Jiří Trnka's puppet films spark great interest among New Yorkers

Summer Films on the Roof of the Bohemian National Hall

The Czech Center New York (CC NY), in cooperation with the Czech National Film Archive (NFA) in Prague, has prepared three feature-length, digitized, animated puppet films by Jiří Trnka for its traditional Summer Films on the Roof of the Bohemian National Hall. With introductory remarks by NFA director Michal Bregant, the CC NY in Manhattan is presenting the following films on three consecutive Thursdays: Old Czech Legends, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Czech Year.

Jiří Trnka - Midsummer Night's Dream | Photo: National Film Archive

Czech Center New York Director Miroslav Konvalina was surprised by the high turnout for the opening night of the short series of Czech films by Jiří Trnka, who stood at the inception of Czech animation: "We were expecting to garner interest from our compatriots, students, teachers from New York universities, and experts from American film institutions. But it was a real surprise when people from all over the world showed up, from Australia and Europe to Latin America, all to watch Trnka's Old Czech Legends [1953] with so much enthusiasm."

Jiří Trnka's film works are presented by the Czech Center in New York as one form of artistic expression explored by the versatile artist. Even in the USA, Jiří Trnka is seen as one of the key figures of world animation who created the blueprint for international acceptance of Czech animated films.

Jiří Trnka - Old Czech Legends | Photo: National Film Archive

Cynthia Allen, a professor in the Graphic Arts Department at New York University (NYU) and a theatre and film critic, didn’t hide her delight in her closing remarks at the American premiere of the digitally restored Old Czech Tales on August 18. Like many others in attendance, she expressed her admiration for the way Trnka had managed to make credible scenes with puppets back in his day. She echoed NFA director Michal Bregant, who in his introduction before the screening, drew attention to the puppets' expressions and delicate details resulting in animations that also earned admiration in the United States. Michal Bregant said: "Trnka’s versatility and originality always fascinated people, but as a filmmaker he was appreciated mainly abroad. At the time of their original release in the 1950s and 1960s, the artistic, technical, and dramaturgical quality of his films was a big culture shock. This, perhaps, holds even truer today, as animation has since undergone huge development and became part of digital show business. Every generation deserves to rediscover Trnka, and those who know his films will keep coming back to them."

Two more films will be introduced as part of the series: The Czech Year, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The latter was Jiří Trnka's final feature-length film which pushed puppet animation to the limits in terms of technological capabilities and means of expression.

Jiří Trnka,  photo: Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY 3.0

Trnka's filmography includes around 24 animated works, including five feature-length films. The successful release of Jiří Trnka's animated puppet feature films in America proves once again that the versatile artist was one of the most prominent figures in 20th century Czech art, and his contribution to the field of animation and illustration is reflected and fully appreciated in the global context.

For more information, visit the Czech Center’s website: https://new-york.czechcentres.cz/en/

Author: Czech Center New York
run audio