Hungary's Cold War cartoons were weird and awesome

The Cold War was a boon to animators, who were able to express the subversive views that the mainstream wouldn't dare whisper -- see, e.g., Jay Ward's "Boris and Natasha" -- but the toons from the other side of the Iron Curtain are all but unknown in the "Free World."

Filip Stojanovski's tour of the Hungarian Cold War animation canon is full of amazing revelations and high weirdness, as well as enough sly comedy to satisfy any appetite. And since this is the 21st century, much of the work he discusses is available on Youtube for your perusal.

During the second half of 20th century, the mainstream perception of animated cartoons in Central and Eastern Europe was that they were entertainment for children, and most of the production was indeed aimed at this audience. (This perception possibly allowed some authors to ‘smuggle’ in some adult themes.) State TV networks showed cartoons during family-friendly time slots. For instance, in Yugoslavia, this included daytime with the last slot at 7:15 pm, before the evening news.

Considering the communist focus on the future, content production for children was not a trifling matter in socialist countries. The states allocated significant resources to general education and youth entertainment, including literature and film.

The “Hungarian Folk Tales” series of cartoons is a prime representative of this trend. Originally called “Magyar népmesék,” it featured top notch retelling of folk tales, often involving ingenious use of 2D animation techniques.

The Fascinating World of Cold War-Era Hungarian Cartoons [Filip Stojanovski/Global Voices]

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