-known film of this period, perhaps of his entire career, was Miest Kinooperatora Operatora (The Cameraman's Revenge) (1912), a dark and cynical look at infidelity and jealousy among the insects.
Like most of the Russian film community at the time, Starewicz sided with the White Army. After the October Revolution of 1917, he was forced to flee 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. There, Władysław Starewicz changed his name to Ladislas Starevich, finding it easier to pronounce in French. He made one animated film with his old comrades in the French capital before moving on to Fontenay-sous-Bois and his own independent production house.
Walka Żuków Production Information
Alternate Titles: "Walka Zukow" and "Lucanus Cervus."
English Title: "The Battle Of The Stag Beetles."
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