Association Internationale du Film d’Animation
International Animated Film Association

In Memoriam: Marcell Jankovics

Author: Anna Ida Orosz | Date: 6/2/21, 10:13 PM

Marcell Jankovics, icon of Hungarian animated films dies at 80

Marcel Jankovics (source: MTI)

The Palme d'Or winner and Oscar nominee animation film director, Marcell Jankovics has died aged 80. Over the course of a career that spanned six decades, the filmmaker worked on more than 100 films as director, figure designer, animator and specialist. Jankovics served as member of presidency of ASIFA between 1973 – 1978.

Over the course of a career that spanned six decades, the filmmaker was involved with more than 100 films as director, figure designer, animator and specialist.

The film director, graphic artist and culture historian born in 1941 was just 19 years old when he joined the animation department of Pannónia Film Studio in 1960. During the 1960s, he was the figure designer of Gusztáv, one of the most iconic Hungarian cartoon stars, and co-director of the series. He directed the first full-length production in Hungarian animation history, János vitéz (Johnny Corncob) in 1973.

His second feature film, Fehérlófia (Son of the White Mare) was selected amongst the 50 most important animation films of all times at the animation Olympics organized to coincide with the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

One of the most famous animation films in the world, the 2-minute-long Sisyphus, is one of his shorts with streamlined design. It was nominated for an Oscar in 1976. Küzdők (The Struggle) won a Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1977. Series hallmarked with his name (Magyar népmesék /Hungarian Folk Tales/, 1977–2012; Mondák a magyar történelemből /Legends from Hungarian History/, 1986) are unique reworkings of the values of centuries of Hungarian culture. Only one thirty-minute episode (Teremtés /Creation/) of his unfinished Bible film was completed in 1989, on the basis of which it is no exaggeration to state that the planned series could have been one of the pinnacles of the oeuvre.

Ének a csodaszarvasról (Song of the Miraculous Hind, 2002) dealing with the history of the Magyar Conquest was one of the most watched animation movie films in Hungarian animation history after the change of regime. As a culture history educational film, it tested the boundaries of the possibilities of animation film, as did the most grandiose undertaking of Jankovics’s career, Az ember tragédiája (The Tragedy of Man, 2012), an animated adaptation of the poem of humanity by Imre Madách. His final work was the animation adaptation of the epic poem Toldi (2021) by János Arany. He made it on the commission of Kecskemétfilm. It is expected to debut this autumn.

The Annecy International Festival is including the 4K restored version of Fehérlófia on its programme this year in the section presenting film classics.

In 1984, he laid out his creative creed to the periodical Filmkultúra thus: ‘I escape to topics that preoccupy the basic canons of civilization. The fact is, I simply have nowhere else to escape to. My personal problems are not so important that I would make a movie out of them. I can’t see that point in the world, that are thousands, millions of times more important, that would be worth dealing with in our genre: there is such an immeasurable scale of problems that surround our world. Rescuing our disintegrating values is at least a beautiful task, somehow to restore in our genre.’

Anna Ida Orosz (National Film Institute – Filmarchive, Hungary)