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Yevgeniy Migunov

Yevgeny Tikhonovich Migunov (Russian: Евгений Тихонович Мигунов; February 27, 1921 — January 1, 2004) was a Russian artist, cartoonist, book illustrator, animation and art director, screenwriter, inventor, educator and memoirist. He is regarded as one of the leading innovators during the Khrushchev Thaw who contributed significally to both traditional and stop motion animation.[1]

Yevgeny Migunov
Migunov caricature.jpg
Yevgeny Migunov, self-portrait
Yevgeny Tikhonovich Migunov

(1921-02-27)27 February 1921
Died1 January 2004(2004-01-01) (aged 82)
Moscow, Russia
OccupationAnimator, artist


Early yearsEdit

Yevgeny and his sister Nina were born in Moscow into a family of Tikhon Grigorievich Migunov, a low-ranking official in one of the ministries, and Maria Konstantinovna Migunova. Following her sudden death in 1928 Tikhon Migunov married her sister, Zinaida. Yevgeny was diagnosed with cerebral palsy of his left leg, and his mother blamed a doctor for hitting the nerve. Yevgeny remained lame throughout his life, yet he tried to hide it and compensate by various activities (he was known for his pranks, among other things).[2][3][4]

He studied at the P. N. Lepeshinsky Experimental School (the so-called school-commune), graduating in 1938, then spent a year at the art school. In 1939 he entered the newly-founded Art Faculty at VGIK.[4] He was among the first four students who studied animation at the first official Russian workshop headed by Ivan Ivanov-Vano. His classmates were Anatoly Sazonov, Lev Milchin and Syuzanna Byalkovskaya, all future Soyuzmultfilm employees.[5][6]

Among Migunov's teachers were Ivanov-Vano, Fyodor Bogorodsky and Fyodor Konstantinov. He had a hard time following the educational program and learned art by studying classic paintings by Ilya Repin, Ivan Kramskoi, Valentin Serov and others. He also learned a lot from his classmate, close friend and future collaborator Anatoly Sazonov who came from an artistic family and whose talent he highly regarded. Migunov gained money by drawing miniatures for the Novodevichy Convent Museum.[3]

With the start of the Great Patriotic War in 1941 Migunov joined the volunteer corps of the 38th rifle regiment of the 13th Rostokino division along with the fellow students, hiding his disability. He later described this period in his memoirs in detail.[2] He was awarded the 2nd Class Order of the Patriotic War in 1987.[7]

On Autumn 1941 all students returned to Moscow and continued the studies, but with the start of the Battle of Moscow VGIK was evacuated to Alma-Ata. Ivan Ivanov-Vano also chose to stay in Alma-Ata where a Central United cinema studio of Mosfilm and Lenfilm was organized. They continued studies, conducted art exhibitions and developed cartoons. In 1943 Migunov defended his diploma — a Let's Laugh storyboard based on his own original screenplay in verse. The commission was headed by Sergei Eisenstein.[5][8]


After the warEdit

On September 1943 VGIK returned to Moscow. Same year Migunov and his classmates joined Soyuzmultfilm and finished their first cartoon — Stolen Sun directed by Ivanov-Vano (considered lost today). In 1945 the Brumberg sisters released their first traditionally animated feature The Lost Letter where Migunov and Sazonov served as art directors. In 1946 they helped Mstislav Paschenko to restore The Song of Happiness short from scratch since the sketches had been lost in the sieged Leningrad.[5] It became the first film by Soyuzmultfilm to receive an international award (bronze medal for the best animated film and a special award "For Humaneness" at the 8th Venice International Film Festival).[9]

Simultaneously Migunov took part in developing the methodological educational program for animation courses under Soyuzmultfilm and taught character design.[1]

In 1948 he worked on a short comedy film Champion directed by Aleksandr Ivanov. As Migunov later recalled, its release marked the start of the cold war anti-Disney campaign. The short was accused of "formalism" and "anthropomorphism". Migunov then vindictively drew his next film Polkan and Shavka as realistic as possible, and to his surprise it became "a golden standard" for all animators for the next ten years.[10] It was also the first cartoon where oil paints were used for backgrounds.[1]

In 1951 the short When New Year Trees Light Up directed by Paschenko, with art direction by Migunov, became the best children's movie at the 7th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (it competed against feature motion pictures).[1][11] Following years Migunov turned into one of the leading innovators at Soyuzmultfilm.

