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Winsor McCay Award Winner Marcell Jankovics Dies at 79

The famed Hungarian animation director and historian, who won a Palme d'Or and garnered an Oscar nomination in addition to his ASIFA-Hollywood honor, passed away May 29.

News was just shared with AWN that famed Hungarian director, graphic artist, and cultural historian Marcell Jankovics passed away May 29 at the age of 79. Over a career spanning six decades, Jankovics worked on more than 100 films as a director, character designer, and animator, winning the Palme d'Or in 1977 for his animated short, Küzdök / The Struggle, and garnering a 1976 Oscar nomination for his animated short, Sisyphus; he was also honored by ASIFA-Hollywood with the Winsor McCay Award in 1999.

Born in 1941, Jankovics was just 19 years old when he joined the animation department of Pannónia Film Studio in 1960. During the 60s, he was the figure designer of Gusztáv, one of the most iconic Hungarian cartoon stars, as well as series co-director. He also directed the first full-length production in Hungarian animation history, János vitéz / Johnny Corncob in 1973.

His second feature film, Fehérlófia / Son of the White Mare was selected among the 50 greatest animations of all time at the Animation Olympics, organized to coincide with the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. Arguably his most famous animated films are the Academy Award-nominated 2-minute-long Sisyphus, with its streamlined design, and Küzdők / The Struggle, honored with a 1977 win at Cannes. His series work included Magyar népmesékHungarian Folk Tales and Mondák a magyar történelembőlLegends from Hungarian History, unique takes on centuries of Hungarian culture.

His 2002 film, Ének a csodaszarvasról / Song of the Miraculous Hind, dealing with the history of the Magyar Conquest, was one of the most watched animations in Hungarian history post 1989 regime change. As an educational / cultural history film, it tested the boundaries of the possibilities of animation, something the director did throughout his career. His most grandiose film, 2012’s Az ember tragédiája / The Tragedy of Man, is adapted from the poem by Imre Madách.  His final work was the full-length animated adaptation of the epic poem Toldi (2021) by János Arany for Kecskemétfilm; it is expected to premiere this autumn.

In 2019, Fehérlófia / Son of the White Mare was restored in 4K through a collaboration of its U.S. and Canadian distributor, Arbelos Films, Los Angeles, and the National Film Institute, Hungary. Currently the National Film Institute is working on restoring his third full-length film, Ének a csodaszarvasról / Song of the Miraculous Hind.

Watch the director discuss his work and career at the 2020 U.S. premiere of Fehérlófia:

In 1984, he laid out his creative creed to the periodical Filmkultúra: “I escape to topics that preoccupy the basic canons of civilization. The fact is, I simply have nowhere else to escape to. My personal problems are not so important that I would make a movie out of them. I can’t see that point in the world, that are thousands, millions of times more important, that would be worth dealing with in our genre: there is such an immeasurable scale of problems that surround our world. Rescuing our disintegrating values is at least a beautiful task, somehow to restore in our genre.”

Source: Nemzeti Filmintézet 

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.