Czech short-length animated and stop-motion films began appearing in the Czechoslovak distribution from the mid-1920s. These films were mainly commercials and typically promoting products by e.g. margarine manufacturers – The Winner (Vítěz, 1934) and manufacturers of radio receivers – The Wizard of Tones (Čaroděj tónů, 1936).
The first Czech filmmaker who began to specialise systematically in animated film was Karel Dodal. He started in Elekta Journal with his first wife Hermína Týrlová. Together with his second wife Irena, he established in 1933 in Prague the IRE-Film studio, the first Czech company that focused on animated film, with such productions as A Cheerful Concert (Veselý koncert, 1935), An Autumn Song (Píseň podzimu, 1937) or Fantaisie erotique (1936).
During World War II, few animated films were completed on the Czech territory: A Wedding in the Coral Sea (Svatba v korálovém moři, 1944), The Mischievous Bunny (Neposlušný zajíček, 1944) and A Meteorological House (Povětrnostní domeček, 1945) were produced in Prague by the German production company Prag-Film. In Zlín, Hermína Týrlová created a short puppet film Ferda the Ant (Ferda mravenec 1944) in collaboration with Ladislav Zástěra. In the same studio, Karel Zeman filmed A Christmas Dream (Vánoční sen, 1945) in collaboration with Bořivoj Zeman. The production of other animated films was planned, but they were halted as the frontline of the war was approaching and indeed the end of the war itself.
Some Czech artists who acquired their first experience in animation during World War II planned to join the nationalisation of film-making and founded the first cartoon studio a few days after the end of the war. In June 1945 they asked Jiří Trnka to take over the artistic direction of this studio. The Bratři v triku Studio was thus born, and the first films made under Trnka artistic direction brought to post-war cinematography a new artistic perspective and a highly distinctive poetics. In 1946 Trnka and some animators like Břetislav Pojar, Bohuslav Šrámek, and Jan Karpaš moved to a new puppet studio. In the Zlín studio, Karel Zeman and Hermína Týrlová made a successful start to their post-war work. Prague and Zlin were the two main centres of Czech animation. In these centres famous films were made by Jiří Brdečka, Břetislav Pojar, Eduard Hofman, Hermína Týrlová, Karel Zeman, Zdeněk Smetana, Zdeněk Miler, Jiří Barta, Jiří Trnka, Václav Bedřich, Michaela Pavlátová, Pavel Koutský, Jan Švankmajer and others.
After the political changes in 1989, the monopoly of the state film industry was abolished and a new epoch of Czech animation began.
In the newly forming democracy in Czechoslovakia, the fate of the animated film was sealed for almost fifteen years when the newly-formed government rejected the law that should guarantee a continuous transition of the film industry to a market system.
Having previously functioned as a closed and self-sufficient economic unit, cinematography suddenly lost its financial background and formal guarantee.
Numerous small private studios were established, but without the support of the state they had no chance to survive. What enabled the Czech animation to survive were commissions for the public television, low requirements of authors who financed their films by making commercials, and especially the production of film schools.
At present, short films are still the domain of student production. They are largely included in the sixth programme of the Czech retrospective. The selection includes various forms of animation techniques and ways of storytelling. The ten films should help the spectators gain insight into the post-communist situation of Czech animation. They include both the authors who made their films during totalitarianism and the younger generation of animators.