Friday, 31 January 2014

Tonguc Yasar

Born in 1932 and a professional caricaturist since 1952, Tonguc Yasar would appear to be one ofthe key figures in Turkish animation.

From Bendazzi's Cartoons:
In 1972 Tonguc Yasar, who had cut his teeth at Studio Cizgi, made How the Boat of Belief Proceeded, a beautiful graphic excercise based on the shapes of the old - and today abandoned - Turkish alphabet. Screened at the Annecy Festival of 1973, this film enjoyed considerable success and influence, and was the one that opened the era of 'personal films' in Turkey.
 How the Boat of Belief Proceeded (Ament├╝ Gemisi) can be seen here:

Amongst Yasar's other works was Hodja and the Thief, which was one of the entries for a 1978 Ministry of Culture contest calling for films about the folk hero Nasreddin Hodja; it was joint winner along with Tunc Izberk's similarly-titled Hodja and the Thieves.

See the Turkish Cultural Foundation website for more biographical details on Yasar; meanwhile, his filmography can be read here.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Antoine Selim Ibrahim

Giannalberto Bendazzi's book Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation will be a great help in getting this blog started, but there are times when I have trouble following up on the information provided by Bendazzi. A good example is with the case of Antoine Selim Ibrahim.

According to Bendazzi, Ibrahim was born in Cairo on 11 November 1911. In 1938 he made Aziza and Youness in El Shiek Barakat's Book, notable as the first animation to have an Arabic soundtrack. He made three more films in the following decade, including 1940's Dokdok.

The website of the Torino Film Festival (which claims that Ibrahim was born in 1910, not 1911) says that he made Islam and Aziza, an Italian-German co-production from 1959, with co-director Farid Al Mezzawi. The site describes this short as "A cartoon about the friendship between a child, who loves animals, and a bird, who is searching for a medicine for his young." Was this the same Aziza who starred in the 1938 cartoon?

After a stint of animating commercials and title sequences for films, he moved to America where he found work at Hanna-Barbera and DePatie-Freleng.

Beyond this, I've had no luck in finding anything about him. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Israeli animated features

Waltz with Bashir

When it comes to full-length animated features from Israel, the best known would have to be Ari Folman and Yoni Goodman's Waltz with Bashir; this came out in 2008, the same year as $9.99, another high-profile Israeli animation. Waltz was not Israel's first animated feature, however, despite what at least one report has claimed.


The earliest film of this kind from Israel that I know of is Ba'al Hahalomot (Joseph the Dreamer), made in 1962 by Yoram Gross Films (a studio better known for its work in Australia). As can be seen from this trailer, the film is a stop-motion version of the Bible story:

Does anybody know of any earlier animated features from Israel?

For a good overview of Israeli animation, see this article from the Israel Film Center.- which notes that an in-production film, The Wild Bunch, is set to become the country's first CGI feature.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Frenkel brothers and Mish-Mish Effendi

"The small Egyptian animation production was mainly due to the Frenkel brothers", says Giannalberto Bendazzi's Cartoons (2006 edition) in its overview of 1930s animation. Most of the information in this post is lifted from Bendazzi and this comprehensive article, courtesy of the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt.

Herschel, Shlomo (Anglicised as "Salomon" in Bendazzi's book) and David Frenkel were born in Jaffa, Palestine, to parents named Betzalel and Gnissa. The HSJE article gives an account of the family's flight from Jaffa to Cairo:

Betzalel created there a bookshop and tried to live of trading, printing and binding books until the Turks came into the First World War. In November 27th 1914, the Turkish expelled from Tel Aviv the Russian Jews suspected to become enemy spies. Compelled at another exile, Betzalel and his family counting then six children were deported to Alexandria, Egypt.

The brothers were inspired to become animators after watching Felix the Cat cartoons, and they came up with a series star of their own: a fez-wearing character named Mish-Mish Effendi. The character made his debut in the 1936 short Mafish Fayda (Nothing to Do); later shorts starring the character include National Defence (1940) and Bilhana Oushefa (Enjoy your Food or Bon App├ętit, 1947).

According to the article linked to above, the character got his name because a skeptical producer said that he would back the brothers' work "bukra fil mishmash" Literally meaning something along the lines of "tomorrow, there will be apricots", this phrase is apparently equivalent to "when pigs fly".

These publicity images for Bilhana Oushefa place a lot of emphasis on the character of the dancer; judging by the (very low-quality) stills below, she was live action for at least part of the film.

David Frenkel later moved to France and made cartoons about a character called Mimiche - essentially Mish-Mish in a different hat.

Some of the Mish-Mish cartoons were posted on YouTube, but removed after a copyright claim from the Frenkel family. Writing on one of the shorts, Milton Knight notes that is is partially pirated from a pair of Van Beuren cartoons, while Jerry Beck comments on "the crude animation, which I find entertaining; strangely hypnotic and bizarre, in a good way."

Jerry Beck would comment again on the series:
The character was the star of a popular Egyptian cartoon series of the 1930s by the Frenkel Bros. – who apparently were so taken with American cartoons they literally traced animation, character designs and ideas directly from them. This one, National Defense, is a World War II epic presented in two parts. In the musical first half, the animators borrow from Bosko and Buddy, mix belly dancers and dancing hooka’s, and possibly the worst caricatures of Laurel and Hardy, Eddie Cantor and Charlie Chaplin you’ll ever see. The second half takes place on the battlefield and it’s probably the funkiest animated propaganda ever made. The crude animation only adds to the charm. No matter what you think of Mish Mish, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore! 


Back in 2009 I began a blog devoted to British animation, as I found that there were very few resources dedicated to this subject. Now, a few years down the line, I think it's time for me to begin exploring a different geographic region...

After a bit of thought, I decided that my second animation blog would focus on work from the Middle East, a subject that has received even less documentation in the English-speaking world. But while living in the UK gave me an advantage in writing about British animation, I have never been to any of the countries of the Middle East and currently know almost nothing about the history of animation from the area. If all goes to plan, my new blog will be a journey of discovery for myself as much as my readers.

So, I hope that you enjoy my blog, and I am eager to hear any feedback from people who are more knowledgeable when it comes to Middle Eastern animation.