The Queen of the Butterflies (1927)

aka La reine des papillons
Article 5427 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-17-2017
Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
Featuring Nina Star
Country: France
What it is: Animated fairy tale

A little girl who works as a carnival dancer is given a gift of a caterpillar as a joke. She spares the caterpillar’s life, and one night dreams she is turned into an elf and becomes the Queen of the Butterflies.

The last two Starewicz shorts have been examples of light-hearted whimsy. This one captures the man’s work at his most ambitious, and it’s one of his best efforts. He combines live-action footage with stop-motion animation, sometimes with characters who exist as both; the Queen of the Butterflies is played by Nina Star in some scenes, but is animated in other scenes, and Starewicz’s skill makes it work beautifully. He returns to his use of animated insects here, and imagines an elaborate war between an army of grasshoppers and an army of spiders; those who get the creepy-crawlies from spiders may want to skip this one. Some of the scenes have so much going on in them that I’m simply amazed at the man’s skill. The short is serious in tone, and features a subplot about the girl trying to learn to play violin. The ending also delves into the world of abstract animation, and it somewhat recalls moments of Disney’s FANTASIA.

To my mind, Wladyslaw Starewicz is one of the greatest animators of all time, but I think he still has yet to receive his due acclaim. Perhaps someday that will change.


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