The Insect’s Christmas

Entomologists are often accused of failure to grow up. As adults, Entomologists maintain the same childhood fascination for insects. Entomologists like to share their fascination with others. In 1910, Władysław Starewicz was Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kovno, Lithuania. He made 4 live action videos for the museum. His fifth was to be a battle between stag beetles. However, the beetles are nocturnal and were uncooperative under the bright film lights. (They went to sleep).

Not to be denied, Starewicz created a stag beetle battle using stop motion animation in his short film, Lucanus Cervus. (Lucanus cervus is a well known stag beetle.) For these films, Starewicz used wires and wax to pose beetles (and parts of beetles) for his film.

From 1910 until his death in 1965, Starewicz made many stop-action animation films in Russia and later, in France. His fascination with insects continued and he used insects as his subjects in many films. Perhaps his films were somewhat misunderstood by a general public that is often squeamish about (if not disgusted by) insects. Eric Schneider has an interesting article on the film career of Starewicz in AWM. Starewicz was at the forefront of using insects as subjects in animated films for children, a trend that continues to this day.

In 1911, Starewicz made a stop action film about Father Christmas climbing down from his Christmas tree to bring joy to the insects. The insects depicted are familiar and non-threatening to children as they engage in anthropomorphic activities. The original film was silent (sound technology was not then available). English subtitles were added to a version released in 1913. This version, available on Youtube, has added a music score. It is hard to believe that this film was made 100 years ago.

For the past several years, I have played this classic for my introductory Entomology class. I hope you enjoy this whimsical film.
Merry Christmas

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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3 Responses to The Insect’s Christmas

  1. George Sims says:

    Now, that was WAY cool, altlhough “Miss Dragonfly” looked very grasshopperish to me. I especially enjoyed the beetles turning somersaults.

  2. Shanna says:

    It’s funny how in the context of this movie, there is very little that seems creepy about the insects. It probably stems from the choice of human-like locomotion for the insects. You see them as little people wearing funny costumes and imagine little stories about them.

    Major props to Starewicz as well. An exceptionally good job given the time period and choice of animation.

  3. Pingback: Insects at Home | Living With Insects Blog

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