Industry: Animation Design/Production/Distribution
Business Scope: Animation Production/Distribution
In Hungary, experiments with cartoons were made as early as the thirties, but since there was no significant film organization, these first steps remained isolated. Animators had just begun to establish new, postwar studios when the entire Hungarian film industry was nationalized in l948, bringing all animators together in Budapest. Magyarországon már a 30-as években történtek kísérletek rajzfilmek készítésére, de jelentõsebb filmes szervezet híján ezek az elsõ lépések elszigeteltek maradtak. Magyarországon csak a teljes filmipar államosítása után, 1948-ban alapítottak új studiót animátorok Budapesten.
From 1948 to 1950, Hungarian Film Productions Company, as it was called then, had a group of artists and technicians making commercials. This group became the nucleus of Pannonia Animation Studio of later years. The first short film to be made following nationalization was a puppet film made by the noted sculptor Zoltán Olgyay Kiss.
It was the successful initiative of Gyula Macskássy (1912-1972) in coordinating a staff to produce The Cockerel's Diamond Coin in 1951. The 300-meter footage turned out to be an encouraging success. The first animated cartoon in colour to be produced in Hungary led to the establishment of a permanent animation division under Macskássy within the nationalized film company.
Along with fairy-tale cartoons, numerous excellent commercials were produced in the 1950s. Macskássy - and after him Tibor Csermák, Attila Dargay and István Imre, directors of the first few films - experimented with some graphical and animation innovations.
After the national revolution of 1956, the animation department was given its own autonomy and took the name Pannonia Film Studio. At the turn of the decade Pannonia won its first international festival awards, such as Macskássy and György Várnai's Pencil and India Rubber in Karlovy Vary in l960, Duel by the same duo was awarded the jury's special prize in Cannes, 1960 and Csermák's The Ball with White Dots won the Golden Lion Prize in Venice, 1961. The second decade saw the establishment of the animated cartoon series. The first series - Peter's Adventures of 26 episodes (1963-1967) - was aimed at children.
The Gustavus series was started in 1964 (68 episodes in 1964, then another 52 episodes in the 1970s) - an initiative by Attila Dargay, Jozsef Nepp and Marcell Jankovics after an earlier hit by Jozsef Nepp.
Gustavus became a familiar character in over seventy countries. This series was the debut for the greater part of the second generation of Hungarian animators, including József Gémes, Tamás Szabó Sípos, Béla Ternovszky and others. The first puppet series was the 26-episode Memoirs of a World Famous Hunter, jointly directed by Ottó Foky and István Imre.
Introduction of film series did not fail to influence single animated cartoons, which acquired a new function and was marked by a more enterprising spirit that was inclined towards experimenting, like György Kovásznai's Double Portrait, the first animated painting film, József Gémes's Concertissimo, with the same technique, Sándor Reisenbüchler's first film, Kidnapping of the Sun and the Moon, which was made with the use of collage technique.
The economic changes in Hungary in 1968 did not leave Pannonia untouched, allowing the studio to consider new forms of expansion. One possible direction was to aim at the growing popularity of television. The year 1968 brought the opening of new, widely acclaimed series: József Nepp's Mézga Family and Tamás Szabó Sípos's I Explain...
They were soon followed by such hits as Marcell Jankovics's Hungarian Folk Tales, based on Hungarian folklore traditions, Tails, The Terror of Cats, the first series with paper cut-out technique, launched by Gyula Macskássy and, after his untimely death, completed by András Cseh and István Imre, Next, Please! by József Nepp, etc.
Another new trend was the production of feature animated films. The first Hungarian feature animation, Johnny Corncob (1973) by Marcell Jankovics made a great hit in particular with young adult audiences and has been sold to over 20 countries.
In the seventies, Pannonia Film Studio opened branches in Kecskemét and Pécs, widening diversity in the field of animation in Hungary. Increasing diversity was completed by integration - new talents like Tibor Hernádi, Ferenc Rófusz, István Orosz, Csaba Szórádi, Géza Pál Varga, Ferenc Varsányi and others formed animation teams around a number of outstanding artists - Marcell Jankovics, Attila Dargay, József Nepp, Béla Ternovszky, József Gémes, György Kovásznai, Ottó Foky, Zsolt Richly.
The studio also diversified its foreign links: beyond providing professional services covering partial works for French, German, Spanish and US firms, it collaborated in prestigious coproduction and cooperation ventures. Péter Szoboszlai, Kati Macskássy and András Cseh made the Hungarian episodes for European Tales, an international venture of over thirty episodes. Kati Macskássy, following in the footsteps of her father, collaborated in making a film for UNICEF on the occasion of the International Year of Children.
Pannonia's artistic short films reaped prizes at various international film festivals in the seventies: two Golden Palms in Cannes (1812 by Sándor Reisenbüchler in 1973 and Fight by Marcell Jankovics in 1977), a Main Prize in Munich, 1974 (Béla Ternovszky's Modern Sports Coaching), a Grand Prix in Lausanne, 1977 (Ottó Foky: Scenes With Beans), a First Prize in Melbourne, 1978 (Kati Macskássy: I Think Life is a Great Fun...) and so on...
Entering the fourth decade of Pannonia, the Studio was awarded by the highest possible acclaim: Ferenc Rófusz's The Fly received the Oscar in 1981! The same year brought the third Golden Palm to the Studio through Moto Perpetuo by Béla Vajda. Another new talents started their carreers: Csaba Varga's plasticine animation and Ferenc Cakó's experiments with sand and clay added new colours to the palette.
Production of TV series reached its peak season in the 1980s with an average of five series a year, including The Adventures of Sam, the Squirrel by Ottó Foky, Water Spider-Wonder Spider by Szabolcs Szabó and József Haui, The Great Angler and Pom-Pom by Attila Dargay, Never Mind Toby by Ferenc Cakó, Auguszta by Csaba Varga, The Curious Elephanny by Zsolt Richly, Csepke by Ferenc Varsányi, Trumpy and the Fire Troll by Tamás Baksa - just to mention some of the rich crop.
Feature filmmakers didn't relax either. In the1980s no less than twenty animated features were produced in Pannonia - no studio in the world would feel ashamed of this productivity. The impressive list started with Attila Dargay's Vuk in 1980 (producing the second biggest box-office hit in Hungary and continued through such masterpieces as, for example, József Gémes's Heroic Times (1982), Zsolt Richly's John the Boaster (1983), No-White by József Nepp (1983), Saffi by Attila Dargay (1984), Cat City by Béla Ternovszky (1986) and Willy the Sparrow by József Gémes (1988) led to the last film of the decade Tibor Hernádi's Dragon and Slippers (1989).
The early 1990s brought drastical changes in Hungarian animation. Pannonia lost its monopoly on animation with new studios appearing on the horizon and the branch studios of Kecskemét and Pécs separating from Pannonia. Hungarian Television stopped financing TV series, sources of state funds fell to a lower level. Answering the new challenges, Pannonia developed its foreign connections - the latest feature films were made in co-production conforming to the new trend of feature animation worldwide.
Following the traditions, the company maintains the production of high quality artistic shorts. Some examples from this streamline: Sándor Reisenbüchler's Allegro Vivace (1990), Prometheus by Marcell Jankovics (1992), New Iliad by József Gémes (1993), Happy Birthday by Béla Vajda (1994), Ecotopia by Sándor Reisenbüchler (1995), Cry by István Orosz (1995), The Dance by Iván Kiss (1996), Jonah by Líviusz Gyulai (1997) and Marcell Jankovics's gigantic enterprise, still in production: the animation adaptation of Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man.