Starewicz’s Bug’s Life: Russian Animation from the 1920s

The YouTube “rabbit hole” can take you in many different directions. One day it led me to Wladyslaw Starewicz, a Russian animator who transformed his fascination for insects into a lifelong career.

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Just over 100 years ago the director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania began directing stop motion animation films using some of the insects in the museum’s entomology department. Wladyslaw Starewicz (Aug. 8, 1982 – Feb. 26 1965), turned his bug interests into a set of four shorts for the museum. His passion would continue for the remainder of his life. In 1911 he moved back to Moscow and began working with a film company. He kept working with different varieties of animation using insects, before moving onto dead animals and puppets.

The Insect World of Starewicz

The Cameraman’s Revenge is one of his earliest short films, from around 1910, staring a grasshopper and a beetle. Starewicz would articulate the motion of the insects by wiring the legs of the insects to their thorax with sealing sax.

The Insects’ Christmas (1913) once again shows his skill for bringing to life not only insects, but dolls and frogs. It’s a beautiful short film, regardless of the season. Watch before you begin accusing me of Christmas overkill!

The Frogs Who Wanted A King (1922)

The Mascot (1933)