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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: 'Chucha'

Every Wednesday, Chris Robinson takes a look at short animation films. Today: 'Chucha' (1997) an obscure stop motion Christmas short from Garri Bardin

'Choo Choo' by Garri Bardin

Here’s a forgotten face from animation history: Garri Bardin. Bardin started animating in the 1970s at the legendary Soyultzmultfilm studio in Moscow. Working almost exclusively with stop motion animation (puppets, clay, objects), Bardin’s best known works include Break (1985) and Grey Wolf and Red Riding Hood (1990).

Since its holiday time, I thought I’d screen Chucha (Choo Choo, 1997) a more obscure work and one that is set during the Christmas holidays.

Now…okay… it’s got stuff that bugs me. The puppets creep me out a bit. The setting is striving for a realism that makes you think, ‘well, why not just shoot it live’ and the flood of big band music often makes you feel like you’re watching a bootleg copy (you aren’t. this is the original soundtrack).

Negatives out of the way, there’s an old school charm to the film. It’s made by human hands and has a perfectly unpolished movement and design. Bardin neatly fuses dream and reality…and this, contradictory my critique above, serves the film well, but keeping us off balance. We’re never quite sure what is real and what is dream. Even the opening scene. Is the figure with the dog the boy as an adult? Is this movie a memory? Or is that just a neighbour, unconnected (and uninvited!) to the party.

Beautifully designed and animated, we follow the boy as he first navigates through the beguiling, frustrating and lonely world that is an adult party (the teddy bear joke is a good one) before he meanders off to his room and enters some sort of dreamscape, wandering up to the attic where he crafts his own world and friends.

Though I could do without the closing ‘lecture’ about adults rediscovering the child within (I mean come on, the adults seem to be having a great time at their party. What the hell is wrong with that?), Chucha, overall, seems to be a celebration of a child’s imagination and creativity – something that one could argue...well, ok…I don’t want to sound like a grumpy oldish man… maybe it hasn't been lost…but it’s sure as hell changed in this digital age, and I’m not sure it’s for the better.

But who knows…

I don't. You don’t.

Enjoy your Holidays.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.