A popular character actor who specialized in comedy but occasionally played memorable dramatic roles, Rolan Bykov also directed some of the postwar Soviet Union's best-loved children's films, including the acclaimed drama Chuchelo/Scarecrow (1984). Bykov's youth-oriented films did not condescend to their audience and often contained surreal, fantastic elements that spoke to children's vivid imaginations.
A native of Kiev, Bykov graduated from Moscow's Shchukin Theater School in 1951 and gained experience as an actor with the Moscow Youth Theater from 1951 to 1958. Between 1958 and 1960, Bykov supervised and directed productions at the Leningrad Leninsky Komsomol Theater. He made his first film appearance in the mid-'50s and would subsequently perform in over 100 movies. While his roles were primarily comic, they ranged from high drama to tragicomedy. His best dramatic films include Shinel/The Overcoat (1960), Komissar/The Commissar (1967), and Myortvyy Sezon/The Dead Season (1968). Bykov's first two directorial efforts were comedies, but it was his children's films that made him famous. In 1970, his Vnimanie, Cherepakha!/Attention, Turtle! won the Grand Prize at that year's Moscow International Film Festival; his 1975 film Avtomobil, Skripka I Sobaka Klyaksa/A Car, a Violin and the Dog "Ink Spot" won Best Film at the U.S.S.R.'s main film festival. During Perestroika, Bykov campaigned for a special government fund to make children's films, in hopes of establishing his own studio and promoting the careers of other directors of youth-oriented films. Since 1988, Bykov has served as the artistic chief of the "Yunost" unit at Mosfilm Studios.