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Estonian Animator Elbert Tuganov Passes Away at 87

Elbert Tuganov, the father of Estonian animation, died on March 22, 2007. He was 87.

Tuganov was actually born in Baku, Azerbaijan (1920), and began his animation career in Germany. When Hitler took power, Tuganov returned to Estonia.

He joined Estonia's state film studio, Tallinnfilm in 1946. For 11 years, Tuganov shot, drew and painted titles and credit sequences. During this time, Tuganov built an animation stand that would allow the studio to do frame-by-frame shooting. A visiting Moscow official was impressed by the new apparatus and suggested that Tuganov make animation films.

Tuganov immediately set out to find scripts and landed a Danish story called, PALLE ALONE IN THE WORLD. This became the basis for the first Nukufilm (the name of the puppet animation division of Tallinnfilm, production, LITTLE PETER'S DREAM (1957).

For the next four years, Tuganov and his small crew of six people worked on films alongside artists from the Estonian puppet theatre. After his fourth film, Mina and Murri (1961), animation production received a budgetary blessing from Tallinnfilm. The division's staff grew to 20 and it was decided that the puppets would then be fashioned in the studio.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Tuganov made a number of innovative puppet and cutout films for both adults and children including the satires, PARK AND BLOODY JOHN (1974); the astonishing time-lapse film, INSPIRATION (1975); a documentary of the famous Estonian song festival, and what may be the world's first stereoscopic puppet animation films, SOUVENIR (1977) and THE DAPPLED COLT (1981).

In total, Tuganov made 38 animation films and received numerous international awards. He remained at Nukufilm until his retirement in 1982. He later wrote an autobiography that detailed his failed attempt to flee the Soviet Union in 1982.

Tuganov's passing comes as Estonia celebrates Nukufilm's 50th anniversary this year. In November, an international puppet animation symposium is being held in Tallinn to commemorate Nukufilm's anniversary.

-- Chris Robinson

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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.