Jiri Trnka was a Czech puppet maker, illustrator, animator, and film director. He is best known for his puppet animations, which had began in 1946. Many of his movies were directed toward an adult audience and others were adaptions of literary works. As a child, Trnka enjoyed sculpting puppets of wood and preform small shows for his friends. As he later attended classes in vocational school, he met Josef Skupa, who later became Trnka’s mentor. Skupa later managed to convince Trnka’s family into allowing his to enroll in the School of Applied Arts in Prague.
After receiving the training in the school of arts had experience working in a printmaking shop, Trnka would then begin a successful career as an illustrator. Hired by the Prague publishing house, Trnka’s first illustrated was Mr. Boska The Tiger of Vitezslaw Smejc, which was published in 1937. With having a job as an illustrator, Trnka began to get ideas of making animated films.
After graduating from the school of arts, Trnka went on to creating a puppet theater in 1936, later the group was dissolved when World War II began. At the end of WWII, Trnka had founded the animation studio Bratri v Triku with Eduard Hofman and Jiri Brdecka. With his early success, Trnka was not comfortable with this traditional animation, by the fall of 1946 he considered puppet animation films and began to experiment with the help of Bretislav Pojar.
Trnka’s first feature film was “The Czech Years” in 1947 based on a book illustrated by Mikolas Ales. The film was a compilation of six other films; Carnival, Spring, The Legend of St. Procopius, The Procession, Party in The Village, and Bethlehem. The film attracted international attention to Czech animation and was given many awards in film festivals. In 1949, Trnka made three short films with animated puppets: “Story of a Bass, The Mill Devil, and Song of the Prairie. The last feature film that Trnka made was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in which he focused on the music and strove to give the film an air of ballet. After this film, Trnka only focused on short films. Among these short films, Trnka’s “The Hand” is considered to be his greatest work. “The Hand” is considered to protest against the conditions opposing by the Czechoslovak communist state to artistic creation. Initially, the film had no issues with censorship, but after Trnka’s death, copies were confiscated and banned from public display in Czechoslovakia for 20 years.
Throughout Trnka’s career of an animator, he experimented with the different animation techniques, from traditional cartoon animation to animation with shadow puppets. His preferred method; however, was stop motion puppet work. The carved puppet characters were animated on complex sets with and expressive amount of lighting. Trnka did not have the characters change facial expression; instead he used the lighting, camera angles, and the dramatic body language of the puppets to get the reaction of the puppets.
In my animation, I used the style of puppet animation with miniature figures from the video game series Halo. In the animation, I used a large LEGO board to ensure that the figures had a secure place to walk and make it easier to keep the figures in a still position for each frame to be taken. Using the lego board is similar to the usage of screwing the puppets’ feet in some of Trnka’s work to make it so the puppets would fall over. Because the figures have no face expressions, I had to rely on animating over dramatic body language to so emotions.