Spiderman-Like Folk Hero Taunts the Nazis in 1945 Czech Animation
By Maria Popova
To those of us who grew up in Eastern Europe, Czech puppet maker, illustrator, and animator Jirí Trnka (1912-1969) is best-known for his illustrations of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm (recently included in Taschen’s epic volume collecting the best illustrations from 130 years of the Brothers Grimm). In fact, he came of age as a children’s book artist during World War II, when he illustrated books for children and eventually started dabbling in animation. In 1945, just as the war was winding down, he began working on Perak a SS (The Springer and the SS Men, or Springman and the SS, or The Jumper and the Men of the SS) — an animated anti-Nazi film, based on a WWII urban legend about a mischievous chimney-sweep-turned-superhero who taunts the Nazis, reminiscent in both appearance and action of an early Spiderman.
Trnka went on to have a prolific career in experimental animation, creating some astounding and brilliantly innovative, not only for their time but also by today’s standards, puppet films.
Published December 1, 2011