The Insects’ Christmas
The stop-motion camera shows a close-up of ornaments on the branches of a Christmas tree, amongst which is a Father Christmas who climbs down from his perch and in so doing dislodges a glass globe, which falls to the floor and breaks. A dolly among the gifts below awakes, looks about her and sees Father Christmas setting off for the forest.
Outside in the snowy night landscape, he waves his staff and “grows” a tree, then magically adds ornaments, all the while his greatcoat is lifted by the breeze. Now he goes to invite all the little insects in the forest to his Christmas celebrations.
Each of these creatures is a delicate, lifelike, mobile replica. The ladybug hears him out, then stands on her hind or third pair of legs and goes off. Beetles turn somersaults at the news as they go. The pond is frozen, but a frog jumps up through the ice and very elegantly greets Father Christmas, giving him a Russian hug.
They all ski or sled down to the pond, where they go skating. A very large Christmas cracker is popped, which sends two of them tumbling.
Next morning, Father Christmas returns to the house and climbs back up to his place on the Christmas tree.
The Lily of Belgium
stop-motion animation records a war of invasion and conquest, destroying the
“holy places”, before nature is revulsed and turns back the invaders. It all
takes place among flowers and insects, though the invading army rides in little
motorcars on makeshift bridges across the rill, in Flanders fields.
The animation is quite accomplished, not only carrying on several actions at various rates simultaneously, as when the assault is made in the background while a cannonade goes on in the foreground (until the cannon blows up), but also, after the peace, depicting dragonflies in flight, a butterfly, etc.
A little insect band performs, the concertina-player dances the kazatsky, oh it’s charming. It’s all a tale told to a live little girl by her live elderly grandfather, a very Russian character with his glass-covered butterfly collection hanging on the wall behind him. At the end, the girl is seen admiring the lily of the title, there on the field of action.
Fétiche combines live action and stop-motion, and in part has three dolls (a pair of apache dancers and a Russian doll) and three toy animals (a monkey, a cat and a puppy) culled from store shelves and shipped across Paris. They have misadventures along the way, and only the puppy remains to be resold to a man who suspends it inside the rear window of his car, whence it escapes into the town.
This is a favorite theme of Walt Disney’s, of course, and you can see definitively Starewicz’s kinship with his great contemporary Willis H. O’Brien (also Ray Harryhausen). All their great effects are modeled on a close study of nature.
Furthermore, Starewicz is evidently quite happy in Paris, and all his jokes are good ones.