Gyula Macskássy

(1912 - 1971)

graphic artist, animation film director, founding father of Hungarian animation

Macskássy studied at Sándor Bortnyik’s private art school “Műhely”, where he met fellow artists János Halász (John Halas) and Félix Kassowitz. The trio went on to launch Coloriton Studio – Europe’s first production company creating  animated commercials. After Halas and Kassowitz emigrated, Macskássy teamed up with György Szénásy and set up an atelier in the Neumann House next to Hotel Astoria in downtown Budapest. In 1948 the Hungarian film industry was nationalized, so Coloriton Studio became part of the “News and Documentary Film Production Company” where Macskássy and his colleagues worked on state-financed commercials and propaganda films.

His films were initially influenced by the work of Walt Disney, but he soon developed a typical Hungarian, unique style. Caricature, abstract painting and folk art also had an impact on his works which are light-hearted, self-reflective and not afraid to criticize the “system”.

In 1951 Macskássy directed The Cockerel’s Diamond Coin, the first Hungarian animation film in colour. He was also the pioneering creator of the first animated films series: Peti (1963), then later on the Gusztáv series. Macskássy was a very prolific artist, even later in life – in his final years he produced 1-minute “short film études”.

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Gyula Macskássy's Films

Pencil and Eraser

1960

Pencil and Eraser is one of the series of short films Macskássy created with long-time collaborator, artist György Várnai. The comic tale contemplates the animation film as a medium. In 1960 the pair won international attention not only with this film, but also with their other work Duel (1960). Pencil and Eraser has a disarmingly simple style that only augments a complex self-awareness: once the two enemies realize they complement each other, they climb backwards through the film to fix their mistakes.

Duel

1960

Duel is a fable in which the two protagonists, the Scientist (the superhero of modern-day progress) and Mars (the ancient god of war) battle each other for a nucleus. Duel uses a witty, visual, metaphorical reversal of abstract symbols to advocate world peace.

Behind the Bars

1970

Behind the Bars was adapted from a 1966 press caricature, titled Artists by György Várnai, which was originally published in the popular Hungarian satirical weekly Mattie the Gooseboy. In the film the prisoner is trying to forget the bleakness of his situation by drawing colorful crayon sketches on the wall, but the prison officer does not hesitate to stamp out even this small pleasure…