Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

23 October 2013. Have a RUSSIAN Smile… How the Russians (Along with Help from Will Smith and Gérard Depardieu) Foiled the Space Aliens

00 Russia Day. The alien invasion. Part 1. 23.10.13

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00 Russia Day. The alien invasion. Part 2. 23.10.13

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Who woulda thunk it? The Earth’s secret weapon is… VODKA! Its most expert practitioners, the Russians, wield it… gee, the aliens won’t have a chance trying to outdrink a bunch of Russkie topers (with a little help from the Polacks and Serbs, who’re just as wild n’ wooly partiers as we are)! Get a load of the penultimate frame… Medvedev in a telnyashka waving about a bottle of hooch… that’s priceless…

BMD

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On 12 June, Russia gets ready to celebrate Russia Day. All is set when a giant alien spaceship enters the Earth’s orbit and prepares to attack Russia. President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, and French actor Gérard Depardieu are in charge of saving the country and the entire world from an alien invasion. Luckily, for them, Independence Day veteran Will Smith happens to be in Russia for the promotional tour of his latest movie… all is set for yet another inter-space battle of epic proportions. Will our heroes succeed?

In the middle of the Russia Day celebrations on 12 June, a giant alien spaceship threatened the country. Hollywood actor Will Smith, in Moscow on a promotional tour, tries to fight back (Independence Day-style, of course!), but he’s taken as a prisoner. It’s now up to French actor Gérard Depardieu, who recently acquired Russian citizenship, to save Will Smith and the entire country from an alien invasion. He hides inside a matryoshka Trojan horse with a stash of party supplies… will his ingenious plan work?

11/12 June 2013

Russia Behind the Headlines

http://rbth.ru/multimedia/comics/2013/06/11/russia_day_the_alien_invasion_part_1_26975.html

http://rbth.ru/multimedia/comics/2013/06/12/russia_day_the_alien_invasion_part_2_27011.html

Monday, 21 January 2013

Nu Pogodi! A Soviet Animation Classic: 40 Years On

00 Nu Pogodi. 15.01.13

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1 January 2013, marked yet another anniversary of Nu, Pogodi! (Just You Wait!)… viewers have hailed the cartoon series as a Soviet animation masterpiece for over 40 years now. The series is proudly positioned amongst the top five Soviet and Russian films, as rated by IMDb (Internet Movie Database) users. Meanwhile, as it turns out, Soviet officials were poised to shut the project down after a few successful episodes.

Ever since the Soviet era, Russians have been fond of this animated series about the mischievous Wolf chasing the Hare. The latter can actually be considered the epitome of an ideal Soviet person… as an athlete with advanced engineering skills, he takes part in amateur performances, lives a healthy lifestyle, and abides by the rules. The author and scriptwriter of the series, Aleksandr Kurlyandsky, said about how the series was created, “We decided the film should be a pursuit. We were young and humorous, and we wanted a film packed with as many gags as possible, which a pursuit easily lends itself to. There were no tiring discussions about who should be the chaser and the one being chased… we settled on traditional Russian folklore characters”.

The cartoon series scored 8.9 points out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database website (IMDb.com), with users, in their reviews, lauding the humorous sketches, the appropriate background music, and the charm of its main characters, as well as the accurate reflection of Soviet reality. For instance, mail-3839 (USA) wrote,Besides the adventures in the chase for the rabbit, you see nostalgic elements of Russian urban and suburban life. Where else can you find a children’s cartoon where the bad wolf smokes cigarettes, drinks beer while eating dried salted fish, steals, and vandalises property? One can’t help but fall in love with both the hero and villain”.

Tony Straka (USA) said, “Another factor which differentiates Nu, Pogodi! from other cartoons, is that the background music isn’t orchestrated for the cartoon series, but rather popular Russian/contemporary songs are incorporated. You’ll hear popular music from the time that particular cartoon was made. Wolf will be chasing Hare in an episode from the late 1970s, whilst a disco tune is playing; another episode from 1984 contains techno/pop music from that particular time period. The visual effects are set to the music, which allows for some comical moments!”

The pilot episode of the series… a sketch about the Wolf and the Hare directed by Gennady Sokolsky and later used as a prototype for the series… was featured in the first number of the first cartoon journal, Vesyolaya Karusel (Happy Merry-Go-Round). In the sketch, as the Wolf fails to hit the mark shaped as the Hare at a shooting range, the slogan (the famous “Nu, pogodi!”) that later became the name of the series appears for the first time. The series was produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio from 1969 to 1993, with 18 main episodes created, followed by a sequel in the early 2000s. The main episodes were directed by Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin, and his son Aleksei taking over the reins for the sequel.

Nu, Pogodi! very truly captures the reality and artefacts of its time. The entire environment that is now perceived as the retro charm of the cartoon was actually true for the Soviet people of the 1970s and 1980s… commodity shortages, cars, telephone booths, soda vending machines, and holiday destinations. Even the soundtrack for some of the episodes featured certain popular hits of the time… for instance, Song About a Friend by Vladimir Vysotsky, or songs by pop icon Alla Pugachyova. Likewise, the songs written for the Hare and the Wolf are still popular and often quoted. Even some of the events in the storyline are true… for instance, the scene of one of the episodes is set in Moscow during the 1980 Summer Olympics.

The production of the series sparked numerous stories and anecdotes. It’s believed that the government didn’t like the image of one of the main characters, the Wolf; and the government didn’t approve of singer, songwriter, actor, and poet Vladimir Vysotsky, who was cast as the voice for the Wolf, either. It’s also known that the project was nearly shut down after the first few episodes, after Feliks Kamov (one of the scriptwriters) decided to emigrate to Israel. Actor Anatoly Papanov rescued it, he was eventually cast as the voice for the Wolf, he had immense popularity at the time… he complained to a Communist Party chief that his family would miss the cartoon heroes, and production was resumed without too many changes.

