The Dilakian Brothers, a pair of quirky Armenian-born, New York-bred artists, created Armenia’s most influential animated film back in 1976. Now, over 40 years later, “Gtnvats Eraz” (which means “Found Dream”) is still Armenia’s most popular and recognizable animated film – even with an entirely new generation of kids watching. While most Armenians are aware of the nostalgia surrounding the film, the Dilakian Brothers faced many hardships in bringing this film to the big screen in a land overwhelmed by Soviet rule. Today, the IFI sat down with Hovik & Gagik Dilakian in order to pick their brains and uncover the amazing journey behind the creation of “Gtnvats Eraz”. Here is the full interview:
Q: What inspired you to create “Gtnvats Eraz”? Were there any other animated films or filmmakers who helped shape the artistic style you chose for the film?
A: Walt Disney was probably one of the biggest influences – particularly the film “Snow White” – which my brother and I must have watched at least 55 times when we were children. Disney definitely paved the way for a lot of animators and filmmakers, and I’d say that we were inspired stylistically by his work.
Q: What was it like creating an animated film in a time where your country was forced under Soviet rule?
A: Honestly, it was really difficult. There was so much censorship in those times, as the government didn’t want any films that conveyed anything counterintuitive to the Soviet agenda. Instead, everything had to portray happy, little kids and subtly point to the glory of Soviet life. When we got the green light to make this film, it was very surprising and controversial – not for political reasons – but because there was a mystical, magical element to this film in a time when animated films were supposed to be “realistic”.
Q: What was the reaction like in Armenia when the film first debuted?
A: The film was well-received almost right away, and it become a staple on televisions throughout the country. People quickly learned the songs from the film and they became quite popular. Still, it wasn’t until the Internet became so relevant that the film started reaching a larger audience. Some of the “Gtnvats Eraz” YouTube videos have well over 1,000,000 views, and that’s really a big deal for us considering that Armenia is comprised of 4 million people.
Q: What would you say is the key message of the film?
A: Again, because of the government’s censorship, we couldn’t be too direct in the film’s key messages. For this reason, there are so many people who have developed their own interpretation and theories on the film’s meaning, which is something my brother Gagik and I welcome with open arms. “Gtnvats Eraz” is about a little girl who has the ability to walk through paintings and when she does, she’s able to discover new worlds and meet new, interesting characters along the way.
We think of the key message as this: there are many dimensions to reality, and it’s only through a careful consideration of every dimension that someone can achieve true happiness. Some people do quite well and build entire civilizations using only one dimension, but there are different angles and points of view that make us complete and could easily turn a negative perspective into a positive one.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of copyright infringement in the years following the release of the film, can you elaborate on that and why this has been happening?
A: Seeing as the film was created in the ’70’s in Soviet Armenia, the copyrighting laws back then were basically non-existent. Since it has remained so popular, many merchandisers have found ways to make money off of our characters, such as making t-shirts, pajamas, dolls, candy bars and even entire restaurants themed around “Gtnvats Eraz”. With this in mind, we definitely didn’t make all of the money we were entitled to as far as royalties, etc., but we don’t let this get to us. We find joy in the fact that our film is so popular and we consider it flattering that so many people are moved enough to create memorabilia, whether what they’re doing is technically legal or illegal.
Here is an excerpt from the original “Gtnvats Eraz” created by the Dilakian Brothers. Although the film is in Armenian, you can still get a feel for their artistic style and understand why the film has become so nostalgic in Armenian culture:
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