Yuriy Borisovich Norshteyn, PAR (Russian: Ю́рий Бори́сович Норште́йн), or Yuri Norstein (born 15 September 1941) is a Soviet and Russian animator best known for his animated shorts, Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales. Since 1981 he has been working on a feature film called The Overcoat, based on the short story by Nikolai Gogol of the same name. According to the Washington Post, "He is considered by many to be not just the best animator of his era, but the best of all time".
Yuriy Norshteyn was born to a Jewish family in the village of Andreyevka, Penza Oblast, during his parents' World War II evacuation. He grew up in the Maryina Roshcha suburb of Moscow. After studying at an art school, Norshteyn initially found work at a furniture factory. Then he finished a two-year animation course and found employment at studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1961. The first film that he participated in as an animator was Who Said "Meow"? (1962).
After working as an animation artist in some fifty films, Norshteyn got the chance to direct his own. In 1968 he debuted with 25th October, the First Day, sharing directorial credit with Arkadiy Tyurin. The film used the artwork of 1920s-era Soviet artists Nathan Altman and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
The next film in which he had a major role was The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971), a co-production with Russian animation director Ivan Ivanov-Vano under whose direction Norshteyn had earlier worked on 1969's Times of the Year.
Throughout the 1970s Norshteyn continued to work as an animator in many films (a more complete list can be found at IMDb, and also directed several. As the decade progressed his animation style became ever more sophisticated, looking less like flat cut-outs and more like smoothly-moving paintings or sophisticated pencil sketches. His most famous film is Tale of Tales, a non-linear, autobiographical film about growing up in the postwar Soviet world.
Norshteyn uses a special technique in his animation, involving multiple glass planes to give his animation a three-dimensional look. The camera is placed at the top looking down on a series of glass planes about a meter deep (one every 25–30 cm). The individual glass planes can move horizontally as well as toward and away from the camera (to give the effect of a character moving closer or further away).
For many years he has collaborated with his wife, the artist Franchesca Yarbusova, and the cinematographer Aleksandr Zhukovskiy.
Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Norshteyn's animations were showered with both state and international awards. Then, in a bitter twist of irony, he was fired from Soyuzmultfilm in 1985 for working too slowly on his latest film, a (presumably) feature-length adaptation of Gogol's Overcoat. By that time he had been working on it with his usual small team of three people for two years and had finished ten minutes.
In April 1993, Norshteyn and three other leading animators (Fyodor Khitruk, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, and Edward Nazarov) founded the Animation School and Studio (SHAR Studio) in Russia. The Russian Cinema Committee is among the share-holders of the studio.
To this day, Norshteyn is still working on The Overcoat—his ardent perfectionism has earned him the nickname "The Golden Snail". The project has met numerous financial troubles and false starts, but Norshteyn has said that it currently has reliable funding from several sources, both from within and outside of Russia. At least 25 minutes have been completed to date. A couple of short, low-resolution clips have been made available to the public:. The first 20 minutes of the film have also toured among various exhibits of Norshteyn's work in Russian museums. The full film is expected to be 65 minutes long.
In 2005, he released a Russian-language book titled Snow on the Grass. Fragments of a Book. Lectures about the Art of Animation, featuring a number of lectures that he gave about the art of animation. That same year, he was invited as "guest animator" to work on Kihachiro Kawamoto's puppet-animated feature film, The Book of the Dead.
On 10 August 2008, the full version of the book Snow on the Grass was released (the "incomplete" 2005 book was 248 pages). The book, which was printed in the Czech Republic and funded by Sberbank, consists of two tomes, 620 pages, and 1700 color illustrations. The studio stopped working on The Overcoat for nearly a year while Norshteyn worked to release the book.
- 25th October, the First Day (25-е — первый день, 1968), in collaboration with Arkadiy Tyurin.
- The Battle of Kerzhenets (Сеча при Керженце, 1971), in collaboration with Ivan Ivanov-Vano.
- The Fox and the Hare (Лиса и заяц, 1973).
- The Heron and the Crane (Цапля и журавль, 1974).
- Hedgehog in the Fog (Ёжик в тумане, 1975).
- Tale of Tales (Сказка сказок, 1979).
- Participated in Winter Days (冬の日, 2003).
