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France, 1931 (MIFF 1994, Animation Focus - Starewicz)

Director: Wladyslaw Starewicz

Completed in 1931 Starewicz's masterly puppet animation was arguably the worlds first animated feature, preceding Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs by some seven years. Whilst often referred to by film historians, The Tale Of The Fox, like a great many animated films, was thought lost and only known by reputation and a few stills until archivists rediscovered an old print in the early 80s. Finally it is now completely restored, including a new orchestral backing to the original Vincent Scotto score.

This adaptation of an old German folk story, as told by Goethe, becomes in Starewicz's hands a wonderfully inventive, often hilarious mock medieval epic. It tells the story of a wily fox who manages to outwit the court of King Lion and the rest of the animal kingdom. He is finally made Prime Minister, on the theory that if you can't beat them, have them join you. In the finest tradition of political aspirants, Fox uses every dirty trick in the book to attain his position. He's a name caller, a tail puller, a fiend; very much a 90s hero, one shudders to think how the film was received in the early thirties.
Unprecedented in the history of animation in its scope and achievements, The Tale Of The Fox took some ten years to prepare, 18 months to shoot and features a cast that seems to comprise the entire animal kingdom. Through all this, Starewicz is said to have worked with only the casual assistance of his daughter Irene and a few other animation assistants.

An undoubted influence on the whole wave of East European animators of the 60's and 70's (Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Barta etc), and one that can be seen still in the work of The Brothers Quay, bolexbrothers and even Tim Burton, Wladyslaw Starewicz's time has, belatedly, come.

See also...


Starewicz re-animated hundreds of real, albeit dead, frogs to make the chorus line in this lively musical. The spectacle and intricacy of this all singing, all dancing recreation of the old fable The ... More »

The Mascot

Starewicz uses an energetic camera to follow his animated creation through a real, live action world of traffic and danger. The protagonist, a puppy, wonders into the Bosch-like landscape inhabited ... More »

Love In Black and White

A galloping burlesque and sophisticated critique of a variety of genres, and a jab at theatrical temperament (not to mention human behaviour and prejudice), Love In Black And White has Charlie ... More »

The Cameraman's Revenge

Mrs Beetle is involved with a grasshopper artist while Mr Beetle is seeing a dragonfly cabaret performer in Starewicz's parody of human infidelities. An intricate insect drama of (f)lies, deceit and ... More »

Wladislaw Starewicz

A 1986 examination of the master animator, his life, times and work. Long overdue, this documentary covers his pioneering and dedicated work. From his initial scientific films animating insects to ... More »


In the last year we have been fortunate enough in Melbourne to see two of the three classic films made by Rene Clair in the early 30's. Sous le Toits de Paris and A Nous la Liberte. Now we have the ... More »

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