Kazakhstan’s Animation Industry Soars as Nation Honors Pioneer Animator Amen Khaidarov on His 100th Anniversary

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Kazakhfilm studio organized a special event on June 3 in Almaty, commemorating the centenary since the birth of Amen Khaidarov, the nation’s pioneer animator.

Veterans of the domestic animation industry who made a significant contribution to Kazakh animation’s development gathered to honor the outstanding animator’s memory. 

“Amen aga (uncle) was devoted to his work, he came to this world to create the Kazakh animation industry. He worked all his life dreaming of growing skillful and experienced domestic animators,” said Tamara Mukanova, the animation film director who closely worked with Khaidarov. “He used to say that ‘one tree is not a forest, one swallow does not make a spring.’”

A scene from “The Tree of Amen Aga” movie. Photo credit: The Astana Times.

The history of the Kazakh animation industry goes down to 1967, when the first domestic animated movie, “Why the Swallow Has the Tail with Little Horns?” by Khaidarov, was released.

The animation project based on the fairy tale became popular worldwide. The cartoon received the best animated movie award at the Soviet All-Union Film Festival in Leningrad in 1968 and won a bronze award at the New York Animated Film Festival in 1974.

Khaidarov’s works “Aksak Kulan” (A Lame Kulan), “Tail,” “Khoja-Nasyr – Builder,” “Sunny Bunny” and “Forty Fables” also entered the Kazakh animation’s golden fund. His works were connected with national folklore, fine arts and music which made them so beloved.

“Why is the Swallow’s Tail U- Shaped?” cartoon sketches. Photo credit: The Astana Times.

Mukanova and Zira Nauryzbay, a culture expert, wrote a script for “The Tree of Amen Aga,” an animated short film about Khaidarov’s creative life, his work, and the difficulties he faced during the filming process.

“We had only three months to create this movie and a lot of meaningful facts from his life that we wanted to show. I am so grateful to the animators and artists who worked on this picture and so accurately conveyed all the emotions of Amen aga, his smile and his sadness,” said Mukanova. 

According to Zhanadil Baidarbekov, the film’s director, the plot is based on memories and information from “When Fairy Tales Come to Life” book by Baurzhan Nugerbekov. The title of the animated film is associated with the image of a Kazakh animation tree, the seed of which was planted and grown by Khaidarov. 

“The Tree of Amen Aga” movie and a digitized version of “Why the Swallow Has the Tail with Little Horns?” were shown during the event.

Aldar Kose. Photo credit: liter.kz.

“We are planning to present this film on domestic TV channels, on internet platforms and at international film festivals,” said Serik Abishev, Kazakhfilm studio vice president.

The Kazakh animation industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. Many local animation studios are emerging, and they are producing high-quality content that is gaining recognition worldwide.

More than 30 animation companies operate in Kazakhstan and have created more than 200 animated films.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, animated film production almost stopped, as foreign cartoons filled the country’s TV screens. Kazakhstan released only one or two short cartoons per year. 

The Kazakh government has been supporting the animation industry by providing new initiatives and funding programs. Last year, the Ministry of Culture and Sports initiated the creation of the Kazakh Animation Сreative Association to improve the skills of domestic animation specialists and provide support in the design of animation projects.

“We launched a script competition within the association in 2022, where among 160 scripts, we chose and released 20 best animated short films,” said Abishev. “This year, we also announced a script competition about the myths and legends of the Turkic-speaking people.”

The new wave of animated works focuses on two themes – folklore and contemporary subjects.  

The first full-length 3D animated film ever made in Kazakhstan premiered in 2013. The film, called “Er Tostik and Aydahar,” (Er Tostik and Dragon), is based on the Kazakh national fairy tale called “Er Tostik.”

Kultegin animated movie. Photo credit: musicnews.kz.

The animation industry was enriched with two more full-length animated films, “Kultegin” by Adai Abeldinov and “Muzbalak” by Turdybek Maidan. The latter won the best animation film award at the Swedish Stockholm Film & Television Festival and the Indian Golden Bee international children’s film festival in 2020. 

Another Kazakh animated work, “Besik Zhyry” (Lullaby), was showcased at the Madfa Madrid Film Awards in 2023, where it was named the best animated short film. 

“Aldar Kose,” an animated series by Azia Animation Production, tells about a famous cunning man, who deceives greedy rich people, helps the poor, and gets his benefit from others’ stinginess. The main idea is how and for what purposes the mind and eloquence should be used. 

The cartoon was created as a guide for teaching the Kazakh language. At the end of each series, the main phrases are given with a translation into the Russian language.

A debut animated series, “Dala Shyrqauy” (The Field Song), produced by Tasqyn Studio, brought to light the story of Kurmangazy, a prominent Kazakh composer and dombra player, in 2023. The series offers a glimpse into the diverse stories of Kurmangazy through his kuis (traditional music compositions) and highlights the vast range of his artistic styles that convey the experiences of Kazakh people living in the 19th century.

The Kazakhfilm studio has been creating “Altyn Adam,” a full-length animated film, a story about the adventures of a Saka boy who goes to Khan Tengri Peak searching for the Fire of Life. During the journey, he fights with enemies and becomes a real warrior. People dubbed him Altyn Adam (golden man) for his brave spirit. 

Source: Astana Times