Cheburashka is without a doubt Russia’s most well-known animation darling. Recognized around the world, Cheburashka especially enjoys a cult-like fan base in Japan. Being a cute little bear-like creature with oversized ears, he’s the most adorable Russian cartoon character there is.
Cheburashka’s story begins after he arrives in Moscow asleep in a crate of oranges. Soon after, he develops a close friendship with a kind Crocodile named Gena and together they experience a series of adventures. These include building a home for the lonely, helping the Pioneers (Soviet youth scouts) and cleaning up the woods and streams of Moscow.
The Bremen Town Musicians is an exciting musical cartoon based on the fairy tale of the same name by the Brothers Grimm. The cartoon follows the escapades of a wandering music ensemble in medieval Germany. They’re not your usual musicians, though. Aside from the lead singer, Troubadour, they’re all animals: a cat, a dog, a rooster and a donkey. On top of that, their catchy style is much more rock’n’roll than you’d expect from a medieval group.
Hedgehog in the Fog by master-animator Yuri Norstein is a true triumph of world film history. In fact, it achieved first place in a poll of 140 animators from across the world at the 2003 Laputa Animation Festival in Japan. And in a slightly different example of international acclaim, Hedgehog in the Fog was lampooned in the 2009 Family Guy episode, Spies Reminiscent of Us.
This enduring classic has captivated millions of enchanted viewers and is even the source of many online memes in Russia today. The film tells the story of a hedgehog who gets lost on the way to meeting his good friend, bear cub. Amid thick fog, he gets off course and comes face-to-face with many mysterious animals as well as his own fears. Eventually, he does make it to his friend, and together they sip tea with jam while watching the stars.
Based on the works of English writer, A.A. Milne, Russian Winnie-the-Pooh (‘Vinni Pukh’) is something altogether different from the Disney version most people around the world know.
While both American and Russian versions present a forest-dwelling bear obsessed with honey, there are many striking differences between them. While the American Winnie is a cozy, fuzzy bear, the Russian Vinni is a crafty and somewhat manic character. In the first of the Russian series’ three episodes, he floats up to a beehive with a balloon and pretends to be a cloud to trick the bees. Meanwhile, he’s always pacing around on screen singing fast-paced, slightly absurd songs to himself. All in all, Russian Vinni is a hilarious character you must see.
Just like with Russian Vinni Pukh, Junior and Karlson is an example of Russian animators imbuing exciting new perspectives into foreign-made characters. Junior and Karlson is a Russian adaptation of a story by the Swedish writer, Astrid Lindgren (best known for creating the character ‘Pippi Longstocking’). In the animation, Junior is a lonely boy who desperately wants a dog. Unable to have a canine companion, he instead invents Karlson, a mischievous imaginary friend who can fly. Together, they get into all sorts of mishaps for which Junior naturally gets the blame.
The Prostokvashino series is all about a young boy, nicknamed ‘Uncle Fedor’, who runs away from home to live in the village of Prostokvashino with a cat and a dog. This popular series still comes up in everyday speech – even one of Russia’s popular dairy brands is named ‘Prostokvashino’ after the cartoon.
Not unlike the storyline of Junior and Karlson, Uncle Fedor desperately wants a pet at home. However, his parents won’t let him have one. Both Junior and Fedor’s reaction to the authority of their parents is to create an imaginary world with characters who understand them.
Having served his family faithfully, an old dog is kicked out for not performing his guard dog duties. Alone and depressed in the woods, the dog comes across an old foe of his – the wolf. Together they hatch a plan to win the dog’s former owners over by abducting their young child. The plan works and soon the dog is happily back with his family.
Beyond its cute story, Once Upon a Dog is also a beautiful depiction of Ukrainian village culture. Full of gorgeous landscapes, well-copied traditional dress, and rousing folk songs, you’ll love this animation.
Travels of an Ant is a gorgeous short film by Eduard Nazarov, creator of Once Upon a Dog. Watch this animation to be transported into the teeming, vibrant world of insects in the forest.
A young ant tries to climb high up a tree to take in the sunset. Suddenly, though, a gust of wind carries him far away from his anthill. Too injured to make it back home on his own before dark, his situation doesn’t look good. However, a series of bugs, each with their own, distinct personalities, graciously carry him back home.
Tale of Tales is another classic by legendary animator, Yuri Norstein. Just like Hedgehog in the Fog, this Norstein work is also considered one of the greatest animations of all time.
Through a series of existential sketches, Tale of Tales examines the nature of childhood memories and how we look at the past. One of the most moving scenes revolves around how so many men who went to fight in WWII did not come back. While the famous pre-war tango, Burnt by the Sun, plays, disjointed frame cuts reveal how one-by-one the men disappear from the dancefloor never to return again.
Last Year’s Snow Was Falling is a gorgeous stop motion film that is still broadcast across Russia every New Year’s Eve. Its plot follows a lazy husband and his strict wife. The wife tasks the husband with picking up a New Year’s tree from the forest. However, time after time he returns empty handed. Finally, when he does come back with a tree, it’s already spring.
Underneath this story about a bumbling fool and the wife who berates him is a message of compassion and forgiveness. Yes, the husband is useless at this task. However, as he shows by trying again and again, he is clearly devoted to his wife. So, amid his failure to perform, his wife’s inability to forgive, and the underlying feeling you get that the tree task isn’t even that important, an idea emerges. Namely, Last Year’s Snow Was Falling proposes to viewers that it is possible to love imperfectly.
If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
to our newsletter!
Get the week's best stories straight to your inbox