Explaining Russian Cartoons: Winnie the Pooh

The animated Russian Winnie the Pooh is very different compared to its yellow Disney counterpart. He doesn’t look like a stuffed animal come to life, he’s not smiling and he constantly seems either perplexed or bewildered. But the main characteristics are there – Pooh’s driving force is the goal to find honey by any means, to eat and to go on adventures with friends. These adventures include confidently inviting himself over to said friends’ homes to achieve the aforementioned goal of eating.

Released during the late sixties – early seventies, some characters resemble the well-known Russian actors of that time voicing them, instantly making the cartoons appealing to adults watching with their offspring. Somewhat impressionistic landscape drawing accompanies Winnie and Piglet’s skipping through the forest. Comedy and dry, quotable humor springs from the dialogue and phrases like “I’m just resting” when Pooh gets stuck when exiting a hovel after eating too much or “But honey is a very strange thing” have been decade-long classics.

The donkey’s permanent ingrown depressed state is so raw that its almost inspiring, making every time someone says “good morning” (“dobroe utro” in Russian) to you a wonderful opportunity for some cackling quoting: “Good morning, Pooh bear, if it is, indeed, good.”



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.