As I was growing up I watched both Disney and Russian cartoons, getting to know two very different cultures. However, Russian cartoons are the dearest to me… perhaps because they represent my culture, or perhaps because my parents grew up watching them. Anyhow, they have a special place reserved in my heart.
Now let’s introduce someone that stole the hearts of the small ones, and continues to be in the memory of the not so small ones: Winnie the Pooh. This cute little bear is originally the creation of the English author Alexander Alan Milne – becoming one of the most famous characters of the twentieth century children’s literature. Milne wrote short stories, that later were adapted by the Disney studio and Russian director Fyodor Khitruk. These two adaptations may seem very different from each other, but are both faithful to Milne’s classic.
A Russian children’s author, Boris Zahoder, stumbled upon one of Milne’s books in 1958. He fell in love with the adorable story and thought that children in Russia should have their own Pooh. That was exactly what he did; he retold the original stories in Russian, releasing his first book in 1960. Later, he teamed up with director Fyodor Khitruk and a Soviet cartoon studio, Soyuz Multfilm, to bring Pooh to life.
The first Vinni Puh (Winnie the Pooh in Russian) cartoon was released in 1969. Immediately, Vinni became popular in the Soviet Union, and today is considered a classic that every kid and adult must have watched.
The main distinction of Russian Vinni Puh is that he’s brown. Yes, he’s a regular brown bear –more like a cute brown ball of fur– as opposed to the yellow and red appearance in the West. Another difference is that the Russian version doesn’t include Christopher Robin, the young boy that was one of Winnie’s best friends in Milne’s book. But it isn’t so bad, because now we see a lot more of Piglet, or Pyatachok in Russian, who became Vinni’s best friend (how sweet).
Vinni is introduced as a naïve and good natured bear of very little brain… since it is said that there’s only sawdust in his head. His two favorite things are writing poetry… and last but not least, eating honey! His minimal facial expressions are part of the charm. From time to time, our bear pauses and looks at the camera, as if wondering what he should do next. His blank looks are incredibly comical and make him all the cuter. Don’t you agree?
The second cartoon was released in 1971 and you can see it here:
Finally, the third and last cartoon came out in 1972 and is twenty minutes long, titled “Vinni Puh and the Day of Care”. In this chapter, Vinni, Piglet, and owl go visit donkey Eeyore in order to cheer him up on his birthday!
In 1976, director Fyodor Khitruk received the State Prize of the USSR, which is a really big recognition. But perhaps the biggest recognition he ever got was from Woolie Reitherman himself (Disney director of Pooh) who once told him, “You know, your Winnie is better than mine.” I don’t know if this statement is true, because as all of you know… you can’t really trust everything written on the internet nowadays. I, personally, like to believe he said that!
To wrap up, if you didn’t know this version before – I hope you like it!
Oh, and comments are more than encouraged.