Much-loved Czech ‘handymen’ Pat and Mat star in new feature film

Pat and Mat, photo: Patmat film s.r.o. / CC BY-SA 3.0

When they made their first appearance on Czechoslovak film screens in 1976, they were known simply as Kuťáci (The Handymen). Today, they are known in the Czech Republic as Pat and Mat: two bumbling stop-motion characters who never fail to surprise with hair-brained D-I-Y schemes, which, against the odds, usually work out okay in the end. A new film featuring the duo is now in cinemas.

Pat and Mat, photo: Patmat film s.r.o. / CC BY-SA 3.0
The animated characters Pat and Mat, hapless handymen who have been entertaining children in slapstick shorts for 40 years, are starring in a new film which opened in Czech cinemas on Thursday. What kind of a duo are they? One capable of putting a nail through the middle of a painting in order to hang it up; a duo devising endless projects which end up inevitably destroying half of their apartment, almost every time.

Pat and Mat were created by filmmaker Lubomír Beneš and cartoonist Vladimír Jiránek in the 1970s and became immensely popular; today, the Pat and Mat survive and prosper through the work of Mr Beneš’ son Marek. I spoke to the director earlier.

“I have known these two stars, Pat and Mat, for most of my life: they are 40 years old and I am turning 56. I was 16 when the characters were invented by my father who invited Mr Jiránek to join him on the project. After the handymen appeared, children got to know them through the long-running children’s bedtime programme, Večerníček. The original twenty-eight episodes were commissioned by Slovak television. Later episodes were filmed in Prague, and the recent project was filmed in my own studio called PatMat.”

The new feature, which has just opened in cinemas runs over 80 minutes, Mr Beneš told me – based on roughly ten episodes in a new 12-part series written, directed and financed by him called Pat and Mat in the Countryside. As director, Mr Beneš continued to use stop-motion animation, albeit on digital and not 35 mm. Just as importantly, as a director he remains true to the original spirit.

“D-I-Y is an important element of the series and the film of course. But one thing that is just as important is Pat and Mat’s endless optimism: the two are always happy; no matter how bad things become, things usually work out. I think this optimism, as well as the handyman subject matter is one of the things which make the series as popular also abroad. Pat and Mat have, for example, even made it into the lexicon in Persian. The two are very popular in Iran.”

Other countries where the bungling handymen have scored major successes include The Netherlands. In Holland, the two are reportedly not known, however, as Pat and Mat but as Buurman en Buurman (Neighbour and Neighbour) while in some Middle Eastern countries viewers would recognise the characters as Zingo and Ringo.