Moravia: shoes, animation, and wine.

So before I write about my weekend with my parents, I think I will start with my weekend trip to Zlin, a town in the Moravian region of the Czech republic. I went there last weekend as a school trip for my Czech Cinema class, and at first I was not really looking forward to the whole spend three days on an academic trip thing, but I have to say it was an amazing experience.

The first day that we got to Zlin we got a tour of the town, which was basically built by one man named Tomas Bata. He was an entrepreneur who opened up a shoe factory there in the late 20th century, which caused immense growth of the city as he created thousands of new jobs. The town’s population grew from 3000 people in 1894 to 35,000 by the time he died in 1932. He also built houses for his workers, and we got to walk through this neighborhood and even go in a couple of the houses. Throughout the tour, I gradually learned that everything he did for his workers (build houses, provide good working conditions/hours and welfare) were to increase production and to help the company grow. For example, he set curfews and encouraged his workers to have families so that when they got off of work they would not be tempted to go out drinking, and instead go home to their families and get a good night’s sleep for work the next day. I asked my teacher if the people in the town liked him, since he basically controlled their lives in order to better his company, and she said that since he provided so much for the town and was responsible for some of the its positive social changes, they did not mind the restrictions.

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The neighborhood Bata built.

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Inside one of the houses, now owned by an architect.

We also got to experience a really unique wine tasting in a privately-owned, non-commercial wine cellar. It was full of giant jugs filled with various types of wine, and the back wall was completely covered in bottles of wine. I learned various things like how to hold a white wine glass versus a red wine glass (white wine you grip only the bottom stem of the glass, red wine you can grip the entire glass with your hand) and how to look for the purity of the wine (hold it up against the light). At the end of the tasting we had the option to buy however many bottles of any of the wine we tasted, and each bottle cost just 80 crowns (about 4 dollars)!! I bought three bottles– two for my parents and one for me.

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Inside the wine cellar.

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Sucking the wine out

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My three bottles. 🙂

The main part of the trip was the animation workshop, which was an all-day thing. We tried out four different animation techniques– cutout, puppet, pixilation, and computer animation. My favorite was the puppet animation, which is like claymation but uses puppets instead of clay figures. We had a miniature kitchen as our set, were given a camera and some puppets to choose from, and had to develop a short story. We decided to use several robot-like puppets along with a woman puppet. The plot started with the woman eating an apple in her kitchen, with robots lurking outside of her house. She drops the apple, and as she bends down to pick it up the robots start entering her house through the window. She turns around and realizes what is happening to her, and the robots crawl toward her and eventually corner her. However, instead of attacking the woman they all go for the apple on the floor instead. It was meant to be a sort of twist on the regular robot-human attack that would be expected. It was really fun developing the plot, figuring out what to do technique-wise, and seeing it all come together.

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Our set for the puppet animation.

I have a new-found appreciation for animators after that workshop. It is freaking HARD. It took us an hour to create a 10 second story; I can’t imagine how long it takes for them to create a feature-length film or video. It requires so much patience, attention to detail and determination.

I’m really glad I got to go on this trip and learn so much. I don’t think there will be another time in my life where I will be able to try out all different types of animation, go wine tasting in a private wine cellar or even see as much of Moravia as I did this weekend.

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