Works by Yuri Norstein have utterly altered the status of animated cartoon films, not only in Russia, but all around the world. The genre stopped being a marginal art. Actually, Norstein’s filmography is not very great in number. If not taking into account his first films created jointly with other animators, it is as follows: Fox and Hare (1973), Heron and Crane (1974), Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), and Tale of Tales (1975). Tale of Tales was elected best animation film of all time during the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles, and again in 2002. Just watch his animated cartoon Hedgehog in the Fog and you will see what is meant here. The voice actors for this film are Alexei Batalov as the narrator, Mariya Vinogradova as the hedgehog and Vyacheslav Nevinny as the bear.
Yuri Norstein never divides animated films into those for children or adults, but only into good or bad animation. Norstein has created a special genre of poetic animated cartoons, of pure lyricism developed through a sequence of visual images. Unexpected associations, sensations, reminiscences, fears and dreams are more meaningful than the actual unfolding of the plot in his original works. Besides his vivid and touching cartoon characters and amazing delicate scripts, one is unmistakably impressed by a stunning effect of a ‘living’ screen, which is due to a special technology Norstein has elaborated himself. This is a most complicated method of multi-level transposition in the course of filming: the images are made as scaly combinations of tiny elements, with each of them able to move separately (each of the eyes, lips or fingers). As a result the character, though not looking like a realistic personage at all, but rather grotesque, amusing and irregular seems to be really living and breathing.
Hedgehog in the Fog steeped deep in metaphor. At the superficial level, the cartoon is funny and cute, like a typical children’s cartoon, however, there are deeper dimensions beyond the apparent meaning. A mysterious fog has an almost dreamy quality whereas the “simple” drawings are exactly matched by the story of the cartoon. The fog in which Hedgehog encounters a white horse, a dog, an owl; the dark water, with a barely discernible fish in it – here are some cartoon symbols that have come to represent specific concepts. You will be surprised by the plot twists too. The wonderful thing about this cartoon’s symbolic shorthand is that new symbols have been created and old ones have been rethought and repurposed. I won't write more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone else.