Ivanov-Vano, Ivan

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Animator. Nationality: Russian. Born: Moscow, 8 February 1900. Career: Animator from 1923, and independent director from 1927. Died: March 1987.

Films as Animator:


Senka the African


The Czar Durandai


The Three Musketeers


The Little Humpbacked Horse


The Snow Maiden


The Tale of a Dead Princess


The Brave Hare


Once Upon a Time


The Seasons


The Mechanical Flea; The Left Hander


Go to Nowhere


Legend of a Cruel Giant


Battle under the Walls of Kerchenetz (co)


By IVANOV-VANO: articles—

Soviet Film (Moscow), no. 5, 1977.

Film a Doba (Prague), vol. 33, no. 11, November 1987.

On IVANOV-VANO: articles—

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 2, 1975.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), April 1980.

Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), September 1985.

Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), December 1986.

Obituary, in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), July 1987.

* * *

Ivan Ivanov-Vano was one of the founders of Soviet animation, beginning his work in 1923, and his contribution to the totality of Russian animated art has been appreciated all over the world. His first effort as an independent director was in 1927, and from that time forward he was in the forefront of technical and artistic developments in the medium in Russia. At the start his style was perhaps too advanced, but the market caught up with him to such an extent that he was called the Russian Disney. The similarity may lie in the fact that he recognized that audience appeal is an essential element for success. He often changed his style, trying new ways to make films with new techniques to add interest. Most of his subjects were based on traditional Russian tales, using an extremely rich supply of local poetry, folk tales, embroideries, carvings, and architecture. Other similarities between him and Disney were in the scale of production. They were big, with no shortcuts, full of spectacular effects, and totally absorb the audience's attention. But the parallel ended here. Disney stories, which as a rule were based on old German and British folk tales, were diluted to please a general audience. Although Ivanov-Vano did please his audience, he made fewer compromises and retained a purer sense of poetry and aesthetic concepts. One feels that he really satisfied himself before satisfying his audience.

Out of his wide range of subjects in over 50 years of animated film direction, The Tale of a Dead Princess, The Little Humpbacked Horse, The Snow Maiden (based on Ostrovsky's play), and Once Upon a Time are perhaps the most distinguished. The Seasons, based on Tchaikovsky's music, is an imaginative and colourful interpretation of the Russian landscape. But the most powerful and best-designed of his films is Battle under the Walls of Kerchenetz, based on Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Legend of the Invisible Town of Kitezh. The film is a fusion of old Russian icons, with their brilliant transparent colour and elegant design, and the rhythm of music, making excellent use of time and space and the dynamic aspects of film cutting. In contrast, after the battle, the peasants return home to revive their land, in a sequence which has a sense of lyricism which is quite outstanding in colour treatment and poetic mood. Yuri Norstein, a young filmmaker and disciple of Ivanov-Vano, codirected this film and has since made his way independently.

—John Halas