Animation Artifacts &Luzzati & Gianini 05 Feb 2007 07:53 am

The Thieving Magpie

– Last Saturday, I sought some stills from the films of Emanuele Luzzati who died on Friday. I wanted to illustrate a piece I was writing reporting his death. The web offers little by way of illustration of the brilliant artist’s work.

I’ve been something of a fan of the films of Luzzati and Gianini. As I said Saturday, I’d met Luzzati at a function thrown at the Italian Embassy in New York, years ago. I bought a book by him, and the artist drew a beautiful pen and ink drawing in the frontispiece of the book.

In 1988, I met Giulio Gianini in Italy following which I spent a couple of pleasant days with an assistant of his at the festival in Treviso, Italy.

As a bit of a memorial, since I think this was an important artist who died, I’ve decided to post some illustrations and information about the duo with a lot of frame grabs from a number of the Luzzati/Gianini films. This will take a couple of posts so be prepared this week for a bit of Italian artwork.

It seems appropriate to start with The Thieving Magpie, the first of their films to receive an Oscar nomination.

1 1
(Click any image to enlarge.)
The opera is about a young maidservant who, accused of stealing a silver spoon, is sentenced to death for her crime. At the eleventh hour, the real culprit is found to be a magpie. A cartoon, if ever there was one. With great music!

The film tells a tale wherein a king and his hunters, on a bird hunt, are beaten by a magpie who steals their gems and ultimately destroys their village.

4 5
Luzzati who spent many years designing operas and ballets, brought his knowledge to animation as the pair adapted several operas often utilizing the overtures of the operas they were adapting.

6 7 The film was nominated in 1964 along with Clay, and the Origin of the Species by Eliot Noyes and the winner, Chuck Jones’ Dot and the Line.
The Sound of Music won the Best Picture Oscar, that year.

8 9 The use of cut-out animation wasn’t mainstream at the time. This is years before Terry Gilliam made it somewhat fashionable. All of the Luzzati-Gianini films were totally inventive and creative within the form they established. Gianini’s animation was as dreamlike as Luzzati’s exciting designs. The films look to be designed somewhere between Chagall, Kirchner and stained-glass windows; the sensibilities are all Luzzati and Gianini.

Today we have Flash animation which does just about the same thing as cut-out animation, but the form used is flat and cartoony. It might be useful for practitioners of Flash to take a good look at what these two brilliant designer/animators did with a similar form under more complex methods. Ulltimately, it’s all related.

2 Responses to “The Thieving Magpie”

  1. on 01 Jul 2007 at 3:15 am 1.Robert S. Jersak said …

    Sorry for the late comment, but these images triggered a memory of similar images on the back of a DVD I spotted when I was in Amiens, France. Indeed, this film is available on the DVD of the animated film “Eugenio,” available on-line through and

    Alas, I didn’t pick up a copy at that time, but I might try to order it now. I’d love to see my first Luzzati and Gianini film. Thank you, Michael, for posting these beautiful images!

  2. on 03 Feb 2015 at 1:56 pm 2.belinda said …

    3 Feb 2015
    And you thought your comment was late!!!!!
    When I was a design student in 1965 I saw this animated short and loved it. I was sorry it lost to “the dot and line”-clever but in my opinion not as deliciously creative as “Magpie”. I still have a book of the illustrationsbut the music nd annimation is something magical.I will try finding Eugenio.,but if you have any information about where to find this on DVD I would appreciate it. I would love to show it to my granddaughters.

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