Miklavž “Miki” Muster, born in 1925, became one of Slovenia’s most beloved cartoonists and animators. It all began when he first saw the animated classic Snow White. He fell in love with the beauty of the film and began to dream of one day becoming a Disney animator.
Muster graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana with a degree in sculpture. His childhood dream, however, still pushed him in a different direction, and he was as determined as ever to pursue a career in cartooning and animation. Unfortunately for him, the Communist government of the time frowned upon such “trivial” art. Immediately after the war, socialist realism was the only approved art form, and even after the Tito-Stalin split, anything seen as too “American” was declared undesirable.
Because his proposed comics were rejected, Muster turned to book illustrations. After his lively, inventive drawings were embraced by children, a forward-thinking editor of a major Slovenian newspaper finally gave Muster the opportunity to draw a daily comic strip. “The Adventures of Trdonja, Zvitorepec, and Lakotnik,” featured a wise turtle, a plucky fox, and a kind but simple-minded wolf. The strip was an immediate success, capturing the imagination of children and teenagers across Slovenia, and remained a mainstay of Slovenian newspapers – and eventually book collections -- for decades. Many of his artist colleagues were less enthusiastic, however, and continued to criticize Muster’ anthropomorphic characters for being too “American” and “Disneyesque.”
Despite the lack of official recognition, Muster emerged as a leading Slovenian cartoonist. In the 1960s, he moved to animation and produced a number of legendary commercials for Slovenian television. Still, he realized that the Slovenian market was far too limited for a versatile animator, and in 1973, he decided to pursue his dream in West Germany.
There, Muster became a freelance animator working with the Bavaria Film studio in Munich. Over the course of almost two decades, he went on to create dozens of animated cartoons, famously doing almost all of the work himself - scripts, storyboards, direction, and animation. His education as a sculptor gave him a good sense of how animated characters move in three - dimensional space, and his animated shorts were met with an enthusiastic response. In addition to his own work, Muster also animated the characters developed by the Argentinian cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo, and became well-known in Germany for animated films featuring the German private detective Nick Knatterton.
After his retirement, Muster returned to Slovenia. In recent years, he began to receive the official recognition that had long been denied to him – he was even given the Silver Order by the Slovenian president. It was always the popularity of his work among ordinary people that gave Muster the most joy, however, and in this he found his greatest success: His characters are still loved by Slovenia’s young people and have become an indelible part of Slovenia’s popular culture.