Khrushchev ThawEdit

In 1953 a puppet division was relaunched at Soyuzmultfilm, and next year Migunov made his directorial debut with the first post-war stop motion animated film Karandash and Klyaksa — Merry Hunters. It was based on the original screenplay, with main characters inspired by the popular Russian clown Karandash and his dog. In order to accomplish it, he basically reinvented the whole production process by designing a device for shooting in statics, with a horizontally moving camera and attachable dolls. He also suggested to use ball-jointed dolls and latex for puppet faces. Together with a mechanic Semyon Etlis he organized the technical base, constructed and patented all devices and dolls.[10][12]

The film turned very successful, and all Migunov's inventions and technical devices have been used by other Soyuzmultfilm directors since. Migunov planned a sequel, but left puppet animation after Mikhail Rumyantsev (who performed under the Karandash name) filled a complaint letter regarding his doll that had been voiced by someone else. In fact Migunov, who personally performed the clown's song, had contacted the artist before and suggested him to do the voiceover, but the artist had claimed he had no ear for music.[12]

In 1957 Migunov directed a traditionally animated short Familiar Pictures based on the sketches by a stand-up comedian Arkady Raikin (he also makes an appearance in the film). The film became the first radical shift from "realistic" animation towards magazine caricatures. It became possible due to Raikin's satire which didn't fit the art direction of that time. It wasn't long until other animators followed the example, developing their own distinctive styles.[10]

Among Migunov's unreleased projects was the first Soviet satirical animated anthology series Dyatel (Woodpecker) for which he not only wrote screenplays and poems, but also implemented cutout animation, split screen and other techniques. It served as a bases for such almanacs as Fitil and Happy Merry-Go-Round. The screenplay for World! World! World!!! was approved in 1959, but also didn't air. According to the film hisotrian Georgy Borodin, it was a principally new approach to auteur animation tried only years later.[4][13]

By 1960 his relationship with the studio management escalated. His last project based on two poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky led to a scandal: it was presented as a storyboard with the director's screenplay written in the margins which was against the rules. Migunov lost his temper, said he had enough and was immediately fired from Soyuzmultfilm.[10]


Misha holding a torch on a stamp

After Migunov left animation, he focused on art and illustrations. He produced filmstrips for the Diafilm studio, drew cartoons and caricatures for the Krokodil satirical magazine, as well as children's magazines Murzilka, Merry Pictures (ru), Pioneer and newspapers such as Vechernyaya Moskva, Pravda and Literaturnaya Gazeta.[4][14]

He also spent many years working at the Detskaya Literatura publishing house, illustrating children's books and fantasy novels. Among his major achievements are illustrations to Aleksandr Volkov's novels on Emerald City, Yevgeny Veltistov's Electronic: A Boy From a Suitcase and — most famously — Kir Bulychov's Alisa Selezneva series. Their collaboration lasted for almost 40 years, and Migunov was even credited with coming up with several ideas for Bulychov's novels.[4] In 1980 Roman Kachanov invited him to work as an art director on The Mystery of the Third Planet, an adaptation of one of the Alisa Selezneva novels. Migunov, who was always sceptical of Kachanov's abilities as an animator, rejected the offer and later claimed that some of the cartoon characters were simply copied from his illustrations.[15][16]

Among his other famous works were illustrations to Strugatsky Brothers' Monday Begins on Saturday and The Tale of the Troika. He used his animation experience to create a distinctive "motion blur" effect in his works.

Yevgeny was also among the designers of Misha, the Russian Bear mascot of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. After Victor Chizhikov finished the main sketch, Migunov prepared 21 series of images for artists, designers and advertisers. They utilized many different artistic techniques and featured Misha greeting guests, taking part in various sport disciplines and holding the Olympic torch.[17]

Last years and deathEdit

Since 1997 Migunov had been working on Kir Bulychov's collection of works in three volumes. He prepared hundreds of illustrations and sketches, yet the project resulted in two thin books, and many of his drawings were left unpublished. In 1999 he survived a stroke. Migunov couldn't draw anymore, but he remained in control of the coloring process.[4]

Migunov also left many notebooks with memoirs regarding his youth, the work at Soyuzmultfilm and Krokodil, including detailed portraits of various people he had encountered, as well as theoretical notes and essays on the art of caricature, animation, book illustration and filmstrips.[18] He personally called it his "major life accomplishment" and expressed hope that they wouldn't be lost. To this day the archives have been only partly published by several film-related magazines and blogs.[13][15]

Yevgeny Migunov died on 1 January 2004 and was buried at the Miusskoe Cemetery in Moscow.[19] He was survived by his wife Nina Romanovna Karavaeva (married since 1945), also an animator at Soyuzmultfilm who left the studio along with her husband, and her daughter from the first marriage Elena Nikolaevna Zarubina.[12][20]


