Shorts Program 2: Tales and Collaborations

Shorts program, running time 93 min.

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Silly circuses, classic fairy tales, and toy trains come to life through magical stop-motion, puppet, and hand-drawn animation in these charming, family-friendly shorts which showcase Trnka’s fruitful collaborations with fellow artists, animators, and puppeteers.


Merry Circus (Veselý circus)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1951, 35mm, 12 min., no dialogue
Trnka brings to life a surrealist circus of tightrope-walking fish, musical monkeys, balancing bears, and high-flying acrobatics in this whimsical feat of cut-out animation made in collaboration with leading Czech painters of the era.

The Gingerbread House (Perníková chaloupka)
Břetislav Pojar, Czechoslovakia, 1951, 35mm, 18 min., no dialogue
The Czech version of Hansel and Gretel receives a captivating, puppet-animated adaptation, featuring striking—and fittingly macabre—storybook imagery designed by Trnka and direction by his close colleague and animation heir, Břetislav Pojar.

How the Old Man Traded it All Away (Jak stařeček měnil, až vyměnil)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1953, 9 min., Czech w/ English subtitles
Folk art-like hand-drawn stills illustrate this sweetly simple pastoral fable, in which a peasant comes into possession of a small fortune—but realizes there are treasures greater than gold.

Kuťásek and Kutilka (Kuťásek a Kutilka jak ráno vstávali)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1954, 18 min., Czech w/ English subtitles
How do you wake a sleeping puppet? Made by Trnka in collaboration with actor and puppeteer Josef Pehr, this winsome mix of live action and puppet play is enchanting entertainment for the youngest of viewers.

The Midnight Adventure (Půlnoční příhoda)
Břetislav Pojar, Czechoslovakia, 1960, 13 min., no dialogue
An old woodblock train meets its shiny electric replacement one Christmas Eve night in this glowingly nostalgic stop-motion toy story, directed by Břetislav Pojar and featuring gorgeous design by Trnka.

Circus Hurvínek (Cirkus Hurvínek)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1955, 23 min., Czech w/ English subtitles
Trnka pays homage to two of Czechoslovakia’s most beloved characters—Spejbl and Hurvínek, a father and son duo created by Trnka’s puppeteer mentor, Josef Skupa—in this imaginative tale of a mischievous young boy who dreams of being part of the circus.


The touring retrospective THE PUPPET MASTER: THE COMPLETE JIŘÍ TRNKA is produced by Comeback Company, originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Curated by Irena Kovarova. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive. Image Courtesy of Czech National Film Archive.