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Fyodor Khitruk

Fyodor Khitruk, 1917-2012

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Fyodor Khitruk died today. He was the leading Soviet animator from about the 1960s to until the Soviet Union ended in 1991. I met him briefly at the 1989 International Festival of Animation here in Los Angeles. He had brought the leading animators from each of the 15 Soviet republics to L.A. with him. They stood around muttering something like, "What are we doing in America?" "I don't know, but Fyodor said that we had to come."

I remember that he was an extremely imposing personality, probably the most dynamic person at the festival even though he was a dumpy old man. He was the sort of man who dominated a crowd even when he was just standing around doing nothing.

Khitruk was born just before the Russian Revolution, so he lived through the entire Soviet era. His animation tended to be the "arty" style that won awards but lost money because it was too intellectual. The Soviet government subsidized that sort of thing in the name of "we are not profit-oriented capitalists", but when the Soviet Union ended and the new Russian government was profit oriented, Khitruk could not get his films funded any more because they were not commercial. He mostly taught animation at the Moscow Academy since then.

He was not known for anthropomorphic characters, but he made very cute films of three Winnie the Pooh stories in the 1960s and 1970s that are nothing like Disney's, and are good enough to justify his obituary on Flayrah. Here is the second of them.