If there is a geographical Mecca for puppet animation, a place that protects the heart and soul of animated puppets the world over, that place would have to be the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia). During the many troubled times in the history of the Czechs, censorship often crippled artists who had messages that were contrary to the ruling class at the time. But the ingenious and resilient Czechs always seemed to find a crafty way to get their message across anyway, such as Director Miloš Forman using seemingly benign firefighters to criticize the East European Communist system in “The Fireman’s Ball.”
Puppet films, since most of them were made for children, often flew beneath the radar of the censors, and Jiří Trnka, one of the fathers of puppet character animation and indisputable all-time masters of stop motion, took advantage of this fact many times throughout his brilliant career. This 1965 short cast off most of layers of concealment and went straight for the heart of his feelings toward the political climate. The result is what many consider to be one of the greatest puppet films of all time, and is our favorite of all the Czech shorts we have had the chance to see.