Although animation is usually considered a somewhat remote branch of film, it is nevertheless one of the most intensively cultivated cinematographic specialities in Estonia. Due to the lack of an avant garde short-film genre, animation has attracted creative people eager to experiment. The department at the Tallinnfilm studio that originally produced children's films, developed into an independent studio. The ironic absurdity of the stories, the unpolished style of the drawings and the endless fireworks of purely visual ideas give the animated cartoons an un-real quality. The flood of details may be perceived as chaotic, but there is a more serious level behind the freely floating ideas. The development of animated films that has led to awards at various international film festivals almost every year, would have been unthinkable without Priit Pärn. The only reference to Estonian cinema in the prestigious The Oxford History of World Cinema can be found in the chapter devoted to animated cartoons where Priit Pärn's Breakfast on the Lawn (Eine murul, 1983) is mentioned. In his film 1895 (made in 1995), Pärn shows the adventures of the Lumière brothers. Built upon the narrator's text as in a documentary, Pärn's paradoxical humour demolishes the great legend about the invention of cinematography. Traces of the animators' opposition to totalitarianism are obvious in The Night of the Carrots (Porgandite öö, 1998) and in the films of younger directors. Alongside the emerging school, several well-known film-makers continue to work in their established style as well.

The same kind of critical way of thinking characterises people working in puppet films. The upsurge in animation coincided with political changes. Even if the films lacked any marked social attitude, they still represented a liberal and independent world of ideas. In Riho Unt's films of the 1990s, the lasting national values acquire a comic tone. Unt's Cabbagehead (Kapsapea, 1993) is also based on classical literature, although the mere fact that the characters are puppets, rules out the possibility of presenting an idealised version of the past. Its sequel, Back to Europe (Tagasi Euroopasse, 1997), deals with the inevitable contradictions between the aims of contemporary foreign policy and the wishes of ordinary people. Hardi Volmer, having started with puppet films, has not restricted himself to that field alone. The comedy All My Lenins (Kõik minu Leninid, 1997), a parody of the myths of the communist cult of personality, became the most popular domestic film in the late 1990s.

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