Commentary 30 Mar 2007 08:03 am

tup tup

- Infrequently, there are cartoons which sometimes make a difference as to how you see a particular character, or studio, or sometimes even the world. One of these I recently thought of was Tup Tup by Nedeljko Dragic in 1972. It was nominated for the Oscar and lost to Richard Williams’ Christmas Carol.

I had seen a lot of films from Zagreb and had heard a lot about how great they were. They were even Oscar winners for Ersatz in 1962. Yet, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t understand the acclaim the films were getting, yet kept it to myself. It was obvious that I was the alone in my opinion, and it confused me.

So along comes Dragic‘s film, Tup Tup. At first the film was annoying, but then it got under my skin and stayed with me. The cartoon had an insidious insanity which overwhelmed and haunted me.

I started looking at Zagreb shorts a little differently, but, I’m sad to say, my opinion didn’t change much. Many of the films just seemed like a new-found freedom in an iron curtain country, but it didn’t make the films great to me. I was a very big fan of UPA and Hubley at the time, and Zagreb didn’t come close.

(Some frame grabs from The Four Poster. Go here to see some great stills of artwork.)

I’d even heard about the effect The Four Poster had had on the Zagreb founders. Apparently, when this live action/animation feature made it to Yugoslavia, they hijacked the print and studied it for two weeks prior to returning it. Their admiration for Hubley‘s work in the Stanley Kramer produced feature film caused them to develop their own studio and style. A new animation studio was born. By the time I’d seen Tup Tup, I’d already seen The Four Poster on television (in the early sixties) and knew everyting about Hubley. Nothing I’d seen from Zagreb even compared to what I’d seen from UPA, never mind Hubley. It was all so cold and unemotional, to me, although it did try for some blaring stylization.

(More frame grabs from a bad dvd copy of The Four Poster.)

But there was Tup Tup. it stayed with me. The style of the film didn’t overwhelm the story, and I was into it.

To be honest, there were other films by Mr. Dragic that I found just as compelling. Diary is another excellent film which is literally an animated diary of his animation festival going. It’s not as persistent as Tup Tup, but it’s as gripping. I think ultimately, it’s a matter of the artist rather than the studio, and I suppose the same is true of any grouping of artists. The National Film Board has produced an inordinate number of brilliant films, but there are a few clunkers in there. The same is, I guess, true of Zagreb; I’ve only seen a couple dozen of their films, so I wouldn’t make a blanket statement.

Actually, the low budget films they produced, in retrospect, however small, are significantly better than 99% of what’s produced today. The difference is an intelligence behind the films. That’s conspicuously missing from most of the shorts we see today. Americans are generally trying to make stupidly funny shorts and aren’t concerned with articulating any statement about life or society. It’s sad, really. I wonder that I can make such negative comments about a studio like Zagreb when we’re living through such a fallow period.

There are a couple of dvds available of Zagreb films, but far too few. I don’t think Tup Tup is among those on dvd; at least I haven’t found it.

Tup Tup
1972 10min.,
Script, Director, Drawings, Animation, Backgrounds: Nedeljko Dragic
Music: Tomica Simovic

4 Responses to “tup tup”

  1. on 30 Mar 2007 at 6:26 pm 1.oscar grillo said …

    My favourite Zagreb film is “Satimania” by Zdenko Gasparovich. Possibly the most interestingly drawn animated film of all times…I’ve been trying to see “Four Posters” since 1960 and I haven’t had the chance to catch it…Do you know if there is any released copy anywhere?

  2. on 30 Mar 2007 at 10:28 pm 2.Michael said …

    I know it hasn’t been released on dvd. I have a 16mm print of the film (which is tedious to say the best); the animation is excellent and I think connects all of Hubley’s past to his future.

  3. on 31 Mar 2007 at 1:44 am 3.hans bacher said …

    you are right, michael, their shorts are not all good. but there are a few that are e x c e l l e n t. my favorites – DON QUIXOTE 1961, LA PEAU DE CHAGRIN 1960, THE INSPECTOR RETURNS HOME 1959, MASK OF THE RED DEATH 1969, HAPPY END 1958 AND SATIEMANIA 1978 . I don’t really care
    about the story in these shorts, it is the stylistic variety that makes them unique. like upa and hubley they were the only ones at that time to search for a new approach to animation, different than most of the other too commercial and not inventive big studios.

  4. on 31 Mar 2007 at 8:22 am 4.Michael said …

    My twisting opinion completely reveals my ambivalence to have judged works that I haven’t seen in 30-40 years. I based everything I wrote on memories and probably should have stated that more clearly.

    I’ve only seen three of those you mention: Mask of the Red Death, Happy End and Satiemania. I wasn’t a big a fan of Red Death, though I appreciated the art work. I remember being bothered by the storytelling. I really haven’t seen it since the early 70s, so I shouldn’t judge it without reviewing it. I very much liike Happy End, and I thought the art of Satiemania brilliant.

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