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Zdeněk Miler, founder of the world-famous animated character The Little Mole, would celebrate his 100th birthday on February 21

Zdeněk Miler was one of the most important personalities in the Czechoslovak animation industry. He created one of the most world-famous animated characters – The Little Mole. The Little Mole is always in a good mood, solves all problems with a smile, and even if he does not speak, he is understandable to all children in the world. In addition to animation, Miler illustrated dozens of books, concertina books and colouring books. He had worked all his life with “Bratři v triku” studio and the Albatros publishing house. He received a large number of awards and honours for his work. In 2006 he received the Medal of Merit of the 1st degree.

Zdeněk Miler was born on February 21, 1921 in Kladno. He graduated at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design and after the end of the 2nd World War he joined “Bratři v triku” studio in Prague. In the studio, he also created its logo - three curly boys in navy T-shirts, he learned the craft of animation and the basics of screenwriting. His first work was the fairy tale "A Millionaire Who Stole the Sun'' based on Jiří Wolker’s work. In the 1950s, he started illustrating books, leaflets and colouring books and inevitably connected with writer František Hrubín. At the same time, he established cooperation with Albatros publishing house, where he had gradually illustrated over forty books.

In 1954, a key moment came for Zdeněk Miler, as he got an order to produce a film about the production of a linen shirt. Miler wanted an animal figure that would glue the whole film and at the same time would be completely unknown in the world of animation. He found the mole by accident and was initially busy with the character and its humanization. As part of the modifications, he finally changed the original motif of the camisole to panties with big pockets. The famous film: "How the Mole Came to the Panties" was born. The film is the only one where the Mole speaks and it was a huge success. It won the Venetian Lion Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1956.

The Little Mole and panties

The Little Mole and panties

More than 50 films had gradually been produced with the Mole in the lead role, and Miler worked on one of the series for up to 18 hours a day. In addition to the Mole, Miler also created other characters and made films with them. In 1960 and 1961, he made an educational film series about the Puppy, which, thanks to its curiosity, explained natural processes to children. In the second half of the 1970s, he made a successful series of films about another character, Cvrček. During his career he created a total of seventy films for children and two films for adults - The Red Footprint and Romance Heligoland. The last one was an animated horror.

The success of the Mole was affected not only by the originality and cuteness of the character, but also by the fact that the Mole does not speak. Animals in the movies make sounds of interjections easily understandable by children around the world. Sounds are recorded children's voices of the artist's little daughters. Stories are told only by drawings and characters’ facial expressions, again easily understandable to all children.

Miler's Mole is truly considered as an important part of the Czech/Czechoslovak cultural heritage. Has been awarded at many film festivals, shows and still represents a valuable export item. The world-famous Mole even broke into space. In 2011, Mole became astronaut Andrew Feustel’s mascot on the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor. The Mole thus is de facto the only animated character that played the same role in reality. He fulfilled his big dream - to fly a rocket into space.

The Little Mole flew to the Space

The Little Mole flew to the Space

In 2006, Miler was awarded the State Medal of Merit of the 1st degree. He retired from “Bratři v triku” studio in 2002 and died on November 30, 2011 at Nová Ves pod Pleší.

Selected awards:

  • - 1956: Venetian Lion at the Children's Film Festival.
  • - 1958: Montevideo Festival Prize
  • - 1999/2001: Albatros - Zlatá paleta / Award for lifelong work with children's literature
  • - 2006: Medal of Merit I. degree

A documentary from the GEN series about Zdeněk Miler (in Czech) should also be available on the Czech Television website from February 19th, link is here.

The text was based on open and publicly available sources: CSFD, Kinobox.cz, Wikipedia. The visual documentation comes from Pixabay.com, Czech Television, Fdb.cz and iDnes.cz.