Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist


Federico Fellini is one of my favorite filmmakers so I was delighted to discover that TCM Imports is showcasing the movie maestro’s work every Sunday night throughout the month of November. In the next three weeks you can catch Nights of Cabiria (1957) on Nov. 15, Juliet of the Spirits (1965) on Nov. 22 and Satyricon (1969) on Nov. 29.

I’m particularly fond of the last two films scheduled and generally prefer Fellini’s work in the sixties due to its baroque artistry and avant-garde sensibilities. During that transformative decade the Italian director disregarded conventional storytelling technique in favor of a unique dream language, which emerged from his life experience and was filtered through his vivid imagination and esoteric interests. The results were a series of innovative, provocative and unapologetically sensual films that can still shock and surprise audiences. Fellini also had a wonderful sense of humor that was patently apparent throughout his career as a celebrated director and talented cartoonist.

Fellini’s propensity toward the absurd emerged early in life. As a child, he began drawing caricatures of film stars he saw in movies and as a young adult he found work as a cartoonist and gag writer for a number of Italian newspapers, humor publications and comic books. He eventually began writing comedy scripts for radio but WW2 derailed his writing career and following the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944, Fellini opened the Funny Face Shop where he worked as a caricature artist and expressed an interest in animation. It was here that Fellini met the renowned filmmaker Roberto Rossellini who was so impressed with his sense of humor that he was asked to co-write the film script for Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) and the rest, as they say, is history. Fellini soon began working as an apprentice for Rossellini and ultimately started directing his own films but he never stopped drawing cartoons and caricatures.



Top: Young Fellini the cartoonist.
Middle: A page from one of the comics Fellini illustrated.
Bottom: Sketches for an animated film titled Hello Jeep! the director worked on that was never completed.

Throughout Fellini’s life, he continued to sketch friends and acquaintances that he worked with during the making of his films. He also designed set pieces and costumes for his movies while keeping extensive journals where he often illustrated his dreams. After Fellini died in 1993, his journals were locked away in a bank vault and didn’t see the light of day until 2003 when they went on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York as part of a film festival and exhibit In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the director’s death. Following the exhibit two books were published (Fellini! and Federico Fellini: Book of Dreams) featuring many of his sketches and illustrations that provide us with a much broader understanding of how Fellini used his cartoons and caricatures to express himself and his creative vision.

What follows is a collection of Fellini’s work that I have accumulated from various sources. I’ve tried to curate the images in a way that demonstrate Fellini’s artistic skills while highlighting his sense of humor and limitless imagination. If you are familiar with Fellini’s films you might recognize many of the characters and scenes that they convey and if not, I hope they will encourage you to seek out the director’s work.


Classic comedy team Laurel and Hardy.

Caricatures of fellow directors Vittorio De Sica & Roberto Rossellini.

A self-portrait of the director at work in Italy’s Cinecittà studios while making Ginger and Fred (1986).


Caricatures of his wife, actress Giulietta Masina, in Nights of Cabiria (1957) & La Strada (1954).


Sophia Loren who appeared in the anthology film Boccaccio ’70 (1962) that Fellini co-directed with Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti & Mario Monicelli.


Film producers Dino De Laurentiis & Andrea Rizzoli


Zampano’s wagon from La Strada (1954).


Marcello Mastroianni who appeared in a number of Fellini films including La Dolce Vita (1960), (1963), Ginger and Fred (1986) & Intervista (1987).


Actress Anita Ekberg who appeared in La Dolce Vita (1960), The Clowns (1972) & Intervista (1987).

Terence Stamp in Fellini’s Toby Dammit segment from Spirits of the Dead (1968) & Donald Sutherland as Giacomo Casanova in Casanova (1976).

The train’s arrival in (1963).


Composer Nino Rota who collaborated with Fellini on many of his films.


Anouk Aimée who appeared in La Dolce Vita (1960) (1963) & & Max Born as Gitón in Satyricon (1969).


Aldo Fabrizi, star of Rome, Open City (1945)


Sandra Milo who appeared in (1962) & Juliet of the Spirits (1965).


Costume sketches for Roma (1972) featuring Fiona Florence.


Anna Magnani who appeared in Roma (1972).


Clowns from Fellini’s The Clowns (1972)


A self-portrait of the director after getting his lifetime achievement Oscar in 1993.


The Grand Hotel in Rimini, Italy as seen in Amarcord (1973). Fellini loved the hotel and stayed there often. In August of 1993 he suffered a stroke at the hotel and was transported to the hospital where he died a few months later at age 73.


Further reading:
- Fellini! by Vincenzo Mollica
- Federico Fellini: Book of Dreams by Tullio Kezich
- The Fellini Foundation website

4 Responses Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist
Posted By AL : November 12, 2015 11:20 pm

My fave here is the one with the Oscar!

Posted By Mark B. : November 12, 2015 11:50 pm

Bravo to the maestro on all counts!!

Posted By Qalice : November 13, 2015 11:20 pm

What a treat! Thank you!

Posted By swac44 : November 17, 2015 11:05 am

Love the drawings of Giulietta, a lot of affection there!

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

We regret to inform you that FilmStruck is now closed.  Our last day of service was November 29, 2018.

Please visit tcm.com/help for more information.

We would like to thank our many fans and loyal customers who supported us.  FilmStruck was truly a labor of love, and in a world with an abundance of entertainment options – THANK YOU for choosing us.