MISSING: One elephant
. Polite and good-natured. Loves cod liver oil
Released on Soviet television in 1986, «Следствие ведут Колобки» | Brothers Kolobok Lead the Investigation (1
) is a 20-minute-long animated short about two plucky diminutive investigators, the abduction of an elephant, and a very persistent coat button. For the curious, a kolobok
is a spherical breadlike pastry
that is at this point much better known as the main character in the Russian analog
of the story of the gingerbread man. (Also: bun fight
The short was created at state-owned Studio Экран (i.e., Écran, like in French). One of the main animators on the project was Aleksandr Tatarsky
, an accomplished artist who already had a number of much-loved works to his credit:
- «Пластилиновая ворона» | The Modeling Clay Crow (1981) — a playfully surreal claymation tale of the Fox and the Crow… or perhaps the Dog and the Ostrich… or maybe even the Cow and the Janitor.
- The opening and closing animations of the long-running children's bedtime show «Спокойной ночи, малыши!» | Good Night, Children! (also).
- «Падал прошлогодний снег» | Last Year's Snow was Falling [1, 2] (1983) — a nested, non-linear, postmodern folktale that gets lost in the telling.
Here's a detailed obituary
on LJ user Niffiwan's indispensable blog.
In 1988 Tatarsky left Écran to found Studio Pilot, USSR's first privately-owned animaion studio, and more or less the subject of this FPP.
Pilot became well-known for its offbeat, surreal, sometimes vulgar, and occasionally disturbing animation — what is known in Russian as «мультфильмы для взрослых
». By the late 1990s, a number of animators at Pilot spent some time creating content for US children's cable channels, coinciding with strong Nickelodeonization of Pilot's subsequent output and abandonment of traditional and alternative animation techniques, such as clay animation. There were other factors that affected the change in the studio's focus from macabre shorts to children's shorts. Russian networks were increasingly buying children's programming to feed the growing TV advertising market. Public funding had also become available for domestic alternatives to imported entertainment. In the new millennium, improved financial circumstances allowed the studio to pursue more ambitious projects that combined traditional and digital animation in spectacular ways, as well as a handful of schlocky TV projects.
YouTube archives of Russian animation frequently get decimated by parties claiming to be official distributors of Soviet and Russian animated content in the US. No video seems immune to takedown notices. The good news is that videos rarely stay down for long. If one of the linked videos is unavailable, please search for the Russian title, and you are almost guaranteed to find another copy. I've provided both the Russian and the approximate English titles to make YouTube searching easier once the links inevitably go dead.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Uncollected shorts 1989–2005.
- Гора самоцветов | Gemstone Mountain 2004–2010.
- Miscellaneous TV projects.
Here's a semi-complete revue of Pilot's uncollected shorts in chronological order, beginning with some of their earliest animation. Most of the shorts need no subtitles. Some are beautifully animated, others are crude. Some are NSFW. I hope you enjoy the variety.
- Его жена курица | His Wife is a Chicken (1989) — A surreal domestic drama without words.
- Авиаторы | The Aviators (1990) — Slapstick animation; borrows characters from third segment of Кубик рубик | Rubic's Cube, a set of three animated shorts Tatarsky worked on at Écran. The two characters are Kubik and Rubik. (In case you're curious about what's going on in the first and second segments, which are full of talk: the first is a song about everything a child could conceivably draw with colored pencils; the second one is about a hare who manages to become the hunter, rather than the prey; the background music is «Сирена» | "The Siren" sung by Alla Pugacheva, the doyenne of Soviet pop; the video comes from the children's film where it appeared)
- Чудеса | Wonders (1990) — More Kubik and Rubik.
- Пумс | Poumse (1990) — Somewhat different animation style. May be NSFW. Also, may be too crass for non-Russian sensibilities.
- Полуночные игры | Midnight Games (1990) — What is this I don't even
- Путч | The Coup (1991) — A surreal animated "who's who" of the August 1991 coup that was the beginning of the end of the USSR. The doors lead, in order, to Pavlov, Pugo, Kryuchkov, Yanayev, Yazov/Baklanov, and Tizyakov/Starodubtsev.
- Андрей Свислоцкий | Andrey Svislotsky (1991) — A long, surreal, wordless drama about the master of the house and his two servants, who uncover their master's hideous secret.
- Песнь о Вольфганге, достославном истребителе драконов | The Song of Wolfgang the Intrepid, the Glorious Destroyer of Dragons [sic] (1991) — Medieval slapstick with a morbid ending.
- Ловцы жемчуга | Pearl Divers (1991) — another Kubik & Rubik short.
- Охотник | The Hunter (1991) — See #4. Fairly NSFW. Also crass, in poor taste, etc. Rather funny.
