Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday animation: Конёк-Горбуно́к (The Humpbacked Horse)

I definitely wasn't expecting an older movie to be selected today!  But it's a nice break from all of the modern ones I've been reviewing.  There are far more modern animated films than older ones, so the likelihood of an older film being selected is low.

This film is one I doubt anyone has seen except for either animation buffs or Russian film buffs.  I myself did not watch it until recently.  There is an English dub of the film, but I only watched the original Russian since I like to watch films in their original format.  I watched a little of the English dub and have to admit that I enjoyed the English dub's portrayal of the main character over his portrayal in the original.

Not to say the Russian version isn't good, though!

Overview: The Humpbacked Horse is a Soviet Russian animated fantasy film first released in 1947.  It was based on a poem by Russian poet Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov.

Art: Honestly, it's beautiful.  It is truly art.  I mean, it's crude and low-budget, but at the same time, it is very artistic and well-done.  The quality has obviously deteriorated over time, though it probably wasn't that good to begin with (lots of spots, cracks).  Good colors, fair amount of fluidity, though not a lot of shading or depth.  Not many angles, all action is usually seen straight-on (i.e. not from above, below, etc.).  Backgrounds are not too impressive and are rather flat and unmoving.  I don't love the designs of the characters.  They're not necessarily cartoony, but they aren't beautiful.  I liked the design of the humpbacked horse and the Tsar-Maiden the best.  I also liked Ivan's transformation at the end.  I love the way light was rendered in this film.  Shiny and bright, especially for its time.  A lovely effect.  However, it is definitely rotoscoped, or at least some parts definitely are.  The artistic style makes it less obvious, but some movements look oddly realistic which strongly suggests rotoscoping.

Good detail here.
Nice light rendering.
Good water animation for its time.

Sound: Deteriorated over time, probably fairly poor when it first came out, though.  Fuzzy, unclear, lots of pops and cracks.  I actually enjoyed the music!  Ivan had a great singing voice as did the Tsar-Maiden.  I loved the bath song with the Tsar, haha.  Some nice background music as well, though nothing memorable.  I really only remember the bath song.  That was just so funny!  I thought all of the voices were great, the humpbacked horse and the Tsar's advisor particularly.

Story: Basically, it's about Ivan's attempts to impress the king and thereby stay alive, and in the end, with the help of his humpbacked horse which was given to him by a horse with a fiery mane at the beginning of the movie, he wins the heart of the Tsar-Maiden and gets everything he could ever want.  The Tsar's advisor attempts to get him killed, and the Tsar is selfish and wants him to do everything for him.  Honestly, it's nothing very deep.  I don't know if I could say that there's a moral.  It's interesting how Ivan was considered the idiot among his three brothers when he actually seemed fairly clever.  A bit brash and outspoken, but clever.  The humpbacked horse was very sweet and helped him so much.  The Tsar-Maiden was beautiful but also quite shallow since she only had interest in Ivan once he was transformed into a handsome man.  The humpbacked horse itself appeared to be a small horse with two camel humps on its back.  o.O  I guess, haha.  The only character that's developed at all is Ivan; the others are pretty flat.  The story is plot-driven, though, so it works out fine.

Personal appeal: While I didn't like the design, I did find the art to be lovely.  The music was fun although not memorable.  The story was interesting, full of whimsy and fantasy.  I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, more than I thought I would.  It was a fun little story, not boring at all.  It was even, dare I say…kind of cute, haha.  Does it compare to Disney movies of the time?  Not even close, but considering that most animation studies back then did not have the money or talent that Disney had, this was certainly a well-made film at the time.

Overall, I rate this two and a half out of five peridots.  It has a lot of charm and fun, but it's a little lacking plot-wise, and the use of rotoscoping makes it less impressive.  It also looks lovely, but the designs are not so attractive.


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