EXT. STREET -- TWILIGHT. A dreary day in 1971. Wearing a trilby hat and a hideous overcoat, a LONE CROCODILE stands on the rain-slicked sidewalk. Singing
in tune with the plangent sounds of the concertina he clutches in his claws, he tells the viewers that today, of all days, is his birthday. This scene presages the appearance of one of the most emblematic characters in Soviet animation
Discovered in a crate of oranges from Africa, Чебурашка/Cheburashka is a small, furry, Mogwai-like creature with huge ears. His evocative name comes from a dialect word for "roly-poly toy
." His naïve, childlike demeanor is often at odds with the grey, soul-crushing monotony of the Soviet city he finds himself in.
The character starred in several animated shorts:
- «Крокодил Гена»/"Crocodile Gene" (1969, 1, 2)
Gene works at the zoo (as a crocodile) by day and spends his lonely nights in a tiny, barren flat in the city. Elsewhere, Cheburashka sits in a store window display by day and sleeps in a nearby phone booth at night. (with liberally translated subtitles)
- «Чебурашка»/"Cheburashka" (1971, 1, 2)
Denied admission to the Young Pioneers, Crocodile Gene and Cheburashka struggle to regain their self-esteem. (subtitled)
- «Шапокляк»/"Shapoklyak" (1974, 1, 2)
Their train tickets stolen, Crocodile Gene and Cheburashka are stranded 200 kilometers outside Moscow. They quickly get caught in bear traps. (dubbed, not especially well, in English, here — 1, 2) Here is "The Blue Train Car," the (now iconic) song from the episode, performed by a child with an enormous 70's pomp.
- «Чебурашка идёт в школу»/"Cheburashka Goes to School" (1983, 1)
It is revealed that Cheburashka is illiterate (but note that he can obviously read in the first episode). (subtitled)
(All episodes are apparently available on Veoh
with subtitles… if you download their player.)
, the voice actor behind Crocodile Gene, is also the Soviet Sherlock Holmes
and the voice of this rotund, airborn character
from the works of Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren (who achieved enourmous popularity in the USSR). As the previous video clip suggests, Klara Rumyanova
, who was the voice of Cheburashka, was also the voice of every cute, childlike character in the history of Soviet animation.
Cheburashka first appeared in a picture book, where he looked very different
. Another version of the character also appeared in a slide film version
of the story (NB: obnoxious music).
After the fall of the USSR, Cheburahka's likeness was the subject of a copyright battle
between the author and his character artist.
Cheburashka features prominently
on the Союзмультфильм
/Soviet Animated Film Studio logo. He has also repeatedly been the mascot of the Russian Olympic team.
Cheburashka is available for home purchase in a dazzling array of colors
Cheburashka has a Japanese fanbase
P.S.: There is a 10-year-old previously
, but it's very incomplete and both links are now dead.
P.P.S.: So now you know what this faux woodcut
depicts (and this one