Explaining Russian Cartoons: Town Musicians of Bremen 2

Fast forward to 1973 and things have changed! Following the Town Musicians of Bremen hit screens. A sequel made fans all over Russia ecstatic, with new songs that were thankfully just as catchy, new adventures for our beloved heroes AND a whole new look!

Suddenly Troubadour was crush-worthy and every girl watching the cartoon sat up straighter. The more or less pudding-basin haircut on his blonde head changed to a boyband-esque bleached tousled do (though who knows, it might not have been bleached, he might have just been out in the sun a lot with all that traveling around). Sideburns since it was the 70s. His blue eyes were more pronounced, his flared pants got tighter around the rear end (with a cheeky hippie daisy on the back pocket) and his 70s collared shirt succeeded the baggy sweatshirt he had been wearing in his bachelor days. In short, Troubadour acquired some swag. And he was still singing all the time.

The Princess had undoubtedly also been influenced by a few years of life on the road with her new man and his animal band mates (maybe she was the one who picked out his new clothes?). Her hair grew out some more and still managed to look both wild and styled at the same time. The crown was gone, replaced by, of course, a wreath of daisies she had become an expert at making. Her 60s straight-cut mini-dress became yet shorter and figure-hugging, and somewhere along the way she ditched her knee-length boots in favor of running along green fields barefoot (mais oui). Less Pippi Longstocking, more hippie nymph.

Freedom, rebellion, romance and constant music accompany our heroes as they continue on their journey around the world. Obstacles are overcome, catchy quotable songs are once again introduced and Troubadour melted hearts everywhere with this most romantic ballad as he and his love were cruelly parted anew. The title of the song, A Ray of Golden Sun obviously refers to the Princess. And her hair. Best part? Troubadour is of course equipped with the right guitar for his performance, and what a performance it is.

As far as sequels go, this one was a big relief. La, la, la la laaaa…




Explaining Russian Cartoons: The Bremen Town Musicians

It was 1969 and an animated musical Russian retelling of the popular tale by the Brothers Grimm burst on to national screens, successfully singing its way in to the hearts of generations to come.

As a child I discovered a still working record player in the back of a closet, along with a stack of records next to it. Sifting through the colourful cases, my eyes fell on The Bremen Town Musicians. I slid the record on the player, carefully placed the needle on the vinyl and that was it.

With the combination of my Russian roots and this being one of the most beloved animated films ever produced in Russia, I keep feeling like it’s important to try and explain its appeal, even if not everyone can understand the language. ” I love it, dorogaya, you should love it too! Listen to me!” But hopefully they can understand some other things: the brilliant rhyming of the lyrics by Yuri Entin and their seamless interaction with the music by Gennady Gladkov, the immediate appeal of the catchy songs and how easy it is to sing along. The tale of friendship and love, the idyllic concept of traveling around a fictional kingdom, singing for a living, or just singing 24/7, with influences from former fashion and music, rock and roll in particular, permeating the adventures of Troubadour, his animal mates and the Princess.

Oleg Anofriev voiced practically every character in the cartoon and his multi-voiced singing is one of the trademarks of The Bremen Town Musicians. Here’s a vivid example in the song of the bandits, where he’s also singing the part of the female leader.

It’s a happy tale and a cartoon bursting with youth, energy and optimism, as well as humour. In quintessentially Russian fashion, the enduring popularity of The Bremen Town Musicians is cemented by the fact that it became almost completely quotable. Start singing a line from any songs among a group of Russians and chances are they will join in or give you a happy smile in return. The dignified and defiant “Quite ruffled, but not beaten” is another classic quote.

“There is nothing better than traveling the world with your friends/ Tempting arches in castles will never replace our freedom.” Yes, it’s not the same as in Russian, but you get the picture.

Videos from the Classic Cartoon Media YouTube channel.