Ladislaw Starewicz (1882-1965)
The Mascot (1933)
Starewicz had become a master animator by 1933, incorporating techniques never used before and rarely since (such as moving the puppets during the actual exposure to create blurring for fast movement). His use of rear-screen projection is also surprisingly effective.
But more important than these technical details is the great humor of his writing and his sensitivity to character. Each of the dozens of puppets in this film is imbued with a convincing personality; none more so than the title character, known as Fétiche in France and Duffy in England and the U.S. I think the scene of him hanging in a car's rear window is one of the funniest and most poignant scenes you'll find in any film. The character was so successful Starewicz starred him in four more films.
We have CGI now, but all Starewicz had was an imagination that wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Whatever he wanted to see on the screen, he created. And he wanted to see some truly bizarre stuff - every imaginable piece of scrap is called up for service: old shoes, chicken bones, utensils, broken glasses, dolls, monkeys, rats...nothing was off limits.
A sweet, funny, and also eerie film that should be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in animation. Or film, for that matter.