Meanwhile, the end of the Soviet era didn’t mean the end of troubles with government approvals for the series. After the law On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development took effect in September 2012, some media reports suggested that Nu, Pogodi! would be assigned an 18+ rating and aired only after 23.00. Aleksei Kotyonochkin, the director of the latest Nu, Pogodi! episodes, responded. “I can remember the instruction to cut out drinking scenes during the anti-alcohol campaign, but then again, it was just an order. It’s the Law now. They certainly know how to make laws in Russia…”

Now, Nu, Pogodi! is often compared to Tom and Jerry. However, according to his son, the first time Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin saw the American series was in 1987, when 16 episodes of its Soviet rival had already been produced. Aleksei said proudly, “Tom and Jerry is actually about gags, but our film is more than just gags. We’re now preparing a full-length 3-D animated production. We’d like to move away from the old format and use more speech and characters (including supporting characters) in the new film”.

3 January 2013

Ksenia Isayeva

Russia Behind the Headlines

http://rbth.ru/articles/2013/01/03/soviet_animation_classics_40_years_on_21649.html

Saturday, 17 November 2012

17 November 2012. It’s That Time of Year Again! One, Two, Three… Up with the Tree!

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A sweet little Russian cartoon (it has minimal dialogue, so, don’t worry), with the title One, Two, Three… Up with the Tree! It also has a sweet way of delivering its moral… one shouldn’t be selfish. 

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It’s time to start getting ready for Christmas and New Year‘s. You DO want Dede and Snegurochka to come to your house, don’t you?

BMD

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Multimedia Presentation. A Short Guide to Russian and Soviet Cartoons

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Vinni Pukh Rules! American Cartoons are Turning Our Kids’ Brains to Mush!

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When most people think of Russian culture, the heavyweights of literature and classical music, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, usually spring to mind. However, Russia can also boast some major achievements in the field of children’s cartoons. Read and click on for a short… and by no means exhaustive… guide. The heyday of Soviet children’s cartoons was the late 1960s, when Soyuzmultfilm produced a host of warm and genuinely witty cartoons. Watching them before or after a Western-produced cartoon of the same period, Tom and Jerry for example, it’s striking and unarguable how much more manic and violent the “capitalist” cartoons are…

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Matroskin the Cat

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Troe iz Prostokvashino, or as some translations have it Three from Buttermilk Village, was the first cartoon I ever got into in Russia. Made in 1978, and based on a book by Soviet writer Eduard Uspensky, it tells the tale of a young lad who goes by the nickname of Uncle Fyodor. The ginger-haired kid leaves home with a vagrant cat, Matroskin, after his mother tells his father, “It’s either me or that cat… choose!” His father replies, “I choose you… I’ve known you for a long time and I’ve only just set eyes on that cat”. Along with a friendly, if dim, dog called Sharik they end up living in the aforementioned Buttermilk Village. Much of the cartoon’s sharp dialogue appeals as much to adults as to children and many phrases have become everyday expressions, such as:

  • “If I’d had a cat like that, I might not have got married”.
  • “You go out of your mind alone. It’s only the flu you suffer together”.

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Gena and Cheburashka on a greeting card for the 8 March (International Women’s Day) holiday

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Cheburashka is another cartoon based on an Eduard Uspensky book. First released in 1969, it tells the story of the eponymous hero… a strange and exotic creature that ends up in Moscow after falling asleep in a crate of oranges due for shipment to Russia. Once there, he makes the acquaintance of a crocodile called Gena who has been searching for friends by sticking notes around town saying, “Young crocodile looking for friends”. They have many adventures, a lot of which involve battles of wits with one Old Lady Shapoklyak, whose motto is, “You’ll never get famous by doing good”. Cheburashka is perhaps the most famous of all Soviet cartoons and enjoys cult status in Japan. He’s also been the symbol of the Russian Olympic team on three occasions.

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Vinni Pukh and Piglet

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Maugli

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Soviet cartoon makers were also keen on adapting foreign children’s tales, with A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book being turned into Vinni Pukh and Maugli (Mowgli). The Soviet Vinni Pukh (also from 1969) bears little resemblance to the Disney version much better known in the West, being a darkish little bear with an oddly strident tone. Of course, he also loves honey and has a number of animal friends. The Soviet version lacks a Christopher Robin, though. Then again, its source was the books by Eduard Zakhoder, who insisted his Russian version of the Pooh stories were a retelling, rather than a mere translation. Check out the English language version in the above link. Maugli (1967-71) also differs wildly from the Disney animated musical and is, by far, a much darker affair, a lot closer to the original Kipling books. President-elect Vladimir Putin recently showed a fondness for Kipling when he described protesters against his rule as “Bandar-log”. “Come to me, Bandar-log”, he joked, taking on for a second the persona of the evil snake Kaa. Unlike in the West, no one in Russia needed an explanation of the origin of the phrase.

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Karlson

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Masha and the Bear

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Karlson (1968 and 1970) was a cartoon adaptation of the books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, and it told the story of a jam-loving chubby guy who lived on the roof and made friends with a thoughtful kid who really wanted a puppy. Again, the cartoon appealed as much to adults as children. Modern-day Russia hasn’t seen quite the success of the 1960s and 1970s Soviet Union as far as cartoons go. Nevertheless, the recent Masha and the Bear series has proven popular with kids all across Russia and supplied perhaps the first genuinely-strong cartoon character here for years. The cartoons tell the story of an incredibly mischievous little girl and her friend, the Bear.

19 March 2012

Marc Bennetts

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/columnists/20120319/172273179.html

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