I was in the Czech Republic a few years back and was keen to see if there were any museums or exhibitions displaying remnants of the rich puppet animation scene. This is a part of animation history that has long fascinated me and the works of Karel Zeman, Jiri Trnka, Břetislav Pojar, Jan Švankmajer and more recently Aurel Klimt, have proved a huge influence on my work.
After some lengthy research in internet cafés and the lobby of my hostel in Prague, I found out about the Museum of Czech Animated Films at Kratochvile Chateau or 'Pastime Castle' as it roughly translates. This was a permanent exhibition of works including a screening room, artwork, designs, puppets and sets from the past to the present. It sounded incredible and I got highly excited about what was going to be the singularly most inspiring trip of that year. The only problem was that this castle was quite far away… and by far away I mean it was outside a small village called Netolice literally in the middle of nowhere.
The train journey, or rather three train journeys were set to take 6 hours to get there from Prague central station. Unfortunately I missed a connection and it took 9 hours. Never mind, I was too eager to care. I arrived at Netolice after having taken a train where I was the only passenger and had some difficulty explaining to the driver what an Inter-Rail ticket was as he spoke no English.
I looked to the back of my hand where I’d drawn a map from Google… After a trek through a field in slightly the wrong direction I spotted the Italian-looking chateau down in the valley. I arrived at the entrance and the gentleman at the desk looked blank at my Czech greetings and presented a girl who spoke English. The conversation went a bit like this:
“Hello! How much is does it cost to go to the Museum of Animation?”
“Oh, that closed down a few years ago”.
Apparently it had gone to a private collector and was now in storage. Very disappointing and unfortunate but it was still a beautiful guided tour around the castle. You can see a write up of the exhibition when it actually existed over on Animation World Network.