The series of cartoons “How Cossacks…” is the most recognizable Ukrainian animated cartoon. After a 20-year-long break, the Ukranimafilm Studio decided to make a sequel of the adventures of the triune image created by director Volodymyr Dakhno and implemented in the personalities of Oko (Eye), Tur (Wisent), and Hrai (the one who plays), creations of one of the masters of Ukrainian animated cartoon, Eduard Kirych. The Day asked Eduard Kirych what the audience should expect from the animation heroes now and how people saw them before, in a totally different time.
Besides you, who else is creating the Cossacks today and when will they appear on the screens?
“Director Oleksandr Viken, who has undertaken the cause of Volodymyr Dakhno, the chief editor of all animated movies about these people’s favorites, has gathered a strong team of extremely talented Ukrainian artists. Above all, these are my former colleagues Ivan Budz, Henrik Umansky, but of course there are new names too. According to previous announcements, the movies were supposed to be released in summer this year. However, I haven’t seen any of them in full. We are lacking funding, and we cannot define the date yet. But, actually, there are many screenplays. I am sure that the audience won’t be disappointed by what it will see, because we have fully preserved their unique style, having made the Cossacks somewhat more dynamic. I cannot be speaking about the series right know, I will only say that they will broaden the geography of their travels, in particular, they will visit Russia and even Japan, where they will save people from a tsunami.”
The greatest manifestation of patriotism for every nation is its language, and Cossacks haven’t said a word in any of the series.
“Although in the 1960s there were great language experts, the cartoon was indeed on the screens without a cue. At first we were looking for a long time who would write them, but as a result we left only exclamations, like in vaudeville. I remember how we were watching in the boards of directors the release version of the first film – everyone liked it very much, we were sure that it will be perceived positively in Moscow, – when suddenly one of the editors said, ‘I don’t understand why are you clowning around with these dolls, they are in fact Cossacks – which means power, strength, and faithfulness. They were dying for Ukraine.’ After these words it became silent. We all thought that it was good they did not talk. Let them remain this way. Later the argument appeared where this trick-defect worked brilliantly. For one person to understand another one – and we were taking part in various international festivals at that time on a regular basis – people should remain silent. Owing to humor and unmatched music compositions, interpretations of Ukrainian folk songs, everything was interpreted very easily.”
Maybe, it is time to give them the voices?
“You know, I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be good if well-known Ukrainian actors lent their voices to the characters. This practice is very popular nowadays and, most importantly, it would actualize the interest to the national things.”
Like an artist who created the image of Cossacks, what did you want to put in each of them?
“My main task was to make the cartoon funny, so that it had some lightness, but always unity and devotion to the common cause. But at the same time there should have been a triune hero, like Dakhno offered to call them. For example, it can be clearly seen when they liberate their brother-in-arms from the pagan captivity in the series How Cossacks cooked kulish, or in another episode when they were rescuing their fiancees.”
Kotliarevsky’s Aeneid and Ivan Franko’s Mykyta the Fox are your significant works. How logical were they for you?
“These authors are real gods. Not only for me, but for all patriotically-minded people. Remember, the Ukrainian language made Kotliarevsky breathless, although he was reproached of using borrowings from the Russian language, but there was so much folklore! Aeneid compares Ukrainians to the ancient people, the ‘founders of Rome.’ That was how he presented it, a great spiritual and ancestral magnificence, which had to exalt Ukrainians. With Kotliarevsky and Ivan Franko our language turns into a deity, a treasure, which becomes almost iconic. On the whole, I am very happy that many of my works are indeed based on the creative work of language experts, who are ‘ecological’ for Ukrainians. As for the figurativeness, namely the inner world of Taras Shevchenko is the closest to me. I grew up on Taras Shevchenko’s oeuvre. I grew up on his Kobzar, because this book was table-top in every Ukrainian house. You know, his poetry is not just poetry, but an extremely powerful patriotic-militant tool. You cannot say or show better than he. I have always been trying to follow him.”
What are you working on now?
“I illustrate text-books and fiction books for various publishing houses. For several years I have been creating images for foreign interactive games. I can see that the latter are the future, however this kind of animation is not close to me. I am an adherent of a totally different production means; like in old Disney’s works, there is blood and breath, that is why they are genius, and now they are not like that anymore. I like to paint stone babas (Kurgan stelae), these are ancient pagan gods, burial moulds and stones in the steppe, which are even older than the Egyptian pyramids, and nature on the whole. My desire to paint people is gradually vanishing, because even in an animal every artist depicts himself above all, and in nature – god. That is probably what I am involved in now, I am depicting our ancestor in various images. (Laughing).”
Which of the images you have created is the closest to you by spirit?
“They all are close, and it is hard to distinguish one of them, because I love all of them like my children. For example, quite recently I was doing a camera report for Perebendia by our great Kobzar and Forest Song by Lesia Ukrainka, having developed wonderful characters with national colors. I also set for animation Abu-Kasim’s Shoes and A Parable about Beauty by Ivan Franko. And you know, maybe my recent work is actually the most symbolical for me, and Aglaea, Aristotle, and Alexander of Macedonia are the dearest characters to my heart. I think this funny cartoon where a beautiful Aglaea rides Aristotle who is in love with her, urging him like a donkey, won’t leave anyone indifferent. Actually, like the summary of the work that indeed ‘Only a dead person can be a reliable fighter of beauty!’ How is it possible not to create a cartoon about this wonder in the land rich of myths, where centaurs live next to legendary personalities? Ivan Franko was a genius, but sponsors do not take any interest in him today, and for the sake of the national idea I am ready to give my groundwork for free.”