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This essay explores the meanings and identities of toys and puppets in three Czech feature films, which collectively cover a range of animation techniques (constituting a new definition of what it means to ‘play’ with these toys). Jiří Bárta’s Na půdě aneb Kdo má dneska narozeniny (In the Attic: Who Has a Birthday Today?, 2009), Jan Svěrák’s Kuky se vrací (Kooky, 2010), and Jan Švankmajer’s Něco z Alenky (Alice, 1988) all build allegorical significance from tales in which toys take on independent lives, but are always framed through their relationships to children. Each film explores the afterlife of discarded or neglected toys, dolls, and puppets, a visual representation of the imaginative investment and cultural import given to these otherwise immobile things. All three directors use toys and puppets as markers of the passing of childhood, and as compendia of cultural memory, but with different degrees of political intent and social critique.
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