I apologize for the long hiatus between posts, but a combination of family emergencies and a lengthy attack of bronchitis has slowed me down a bit.
There is some interesting news on the animation front: the Russian feature THE TALE OF THE SOLDIER FEDOT (Fedot Strelets) made by the Melnitsa Animation Studio was posted on YouTube for a few days. Note: someone took it down, which is probably what I would have done in their place. I did get to see it beforehand. I hope that it is made available on dvd; in the meantime, the website for the film is still up, and the trailer can be viewed there. I am told that the film did make a respectable amount of money by Russian standards, and it was either loved or disliked in equal measure by the audiences.
The film is beautifully art directed; the artwork resembles lacquer paintings on Russian boxes. It is done in digital cutout animation, apparently the first Russian feature to use this technique (though short films have done this for some time). Some characters' heads turn; others are flat.
The animation is stylized and never boring.
The poem it is based on probably sounds better in Russian. My friend Alexey Kobelev sent me a link to an English translation last year, and it is this translation that is used in the film's subtitles.
I was surprised and a little repulsed by one episode near the end, which contains a grotesque racist caricature. The character is described in repulsive terms in the original poem, but the visuals take the stereotyping to the limit. The episode could be edited out of the film if anyone wanted to show it in the West. (The Tsar is trying to marry his daughter off to just about anyone...and there were many more candidates in the original poem.)
Take a look. It's worth it. I wish Studio Melnitsa luck in their future productions.