Soviet Film Wednesday: The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas Poster

The Night Before Christmas (1951) was directed by the prolific Soviet animation duo of Valentina Brumberg and Zinaida Brumberg, who were also known as the “Brumberg sisters” as well as the “grandmothers of Russian animation.” Some of their most well known films are Little Red Riding Hood and Ivashka and Baba-Yaga.

Not your typical Christmas story, it begins with the night sky, a flying witch, and the devil stealing the moon so he can wreak havoc across town under the cover of darkness and vengeance on the town blacksmith, Vakula, who created a famous painting of the devil being defeated.

The Night Before Christmas

Meanwhile, Vakula is in love with Oksana, and spends the night searching for the perfect pair of slippers for a gift to his love, and he eventually enlists the aid of a wizard and the devil to reach the Empress for the slippers.

The film was based on Nikolai Gogol’s tale of The Night Before Christmas, and was made in Moscow’s historic Soyuzmultfilm studio, which also released Yuri Norstein’s Seasons (1969) and Hedgehog in the Fog (1975). The creators used a technique called rotoscoping, or “Éclair” in the Soviet Union, which involves tracing from frame to frame to create smooth action scenes.

Subtitles are available by clicking the CC button at the bottom of the screen.

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