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Berthold Bartosch

Berthold Bartosch Czech animator

Czech animator
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Czech animator
Countries Germany
Occupations Film director Animator
Gender male
Birth 29 December 1893 (Bohemia)
Death 13 November 1968 (Paris)
The details

Berthold Bartosch (29 December 1893 – 13 November 1968) was a film-maker, born in Polaun, in the Bohemia region of Austria-Hungary (now part of the Czech Republic).


He moved to Vienna to study architecture. When he finished his studies, he started creating educational animated filmss "for masses". Some of his earlier works were strictly educational (such as geographical films); others, such as Communism and Humanity. Two requirements for becoming true animator were inside him, such as individualism and inborn passion for inventions. He didn't learn technical procedures from anybody, preferring to manage on his own.

He moved to Berlin to open a brunch of Hanslick's production company. Having moved to Paris along with his newly-wed Maria Ebel, Bartosh began working in a little room near the Northern Cemetery. He organized the work, combining three-dimensional images with shaded backlighting provided by a machine of his own invention. In order to create depth of field that is not offered by simple drawings, he placed the motion action camera vertically about the working surface formed by several levels glass plates. This technique is now called multiplane. On each of them, he would arrange scenographic elements or cut-out figures with the illumination coming from below. In an attempt to soften hard lines of the drawings and the rigidity of the animation, he created a muffled atmosphere by blurring the glass plates with common soap, while also making frequent use of superimposition.

In his last years, Bartosch devoted himself to painting. He died in 1968.

Work with Lotte Reiniger

He moved to Berlin in 1920 and collaborated with Lotte Reiniger on her paper silhouette animations:

  • The Ornament of the Loving Heart
  • The Battle of Skagerrak
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed
  • Doctor Dolittle

Bartosch created what some consider the first multiplane camera in order to achieve some of the effects for these films.

Work in Paris

In 1930 Bartosch moved to Paris and created the 30 minute film entitled 'L'Idée' (The Idea) to which he is most remembered for. The film is described as the first serious, poetic, tragic work in animation. The film's characters and backdrops were composed of several layers of different types of paper from semi-transparent to thick cardboard. Special effects like halos, smoke and fog were made with lather spread on glass plates and lit from behind. Bartosch based the film on a wordless novel of woodcuts by Frans Masereel, The Idea (1920).

L'idee, when released in 1933, featured a score by composer Arthur Honegger, including an ondes Martenot, which is believed to be the very first use of an electronic musical instrument in film history. The following year, Franz Waxman's score for Liliom (1934) used a theremin.

From 1933 to 1938, Bartosch worked on an anti-war film, St. Francis or Nightmare and Dreams, a 25-minute piece being financed by Thorold Dickinson. When the Nazis invaded Paris, he deposited the film at the Cinémathèque Française. The film was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and only a few still images exist.

In 1948, he spent a year working for UNESCO in Paris mentoring George Dunning, a Canadian-born animator known for his involvement with the Beatles's animated feature, Yellow Submarine (1968).

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