Heino Pars, one half of a prolific duo of animators who established the art form as a serious medium in the depths of the Soviet era, has died at 88.
Over a stretch of some 30 years from the early 1960s to re-independence, he and Elbert Tuganov (1920-2007) were credited with dozens of films.
They lived to see their international breakthrough, being the subjects of a documentary, "Kings of Time," and featured in retrospectives at international film festivals. Parts won a lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Black Nights Film Festival.
Among Pars's most iconic films, the "Cinematographer Click" (Operaator Kõps) series, came to define aesthetics and nature education for more than one generation of Estonian youngsters.
The films blended stop motion animation with closeup photography of natural objects and processes, which were seen through the "movie camera" of the eponymous character, a young boy, who was accompanied by a scientist driving a classic American convertible. There were four of the films, each visiting a different part of the natural world.
Their approach was whimsical and artsy but accessible and kid-friendly.
In another famous picture, the more avant-garde "The Nail," from 1972, he anthropomorphized inanimate objects.
"Without Tuganov and Pars there would not have been anything. They were the fathers of puppet animation in Estonia," Arvo Nuut, a former director of Nukufilm studio, once said, Postimees reported.
Pars was born in Viljandi County on October 13, 1925. He originally studied to be a veterinarian. In 1953, having become an assistant cinematographer at Tallinnfilm - unusually without ever having studied film and animation. He was not permitted to study in Moscow as he had a German-occupation-era high school diploma. But he soon found himself working in a camera crew led by Elbert Tuganov, then a more established name. Pars became a cinematographer and shortly thereafter the second director.
Besides Pars's 31 films he directed, he also served as cinematographer on 10 others.