Rumen Petkov, the award-winning Bulgarian animator, filmmaker, and professor, passed away on June 11 at the age of 70. While American periodicals made little mention of his passing, Petkov was immortalized in headlines in his native country of Bulgaria, where he began his career as a cartoonist and animator.
Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, Petkov entered the field of animation in 1969. Ten years later, he created the popular animated television series Choko the Stork and Boko the Frog, which was later adapted into a comic strip in the magazine Duga (which translates to "rainbow" or, literally, "arc"). As a cartoonist and animator, his work would inspire later Bulgarian artists in these fields, and he even helmed the nation's first animated feature film, The Treasure Planet, in 1982 (no relation to the Disney film, though). Three years later, his animated short "Marriage" earned him a Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985.
Limited information has been publicized about Petkov's passing, and he might not be a household name, but his work touched millions of young Americans in the 90s, especially during his time at Cartoon Network. The filmmaker would storyboard and direct episodes of many famous animated shows in the late 90s and early 2000s.
While his Bulgarian cartoon series never came to the states, Petkov certainly did, traveling to California in the 90s and connecting with Cartoon Network during their crucially creative period. Petkov’s time with the budding channel would produce the work which he would become best known for by American audiences. As a storyboard artist, writer, and animation director, his portfolio includes episodes of popular series Johnny Bravo, I Am Weasel, Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, The Powerpuff Girls, and others.
Petkov left the animation business in the early 2000s, but worked as a professor at the California Institute of the Arts beginning in 1998, a university which houses one of the top 10 best fine arts programs in the United States - and also the school which originally trained Disney’s animators during The Great Depression. He was reportedly still teaching courses at the time of his passing.
A relatively private creator, but responsible for many beloved cartoons that were crucial to young people growing up in the late 90s, Rumen Petkov’s work remains memorable and treasured by many people around the world.
Rest in Peace Rumen Petkov: January 26, 1948 - June 11, 2018