“How A Sausage Dog Works” (1971) by Julian Antonisz
Studio Miniatur Filmowych in Warsaw exists since 1958. It is one of the oldest and the most important film companies in Poland. It would be worth to mention that it was one of the five animation studios existing during the period of the existence of the Polish People’s Republic. This is where the, now considered as legendary, “wieczorynki” (bed-time cartoons) were born: “Piesek w kratkę”, “Pomysłowy Dobromir”, “The Rambles of Chubby-Dumpling” (“Wędrówki Pyzy”) and “Excuse Me Elephant” (“Proszę słonia”). Also artistic movies that were the milestones for the world’s cinema were created here, amongst them: “Labirynth” (“Labirynt”) by Jan Lenica and “The Gentle Spirit” (“Łagodna”) by Piotr Dumała.
Officially the studio was brought to life in 1958, however, its history goes back to 1956. That year young animators from the at Animated Film Studio in Bielsko-Biała – Leszek Kałuża, Mieczysław Poznański and Witold Giersz – came to Warsaw and created that studio’s Production Group (in 1958 transformed into an independent institution i.e. Studio Miniatur Filmowych. “The Changing of the Guard” (“Zmiana warty”) by Halina Bielińska and Włodzimierz Haupe that won the Short Film Prize in Cannes is one of the first movies that were made in our studio. The most important and the most creative period seems to be the one after the Polish October. The spirit of modernity can be observed in animated works of such artists as Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk. This is also when the talent of Witold Giersz who was highly-skilled in classic animation, exploded. Young directors, detaching themselves from widely spread and generally accepted Disney convention referred to new tendencies in art, painting, poster and graphics. Unexpectedly they discovered for their motion pictures the technique of decoupage.
Equally important to the innovative visual approach was an innovative approach to the content of the movies. As a result there was created an idea of animation as authorship cinema. Such movies were artistically modern and had a philosophical impression creating so called Polish School of Animation that was a kind of artistic commentary to the political and social events happening in the Polish People’s Republic.
It was the Studio Miniatur Filmowych where such animations as “The Roll-Call” (“Apel”) by Ryszard Czekała, “A Banquet” (“Bankiet”) by Zofia Oraczewska, “Red & Black” (“Czerwone i Czarne”)and “Small Western” (“Mały Western”) by Witold Giersz, “The road” (“Droga”), “Frames” (“Klatki”) and “Wicker basket” (“Wiklinowy Kosz”) by Mirosław Kijowicz were made. Amongst the other outstanding animation artists can be mentioned: Alina Maliszewska, Stefan Szwakopf, Stefan Janik, Bogdan Nowicki, Leszek Komorowski, Teresa Badzian, Leszek Gałysz, Roman Huszczo, Jerzy Kalina, Krzysztof Dębowski, Leonard Pulchny. All of them were permanent employees of the Studio Miniatur Filmowych and, certainly, each of them deserves his or her own artistic biography. In time, we will definitely take care of that matter.
The participation of our movies in international film festivals resulted in numerous awards and special mentions for the movie creators, in e.g.: Annecy, Melbourne, Venice, Paris and Oberhausen. Animated short films – obviously if they managed to obtain a positive decision from a censor – used to be screened just before the main screening, therefore they were known to larger audience.
At the same time television was intensively developing and called for more and more films, especially animated TV series for the youngest viewers. Apart from those mentioned before, children adored “Jack the Sleepy-head” (“Jacek Śpioszek”), “Dog, Cat, and…” (“Pies, kot i…”), “The Strange Adventures of Matołek the Billy-Goat” (“Dziwne przygody Koziołka Matołka”), “The Secret of the Marabu Code” (“Tajemnica szyfru Marabuta”) and “The Two Who Stole the Moon” (“O dwóch takich, co ukradli księżyc”). These were the TV series for children, made using classic animation techniques such as drawing and puppets, allowed the Studio to grow into an enterprise having permanent employees, not just directors, animators, production employees and cameramen, but also painters, artists drawing contours, people mixing dyes and paints, editorial staff and administration. The Studio existed this way, just as all the other film companies in Polish People’s Republic, existed till 1989.
