Vladimir Tarasov employed sci-fi motifs in several of his 1980s animation shorts, including the anti-capitalist satire Shooting Range about violence, and dystopic futuristic Contract dedicated to power of money that corrupts people in the capitalist society. Shooting Range is a beautifully rendered cartoon that features interesting perception of the US filled with avant-garde jazz (considered to be reprehensible music in the Soviet Union),classic American cars, highways with at least 12 lanes, and glass and steel skyscrapers. Stereotypical American hero wears jeans and baseball hat and is attached to his car in a way a nomad warrior attached to his horse. Violence and unemployment plague this geometrical generic Western city. The anti-hero inherits typical capitalist features including passion for cigars (while the unemployed hero smokes – presumably more proletarian – Camel).
Capitalist from 1959 Soviet magazine
Antihero of Shooting Range
In a scene of temporal (underlined by transformation of a cuckoo clock bird into firebird) happiness Vladimir Tarasov pays a homage to Disney characters – a vital part of American cultural image.
While this craftily executed cartoon has some ideologically correct features, there is artistic fascination with American aesthetics, design, music, and big city vibe. This cartoon presents the West both disturbing and appealing.
Хищники (Vultures), 1941 by Panteleimon Sazonov is a short propaganda cartoon about “Stalin’s falcons” – inculcated term for the Soviet aviation. Propaganda of aviation as the most modern and advanced mean of warfare was extremely popular during the 1930-1940s.
Hail to Stalin’s Falcons, 1941 – one of many aviation-themed Soviet posters
The Nazi vulture-looking bombers are being destroyed by the Soviet planes (inspired by famous I-16). In reality, during the early stages of the war, the losses of the Red Army and Soviet Air Force were extremely heavy.
Black and White (Черное и белое) is a 1932 cartoon based on the poem of Vladimir Mayakovsky. It is one of the propaganda pieces Mayakovsky wrote during his trip to the US and Cuba about poor black Willie who’s daring to confront a rich white sugar plantation tycoon. America and especially such topics as racial tensions and the Vietnam war would become a popular subject of the Soviet animation satire during 1950-1970s. This is one of the earliest films aimed at the US. It was also one of the first works of Ivan Ivanov-Vano and Leonid Amalrik. Both became prolific and influential film directors.
It’s interesting to notice that minimalistic approach to some scenes reminds avant-garde spirit of a graphic artist Vladimir Lebedev popular illustrator and poster maker who started his career in ROSTA Windows.
Китай в огне (China in Flames) is a significant effort of an early Soviet animation filmed in 1925. Apart from Olga Hodatayeva (mentioned in the previous post), the team included prominent animators like the Brumberg sisters and Ivan Ivanov-Vano. All of them had long and distinguished careers in the Soviet film-making.
China in Flames was shot using skillfully made paper cut outs. It’s a half hour long tour de force in the era most cartoons lasted 5-10 minutes. Like many pieces of the Soviet propagandist movies of the 1920s, it lacked Hollywood-style gags and looks more like a documentary about the evil Western capitalists and greedy Chinese landlords oppressing the Chinese peasants. However, the Communist Russia is ready to help the workers and peasants.
This piece lacks individual characters and represents the popular ideas of the 1920s when the whole nation, a human mass was considered the main character. Both Eisenstein (Strike, Potemkin) and Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera) despite different approaches promoted this view. It would be later abandoned in favor of portraying strong leaders (Alexander Nevsky is probably the best example) connecting the image of a single ruler with the figure of Stalin during 1930-1950s.