Saturday, August 15, 2009
1. Old Russian Cartoons
While there are a few new Russian cartoons out that people genuinely watch, the majority still prefers old Soviet-time cartoons -- the classics. If you would like to show a Russian that you truly understand their deepest workings of their culture and society, just put on "Nu Pogodi!" ("Just You Wait!") or "Bremenskiye Muzykanty" ("The Musicians of Bremen") and nod appreciatively.
Here is a basic guide of the most popular cartoons:
"Nu Pogodi!" is similar to the American "Tom and Jerry," but in this case it is a delinquent, cigarette-smoking wolf chasing after a young (and somewhat goody-two-shoes-ish) rabbit. Occasionally the wolf does something "refined", like dancing ballet, or smoking a pipe, and several times he and the rabbit appear to be friends, but mostly it's just the rabbit outwitting the wolf.
"Troie iz Prostokvashino" ("Three from Prostokvashino") usually refers to a series of three cartoons -- "Three from Prostokvashino", "Summer vacation in Prostokvashino" and "Winter in Prostokvashino", Prostokvashino being a little village. All of the cartoons are about a boy called Uncle Fyodor ("uncle" because he is so independent and mature), a sarcastic cat called Matroskin, and a somewhat naive dog named Sharik. The boy is fond of running away from his pet-disliking parents to live in the village with the dog and the cat. ("So much for maturity!" you might say, but you are wrong! You see, in Russia, people run away from our parents routinely, just to prove their maturity -- it is a well known ritual. As is shooting lasers from the eyes.)
"Bremenskiye Muzykanty" ("The Musicians of Bremen") is the animated take on the Grimms' fairy tale, but with better music.
"Snezhnaya Koroleva" ("The Snow Queen") is a classic -- even American libraries have it, occasionally (I don't know about British or Australian ones, I've never been there). Apparently, Miyazaki (of Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, etc.) was quite influenced by the style. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen's story with the same title, and follows the storyline fairly accurately -- a girl, Gerda, and a boy, Kay, are best friends; shards from the Snow Queen's mirror strike him in the eye and heart, making him mean and cold, and eventually the Snow Queen comes and takes him with her to her Northern palace. Gerda, come spring, sets out to find him, helped on the way by some crows and a robber's daughter. You get the general gist. It is quite the classic.
Other cartoons worth looking up: Cheburashka, Adventures of Buratino, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Investigations Held by Kolobki, The Hedgehog in Fog, and the Little Humpbacked Horse.