In the new reality Studio Miniatur Filmowych ceased to be an enterprise owned by the State and it became a film institution – no longer having public subsidies. We had to cope on our own and earn our living. The Studio opened up for new possibilities, starting to cooperate and co-produce films with foreign producers and TV companies. The first significant contract considered the TV series “Dwa koty i pies”. It is a production financed by, amongst others, private investors from Poland and Netherlands, as well as TVP. It would be worth to stress that between 1995 and 1996 SMF was the only film company coming from a country not belonging to the European Union that participated (together with film companies from France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium) in creating a very highly appreciated TV series “Billy the Cat”. Together with Ink-Tank and CTW studio Studio Miniatur Filmowych also co-produced TV series “Troubles”. Together with Leszek Gałysz’s JiP Studio we also completed an order from TVP: TV series “The Film with Scary Title” (“Film pod strasznym tytułem”) that was repeatedly broadcasted in TVP1 and TVP2 within the series “Dwójka dzieciom”. In 2001 in cinemas was broadcasted a movie “Tryumf Pana Kleksa” (“Tryumph of Mr. Kleks”) which was a merge of both actor’s movie and animated motion picture.
Of course apart from co-productions our artists created amazing individual films. At the very beginning of the XXI century there were made such animated movies as: “Profesionalist” (“Zawodowiec”) and “Birth” (“Narodziny”) by Marek Serafiński, “Island R.O.” (“Wyspa R.O.”) by Jan Lenica, “Oaza” and „Warzywniak 360°” by Andrzej Barański with visual site by Edward Dwurnik, or “Lucky Day Forever” by Alek Wasilewski – an extraordinary short film debut awarded at the Shanghai International Film Festival and in London. Elżbieta Wąsik’s “Tailor’s Wedding” (“Ślub krawca”) was awarded at the prestigious film festival in Hiroshima.
It is important to state that together with the political transformation there appeared technological revolution. Computers, new analogue and digital discs quickly dominated over traditional tools. All the elements of production have undergone important changes, not only the creative ones, but also organisation had to change. Stop frame technique went out of date when computers became the most basic working tools.
Artists working with the Studio Miniatur Filmowych, though they do not plan to break the tradition of authorship cinema, focus mostly on films for the youngest audience, created in the 2D technology. Amongst the films recently finished one can find “Go Rabbit, Go” (“Król i królik”), “The Journey on a Stormy Cloud” (“Podróże na burzowej chmurze”), “Hip-Hip & Hurray” (“Hip-Hip i Hurra”) and “Mami Fatale”. The Studio Miniatur Filmowych co-produces with Planet Nemo Animation a 25-minutes-long TV Special entitled “Cheer Up, Tamara” (“Nie martw się, Tamaro”) featuring heroes of the world popular TV series “BALI”. We are also currently working on the series “Joyets” (“Radostki”) by Magdalena Osińska. It is the first such wide artistic Polish-British co-production.
During the fifty years of existence Studio Miniatur Filmowych have produced over one thousand five hundred films. Many of them were made by distinguished Polish artists, such as Walerian Borowczyk, Jerzy Kalina, Kazimierz Urbański and Julian Antoniszczak. Though during that time various aspects of the company’s existence undergone many changes: organisation, technologies, economic culture evolved, subsequent generations of audience appeared and the status* of Studio Miniatur Filmowych itself changed – Studio Miniatur Filmowych is the same film-company as it used to be at its very beginnings. Searching for new techniques and innovative styles, keeps being open for new talents and wishing to lead the way in the development of animated motion pictures, as it used to do. We do not forget about our roots. We are proud of them.
*In 2010 Studio Miniatur Filmowych in Warsaw was transformed into a state-owned company and in 2016 was transformed into National Culture Institution. In 2008 Studio Miniatur Filmowych changed its location. From the Puławska 61 we have moved to the Warsaw’s Wilanów district.