- The Overcoat (Шинель, still in production)
Awards and praise
- 1971—Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czechoslovakia): The Battle of Kerzhenets named Best Animated Film
- 1972—Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films (Yugoslavia): Grand Prize for The Battle of Kerzhenets (shared with Ivan Ivanov-Vano)
- 1972—Tbilisi: The Battle of Kerzhenets named Best Animated Film
- 1972—Bombay Film Festival (India): "Diplom" for The Battle of Kerzhenets
- 1975—Annecy International Animated Film Festival (France): Special Jury Prize for Heron and Crane
- 1975—New York (U.S.): First Prize for Heron and Crane
- 1976—Frunze All-Union Film Festival: Hedgehog in the Fog "best animated film"
- 1976—Teheran Children's and Youth Film Festival (Iran): Hedgehog in the Fog "best animated film"
- 1977—Odense (Denmark): Grand Prize for Heron and Crane
- 1979—USSR State Prize for Tale of Tales (awarded just prior to its release to Norshteyn, Yarbusova, and Zhukovsky)
- 1980—Lille International Festival of Films (France): Jury Grand Prize for Tale of Tales
- 1980—Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films: Grand Prize for Tale of Tales
- 1980—Ottawa International Animation Festival (Canada): Best Film Longer Than Three Minutes Award for Tale of Tales
- 1984—Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival (U.S.): Tale of Tales voted by large international jury to be the greatest animated film of all time
- 1991—Annie Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Animation
- 1995—Russian Independent Triumph Award (acknowledging 'the highest achievements in art and literature')
- 1996—People's Artist of Russia
- 1996—1st Open Russian Festival of Animated Film, Breakthrough Prize for Russian Sugar (commercial)
- 2002—Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films: Tale of Tales again voted by large international jury to be the greatest animated film of all time
- 2004—Japanese Order of the Rising Sun
- "Сказка сказок". Ю. Норштейн. Ф. Ярбусова. 2005, «Красная площадь». ISBN 5-900743-80-2
- "Снег на траве. Фрагменты книги. Лекции по искусству анимации". Ю. Норштейн. 2005. ISBN 5-87149-099-9
- "Ёжик в тумане". Юрий Норштейн, Сергей Козлов, Франческа Ярбусова (иллюстрации). 2006, «Красная площадь». ISBN 5-900743-91-8
- "Снег на траве". Ю. Норштейн. 2008, «Красная площадь». ISBN 978-5-91521-006-5
- Finn, Peter (31 May 2005). "20 Years of Toil, 20 Minutes of Unique Film". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
- Maya Balakirsky Katz, Drawing the Iron Curtain: Jews and the Golden Age of Soviet Animation (Rutgers University Press, 2016), chapter 8
- Interview with Yuriy Norshteyn Archived 5 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine. at Radio Free Europe
- PBS The Overcoat 1. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- PBS The Overcoat 2. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Details on The Book of the Dead at the Japanese film festival Nippon Connection
- ??? Snow on the Grass. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Одушевление черточек. Время. 28 August 2008. Retrieved on: 25 October 2009.
- Interview with Hayao Miyazaki at the U.S. premiere of Spirited Away
- A remote conversation between Yuriy Norshteyn and Hayao Miyazaki at a Russian TV Show ProSvet, on 22 October 2005, hosted by Dmitry Dibrov
- Clare Kitson (2005). Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales. Eastleigh: John Libbey, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-86196-646-5. (non-U.S.). ISBN 0-253-21838-1 (U.S.).
- "About Yuri Norstein". Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Retrieved 5 April 2006.
- Official website
- Yuriy Norshteyn at animator.ru (full filmography)
- Yuriy Norshteyn at the Internet Movie Database
- Magia Russica, a Documentary Film about Russian Animation in Soviet Times, including In-depth interview with Yuriy Norshteyn and a tour in his studio
- In-depth interview with Yuriy Norshteyn about his segment in "Winter Days" (Russian) (English translation)
- The Animation of Yuriy Norshteyn at the Keyframe - the Animation Resource
- "20 Years of Toil, 20 Minutes of Unique Film" Washington Post
- "Sweet little mystery" The Guardian, Saturday 16 April 2005
- Yuri Norstein. The tale is a lie, what it tells is the truth
- Yuri Norstein My Green Crocodile
- MoMA Hayama pays tribute to Russian animation legends Metropolis (free magazine)