Polish animation under the Soviet yoke built its reputation on the clever, often brilliant ways that it defied totalitarianism without being caught by the censors. Animators became adept at the use of irony, indirection, and allegory as subversive tactics. Polish Animation: 70 Years begins in the late 1950s, when much of this started to change. With the transformation of socialism, culminating in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s, animation, like the other arts in Poland, was free to take new directions.
Our series surveys this astonishing explosion of ever-new, ever-changing Polish styles and themes. American audiences, trained to look for political allegory, are likely to be gobsmacked by the range of new and repurposed approaches, the new topics and attitudes. The old masters haven’t been forgotten—Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk, Kazimierz Urbanski, and Jerzy Kucia set the stage for experimentation and remain mentors for the new breed. Signature Cold War–era motifs and genres abide: body parts with minds of their own; insects with monstrous appetites; surreal self-reflexive comedies. But Polish animation continues to break new ground. What may seem familiar themes—girl power, exploitation of the soil, the generation gap, male impotence, fear of aging, superhero fantasies—are in fact lures into the unpredictable, lyrical, and outrageous.