A Historical Overview Rudolf Urc/dramaturgist, director, pedagogue and historian of Slovak animation release of two animated feature films both by Viktor Kubal, can be regarded as the peak of Slovak animation, documented in numerous awards at home and abroad.
As a consequence of political and economic changes in the early 1990s (the fall of communism), the state monopoly film institutions ceased to exist.
New private companies and studios were formed slowly and many of them soon went out of business.
Production for children at public television finished unexpectedly.
Animation faced difficult market conditions.
In the 1990s the production of film and television animation decreased almost to zero.
Fresh hope was miraculously born out of the hotbed of collapse.
The Department of Animation was founded at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava in 1993.
The first graduates already showed extraordinary energies.
It was particularly to their credit that the number of animation studios increased at the end of the 1990s with the ambition to follow modern art and animation trends.
A new generation of young animators emerged, many of whom gained major awards on the domestic and international scene.
They stood at the birth of the Homo Felix specialised journal dedicated to domestic and international animation.
They contributed to teaching animation at several secondary schools, and initiated the establishment of domestic festivals and presentations.
Finally, public television avowed to its finest tradition of bedtime stories and opened itself to all those who think about child audience.
This was the beginning of healthy competition between animators, of mutual cooperation between animation studios in the Visegrad region, of openness towards Europe and the world.
It sent out the message that animation, this beautiful art of enthusiasm and revival, is again becoming an important part of the cultural movement in Slovakia.
4 Slovak Animation on the Rise apaf – slovak association of animated film producers.
Today, almost thirty years after the change of political regime, the animated film industry in Slovakia is gaining a new breath, confidently showing signs of growth and development.
The 1990s and 2000s were hit hard by the disruption of commissions for public television, and the non-existance of the national subsidy system.
In spite of this, animation survived in Slovakia, preserved by the creative potential of students who managed to break through in Cannes, Annecy, Stuttgart, Oberhausen, and even among nominees for the Student Academy Award.
Exceptional figures among former students form the core of the contemporary animation scene, run studios, produce and direct films.
New talents emerge with every new generation of students, artists succeed in establishing themselves on the international festival scene.
The projects are getting more ambitious.
Television series are part of prime-time TV broadcasting, enjoying great popularity among children, and even breaking into the foreign market.
Feature-length projects are not an unattainable goal any more.
The national subsidy system for cinema has been operating in Slovakia since 2006.
The support of audiovisual industry changed fundamentally in 2010, when the Slovak Audiovisual Fund (AVF) started its full operation, and opened a separate subprogramme for animation.
Public television – Radio and Television Slovakia (RTVS) – continuously funds the production of a number of children’s animated series, and enters into feature film co-production. Systematic financial support for animation has been reflected in an increasing number of production companies in recent years.
The Slovak Association of Animated Film Producers (APAF) currently associates 13 companies and plays an important role in relation to the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, comments on its work and defends the interests of animators.
It is actively involved in co-organising the Visegrad Animation Forum (VAF), the largest professional pitching forum in Central and Eastern Europe.
Thanks to the negotiations of the representatives of public broadcasters and film funds of the V4 countries taking place at the VAF, 5 the opportunities for co-production of animated films are gradually increasing in this territory.
Co-productions were common for state film studios in the past, but even today they are an essential part of funding ambitious projects.
Co-productions are stimulated by personal contacts and the VAF offers a place for meetings of producers and building their mutual trust, making it an ideal platform for the development of cross-border cooperation.
The APAF also closely cooperates with the festival Fest Anča in Žilina, especially in the preparation for the section Industry Days.
Finally, the APAF is involved in organising educational activities to help students bridge different requirements of the school environment and professional studies.
Slovak animation successfully established itself in cooperation with Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
Work on co-productions with Western Europe is hampered by the incompatibility of the allocated budget and high demands on the capacity and speed of production that the Slovak studios have been unable to fully satisfy so far.
However, several signals indicate that there is a potential for growth of the animation industry.
Two feature-length co-production films with an international potential and with Slovak majority input are in the pre-production stage, with secured financial support from different countries.
The number of approved projects with European funding by Creative Europe MEDIA is growing.
The amount of funds allocated to animation by the AVF is increasing and tax incentives in the amount of 20 % tax rebate are also available.
The production environment has been stabilised and the functioning subsidy system allows longer-term planning strategies and the foundation of animation studios.
With goals still to reach, however, we may say that the creative potential, artists with a unique artistic vision and cinematic statement are here and they are the most valuable investment.
Astute producers can build on this a functioning industry effectively connected with foreign countries.
There are indications that Slovakia is becoming a very interesting partner for international cooperation on animated films in the near future: a country to watch.