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When we left off in my last article, Břetislav Pojar had just emigrated to Canada, where he would spend most of his time creating films over the next several years, leaving screenwriter Ivan Urban and designer Miroslav Štěpánek to come up with the next three Bears films largely on their own. (It appears Pojar was in Canada as early as late 1965, as he would make a special guest appearance in the September 16, 1965 episode of the classic Québécois children’s series Bobino, in which his third kitten film Kočičí škola and his 1951 directorial debut Perníková chaloupka were screened as well.) Pojar, for his part, would continue to be credited as co-writer alongside Urban, and he would also be billed with Štěpánek as director; what exactly his continued credits on his series entailed, however, remains ambiguous, with the two sides offering rather different accounts of how the direction in these particular entries was handled.
Pojar claimed that Štěpánek simply represented him as director: he prepared storyboards for these entries in advance, according to which Štěpánek would process the films through production, hence his co-direction credit with Pojar. Štěpánek, meanwhile, countered that he himself “decided what to do and how to do it” on the sets, and that Pojar’s role upon returning from Canada was simply to connect the filmed shots, finish the editing, and mix the film. “It happened that way by our mutual agreement and by it we were both introduced as directors on the titles. It was not written on them ‘directed by Břetislav Pojar, co-directed by Miroslav Štěpánek.’ It is therefore impossible to speak only of Pojar’s Bears. This would also damage screenwriter Ivan Urban.”
A look at the films themselves would seem to corroborate Štěpánek’s point-of-view. Whereas Pojar’s entries from 1965 mainly used the Bears and their dynamic as ways of commenting more generally on social issues and human nature, these entries go in a very different, character-driven direction, focusing much more on the Bears as unique personalities in themselves and the strains that have developed as a result of keeping their troubled relationship going for far too long; in this regard, ironically, the Bears’ remarkable transformations are largely muted in these entries, and even when they do occur, only rarely do they play practical roles as they did in Pojar’s entries. Perhaps this increased focus on the Bears as actual characters can be traced back to Štěpánek’s and Ivan Urban’s shared Central Bohemian kinship, and thus their being much closer, in a sense, to these two Bears from Kolín than Pojar could ever truly be; in any case, it seems doubtful that they would have had the opportunity to explore this grittier side of the Bears, starting from the foundation laid by Pojar’s entries and helped significantly by his animators Boris Masník, Stanislava Procházková, and Pavel Procházka and the preparation team at Čiklovka—all of whom were now evidently so skilled at bringing the Bears to life that they could deliver great results even without Pojar’s direct guidance—if Pojar were still overseeing them directly.
In this respect, Štěpánek made one very major change to the Bears’ appearance from this point onwards: he redesigned their snouts, often dividing them into two parts so that their mouths could more easily be animated. Henceforth, the animators would start linking the character acting much more closely to Ivan Urban’s dialogue, and even make a concerted effort at syncing the mouth animation and body gestures with Rudolf Deyl Jr.’s voice acting—all of which would go towards more vividly portraying the Bears as real children who can move and gesture wildly to emphasize what they are saying, and often get into heated arguments and even fights when things are not going their way. (more…)