Thursday, 22 March 2012

Unit 5: Animation - Animator Profile - Jiri Barta 1948 - present

Figure 1. Jiri Barta

Jiri Barta is a stop motion film maker much like fellow artist Jan Svankmajer, his primary talents lie in his ability with the medium of wood, particularly for wooden puppets. Still one would have to consider Barta’s range of art forms particularly works like “Disc Jockey” which one could attribute to the late Lotte Reiniger only with colour & rhythm as opposed to silhouette.

Best known for:

•His use of the medium of wood for animation
•Animated Feature “In the Attic”
•Animated Feature “The Pied Piper”
•Animated Short “Disc Jockey”

Figure 2. Disc Jockey

Jiri Barta has a wide range of talent, experimenting with different types of animation early on before finding his true calling. His gift to the modern world is largely due to his stop motion epics like “The Pied Piper” which would see full scale wooden models performing exploits to the plot of a narrative. Still, much like the Brothers Quay one would have to take serious note of his empathy toward sound which compliment his feature works such as “In the Attic” with vivacity, truly encapsulating his audience. Jenny Jediny of not coming to a theatre near you observes:
“Like Svankmajer, Barta leans toward the grotesque in his imagery; sound is heavily emphasized, whether it is blood sloshing or a guttural, nonsensical tongue, providing a tactile quality to his characters and their universe”. (Jediny: 2007)
Barta’s fictional worlds & characters jump to life on screen be they an old child like toy or a moral/immoral pied piper. Nothing is truly left to the imagination, it is shown as clear as day as if trying to capture something more then what is in front of the audience. Every sound effect feels almost amplified to make the audience feel as though they are the ones instigating the protagonist’s tasks. It’s almost as if one would be able to sum the animated story up by closing their eyes to let their ears do the visualising for them.

Figure 3. The Pied Piper

Barta’s particular talent still lies within his ability to tell a gruesome tale which is no doubt where he got some of his early influences through Jan Svankmajer. Still unlike these other talented stop motion colleagues Barta likes to consider the opening of hope. Barta’s animated narratives serve a purpose & unlike the Brothers Quay have elements of charm & sophistication not adhering to the entirety of doom & gloom. One could argue that this is to discredit the uncanny only to bring each absurd reality closer to home for his audience. Ivana Košuličová of Kinoeye observes:
“In these films, Barta creates mysterious horror worlds full of sinful, grasping humans who reflect the decay of human society. Apocalypse for humankind comes from the uncanny beings from the "other side." Yet, there always remains some hope: in elderly wisdom, in innocent childhood and in the morning that comes after a vampires' night”. (Košuličová: 2002)
One could argue that Barta’s work was not an attempt to dissuade the dream logic to the point of realism but to fine tune the dramaticism communicating its subtle messages to the masses. The “other side” of “the Pied Piper” reflects a chaotic evil but behind every shadow is that glimmer of light not pristine to the perfect life but pristine to life’s opposite. Barta is never trying to communicate perfection, just the ideal of perfection to these horrific worlds.

Figure 4. In the attic

Let us contrast Barta’s past works with his newest considering the children’s epic “In the Attic”. The toys feel very textural with the sound once again playing its key tones layers above everything else. The attic itself is clustered in dust & cob webs but the charm is most certainly provided by the props creating a life scale epic of a miniature scenario. The toys are lovable but battered & discarded; the Pixar logic of toys wishing to be played with is not the key situation, the toys themselves are individuals, living out their daily routines until a tragedy occurs. Dan North of Spectacular attractions observes:
“Barta’s film tries to reassure us that the toys retain their independence, going about their business regardless, even in spite of the humans who live below them. These characters carry a sense-memory of their former function as toys, replaying the roles they were assigned from birth, and therein lies a gentle description of a para-world of social roles and ritualised behaviours”. (North: 2010)
One could not help but feel as though Barta did not want to aim this tale at children with the aesthetic sense that all toys have a single purpose. One could say that this is a testament to Ladislaw Starewicz “Fétiche Mascotte” portraying the identities of discarded toys uncertain and left to their outside influences. Still in this case it is fair to say that a certain charm is brought forth by these toys banding together to save one of their family, the toy personalities are caring or a personification of evil. Barta’s tactile charm is the cherry on the cake with every on screen action to be celebrated with stylised stop frame gesture.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Jiri Barta. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 2. Disc Jockey. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 3. The Pied Piper. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 4. In the attic. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)



Jediny, Jenny. (2007) The Animation of Jirí Barta. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Košuličová, Ivana. (2002) The morality of horror. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

North, Dan. (2010) Jiří Barta’s In the Attic: The Other Toy Story. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

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