November 3, 1910|
Ostroměř, Austria-Hungary (present-day Czech Republic)
|Died||April 5, 1989
|Occupation||Film director, animator|
|Influenced by||Jules Verne, Gustave Doré, Hermína Týrlová|
|Awards||1980 Order of the Republic|
Karel Zeman (November 3, 1910 – April 5, 1989) was a Czech film director, artist, production designer and animator. Because of his creative use of special effects and animation in his films, he has often been called the "Czech Méliès."
Zeman was born on November 3, 1910, in Ostroměř (near Nová Paka) in what was then Austria-Hungary. In the 1920s, he studied at a French advertising school, and worked at an advertising studio in Marseilles until 1936. It was in France that he first worked with animation, filming an ad for soup. He then returned to his home country (by now Czechoslovakia), after visiting Egypt, Yugoslavia, and Greece.
Back in Czechoslovakia, Zeman advertised for Czech firms like Baťa and Tatra. At Baťa's window-dressing school, where he was teaching, Zeman met the animator Elmar Klos and showed him a sample of his work. Klos offered Zeman a job at Zlín's animation studio. After some consideration (his wife and children were already established in Brno), Zeman accepted the job in 1943. At the studio, Zeman worked as an assistant to the pioneering animator Hermína Týrlová, and in 1945 he became the director of the stop-motion animation production group. The same year, in collaboration with his brother Bořivoj Zeman, he made his first short film, Vánoční sen ("A Christmas Dream").
Zeman then went on to solo work, including a series of shorts starring a puppet called Mr. Prokouk. His half-hour film Král Lávra (1950), from the poem by Karel Havlíček Borovský, won him a National Award, and was followed by his first feature film, Poklad ptačího ostrova (1952). His most unusual film may be the short Inspirace ("Inspiration," 1948), which tells a wordless, poetic love story using animated glass figurines.
It was in 1955, however, that Zeman began the work for which he is probably most famous: six feature films that combine live-action and animation techniques to create artistic visual styles. These were:
- Cesta do pravěku (1955), inspired by Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and the paintings of Zdeněk Burian
- Vynález zkázy (1958), based on Verne's Facing the Flag, and filmed to emulate the original illustrations for Verne's novels
- Baron Prášil (1961), celebrating the legendary Baron Munchausen and the engravings of Gustave Doré
- Bláznova kronika (1964), a satire of the Thirty Years' War, suggested by the drawings of Matthäus Merian
- Ukradená vzducholoď (1967), inspired by the Verne novels Two Years' Vacation and The Mysterious Island, the Art Nouveau style, and the 1891 Prague Centennial Exhibition
- Na kometě (1970), an anti-war fantasy based on Verne's Hector Servadac
After this, Zeman experimented with more classical forms of animation, beginning with seven shorts about Sinbad the Sailor which were then expanded into the feature film Pohádky tisíce a jedné noci (1974). His final films were Čarodějův učeň (1977), from the novel The Satanic Mill by Otfried Preußler, and Pohádka o Honzíkovi a Mařence (1980).
Feature Films 
|Year||Original Czech title||Standard English title||US release title|
|1952||Poklad ptačího ostrova||The Treasure of Bird Island||N/A|
|1955||Cesta do pravěku||Journey to Prehistory||Journey to the Beginning of Time|
|1958||Vynález zkázy||An Invention for Destruction||The Fabulous World of Jules Verne|
|1961||Baron Prášil||Baron Munchausen||The Fabulous Baron Munchausen|
|1964||Bláznova kronika||A Jester's Tale||War of the Fools|
|1967||Ukradená vzducholoď||The Stolen Airship||N/A|
|1970||Na kometě||On the Comet||On the Comet|
|1974||Pohádky tisíce a jedné noci||Tales of 1,001 Nights||Adventures of Sinbad the Sailor|
|1977||Čarodějův učeň||Krabat — The Sorcerer's Apprentice||N/A|
|1980||Pohádka o Honzíkovi a Mařence||The Tale of John and Mary||N/A|
Short Films 
|Year||Original Czech title||English title||Notes|
|1945||Vánoční sen||The Christmas Dream||Released in the US as A Christmas Dream|
|1946||Podkova pro štěstí||Horseshoe for Luck||The first Mr. Prokouk film|
|1947||Pan Prokouk ouřaduje||Mr. Prokouk, Bureaucrat|
|1947||Brigády||Voluntary work||The third Mr. Prokouk film|
|1947||Pan Prokouk v pokušení||Mr. Prokouk in Temptation|
|1948||Pan Prokouk filmuje||Mr. Prokouk Filming|
|1949||Pan Prokouk vynálezcem||Mr. Prokouk, Inventor|
|1950||Král Lávra||King Lávra|
|1955||Pan Prokouk, Přítel zvířátek||Mr. Prokouk, Friend of the Animals|
|1958||Pan Proukock detektivem||Mr. Prokouk, Detective|
|1959||Pan Proukock akrobatem||Mr. Prokouk, Acrobat|
|1971||Dobrodružství námořníka Sindibáda||Adventures of Sinbad the Sailor|
|1972||Druhá cesta námořníka Sindibáda||The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor|
|1973||V zemi obrů. Třetí cesta námořníka Sindibáda||In the Land of Giants (the third voyage)|
|1973||Magnetová hora. Čtvrtá cesta námořníka Sindibáda||The Magnet Mountain (the fourth voyage)|
|1973||Létající koberec. Pátá cesta námořníka Sindibáda||The Flying Carpet (the fifth voyage)|
|1974||Mořský sultán. Šestá cesta námořníka Sindibáda||The Sultan of the Sea (the sixth voyage)|
|1974||Zkrocený démon. Sedmá cesta námořníka Sindibáda||Taming the Demon (the seventh voyage)|
- Lazarova, Marketa. "The Fabulous World of Karel Zeman". Jules Verne: Andreas Fehrmann's Collection. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Hames, Peter (2009). Czech and Slovak Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 196.
- Polt, Harriet (Spring 1964). "The Czechoslovak Animated Film". Film Quarterly 17 (3): 38. JSTOR 1210908.
- "2nd Moscow International Film Festival (1961)". MIFF. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
- "7th Moscow International Film Festival (1971)". MIFF. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- Karel Zeman at the Internet Movie Database
- Karel Zeman filmography (Polish)
- Karel Zeman: Genius of Animated Film at SME.sk (Slovak)
- Gallery of Czech stop-action animation including clips from The Fabulous World of Karel Zeman.
- A Strange Introduction to Karel Zeman: The Czech Visionary (TCM Movie Morlocks)