  • Actress (1942) - opening sequence (uncredited)[8]
  • Stolen Sun (1943) – art director
  • The Lost Letter (1945) – art director
  • Winter Tale (1945) – art director
  • The Song of Happiness (1946) – art director
  • Merry Garden (1947) – art director
  • Quartet (1947) - art director
  • Champion (1948) - art director
  • An Elephant and an Ant (1948) – art director
  • Polkan and Shavka (1949) – art director
  • Mister Wolk (1949) – consultant (uncredited)[15]
  • When New Year Trees Light Up (1950)
  • A Grandpa and a Grandsonny (1950) - art director
  • Who's First? (1950) - art director
  • Forest Adventurers (1951) - art director
  • Magic Shop (1953) - art director
  • Karandash and Klyaksa — Merry Hunters (1954) – director, art director, screenwriter, voice
  • A Pipe and a Bear (1955) - art director
  • What Kind of Bird Is This? (1955) - director, art director, songwriter
  • Familiar Pictures (1957) - director, art director
  • To the 6th World Festival (1957) – director, art director, screenwriter
  • A Song About Friendship (1957) – art director
  • Poem of the Sea (1958) – director, art director (animated sequences)
  • Exactly at Three Fifteen... (1959) – director, art director, screenwriter
  • Oversalted (1959) – screenwriter
  • World! World! World!!! (1959) – screenwriter (unfinished)
  • S. Marshak (1960) – director (animated sequences)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Sergei Kapkov (2006). Encyclopedia of Domestic Animation, pp. 434-436
  2. ^ a b Yevgeny Migunov, Georgy Borodin. 1941: Volunteer Corps Odyssey memoirs at the Krokodil community published in the Kinograph magazine №18, May 2007 (in Russian)
  3. ^ a b Yevgeny Migunov, Georgy Borodin. About, a propos and relating to… VGIK, 1939 and other years memoirs at the Notes by Film Historian magazine № 68, 2004, p. 324 ISSN 0235-8212 (in Russian)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Andrei Scherbakov-Zhukov. Migunov who was capable of everything article from Novaya Gazeta, 3 March 2011 (in Russian)
  5. ^ a b c Ivan Ivanov-Vano (1980). Frame by Frame. — Moscow: Iskusstvo, pp. 113-134
  6. ^ The Art Faculty at the official VGIK website
  7. ^ Migunov Yevgeny Tikhonovich at the People's Deed database (in Russian)
  8. ^ a b Yevgeny Migunov, Georgy Borodin. About, apropos and relating to... Alma-Ata. College years (1941–1943) memoirs at the Notes by Film Historian magazine № 62, 2003, p. 276 ISSN 0235-8212 (in Russian)
  9. ^ Sergei Asenin (2012). The World of Animation. — Moscow: Print-on-Demand, p. 49 ISBN 978-5-458-30516-7
  10. ^ a b c d The Stars of Russian Animation. Film 4. Eugene Migunov by Irina Margolina and Eduard Nazarov, 2012 (in Russian)
  11. ^ Irina Margolina, Natalia Lozinskaya (2006). Our Animation. — Moscow: Interros, p. 88 ISBN 5-91105-007-2
  12. ^ a b c Yevgeny Migunov, Georgy Borodin. The work in puppet animation memoirs at the Notes by Film Historian magazine № 73, 2005, p. 310 ISSN 0235-8212 (in Russian)
  13. ^ a b Georgy Borodin. Yevgeny Tikhonovich Migunov. 1921-2004 article at (in Russian)
  14. ^ Diafilms by Yevgeny Migunov at the National Children's Digital Library (in Russian)
  15. ^ a b c Yevgeny Migunov. About and about… memoirs at the Notes by Film Historian magazine № 56, 2002, p. 305 ISSN 0235-8212 (in Russian)
  16. ^ D. Andreev. Interview with Yevgeny Migunov from the Volga Region Railwayman newspaper, 20 December 1989, p. 4 at the History of Fandom website (in Russian)
  17. ^ Georgy Borodin. Olympics at animascreen: Mishas of Yevgeny Migunov article at, 13 February 2014 (in Russian)
  18. ^ Georgy Borodin, Andrei Scherbakov-Zhukov. Notes by "perjurer" article from Novaya Gazeta, 3 March 2011 (in Russian)
  19. ^ Evgeniy Migunov's tomb
  20. ^ Obituary at, 23 October 2005 (in Russian)

External linksEdit