- Лифт | The Lift (1992) — A set of five surreal, Tatarsky-style shorts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5. May remind viewers of Robot Chicken or Monty Python or something. ("Lift" previously.) (For more things with elevators: Usavich Season 3 — 1, 2, 3, etc., ad nauseam)
- Гипнэротомахия | Hypnerotomachia (q.v.) (1992) — Continuing our descent into madness…
- Я вас слышу | I Can Hear You [1, 2] (1992) — A very different, rather surreal and sad version of Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who. Sadly, no subtitles are available, but you might enjoy the peculiar pastel art style.
- Я иду искать | I Go Seek (1992) — Another surreal and disturbing animation, somewhat reminiscent of animator Ivan Maksimov's work, as well as Peter Blegvad's Leviathan (Maksimov and Blegvad previously).
- Последний | The Last One (1993) —A cold, morose, monochrome visual poem about a goose.
- Золотые ворота | The Golden Gate (1993) — A very broad satire.
- Прощай | Farewell! (1993) — In questionable taste.
- Другая сторона | The Other Side (1993) — A comic tale of friendship, rivalry, adventure, and the ubiquity of suffering.
- Тук-тук | Knock Knock (1993) — Definitely NSFW.
- Происхождение видов | The Origin of Species (1993) — A collection of micro-shorts.
- Исторические анекдоты | Historic Jokes (1994) — "Just so" stories for adults. Another set of shorts, also rather NSFW.
- Выключатель | Switchcraft [sic] (1994) — The familiar saga of cats and mice, with a strange stylistic peculiarity.
- Пустышка | The Pacifier (1994) — Babies. NSFW?
- Гагарин | Gagarin (1994) — An ironic short.
- Эксгибиционист | The Flasher (1995) — "Degenerate!" raves a YouTube commenter.
- Рождество [1 | 2] | The Birth of Christ (1996) — The cartoon was made in partnership with Mikhail Aldashin's special project MISHKA. Aldashin may be familiar to viewers in his role of supervising director on Cartoon Network's turn-of-the-millennium show Mike, Lu & Og. After working on the show, he rejoined Pilot in 1998.
- Унесённые ветром | Gone with the Wind (1998) — The ghoulish story of a rotisserie chicken that wants to be a real hen.
- Соседи | Neighbors (2001) — A touching tale of madness.
- Мячик | The Little Ball (2001) — A simple metaphor.
- Латекс | Latex (2001) — Uses cows to illustrate gender relations in modern Russia.
- Хаш | Khash (q.v.) (2002) — Short and sweet.
- Красные Ворота Расёмон | The Red Gate of Rashomon (2002) — December 31, 1945. United Soviet and Japanese forces storm the capital of Nazi Columbia. Four years later, an international sporting event commemorating the historic victory witnesses the meeting of two world-class athletes: USSR's Igor Dostoevsky and former kamikaze Akira Kurosawa. In an adjoining parallel universe, three drinking buddies gather to play a card game that somehow involves a tournament chess clock. (Sorry, no subtitles.)
- Про девочку, которая нашла своего мишку | About a Girl Who Found Her Teddy Bear (2002) — An interesting visual style.
- Подкидыш | The Stray (2002) — Based on a children's story about the origin of cheetahs. (Sorry, no subtitles.)
- Нехороший мальчик | The Mean Boy (2003) — No subtitles, but pretty straightforward. Also: a young lad using alcohol and tobacco!
- 2 + 1 = (2003) — Love among Russian dinosaurs. (Not to be confused with Russian Dinosaur.)
- К югу от севера | North to South (2003) — A rivalry on the Bering Sea leads to a dramatic journey.
- Иван/Хуан | Ivan/Juan (2003) — Crossroads markers are a common feature of Russian heroic folktales. The typical formulation is something along the lines of "Go left and find your doom. Go right and lose your horse. Go straight and live, but forget who you are." Various awful things typically await the unwary traveler.
- Эволюция Петра Сенцова | Peter Sentsov's Evolution (2005) — A field trip to the late Cretacious ends up with grade-school brat Peter Sentsov changing the face of paleontology. Pretty fun. (Sorry, no subtitles.)
Beginning in 2004, Pilot has been working on Гора самоцветов (RU)
| Gemstone Mountain, an extended series of shorts based on the folktales of the peoples of the former USSR. The project was initially funded by Russia's Federal Agency on Culture and Cinematography, or simply RosKino, until that agency's abolition in 2008 (one of RosKino's claims to fame was its recommendation against public displays of the Borat movie
None of the shorts are subtitled in English, but they use very strong visual storytelling, making them fairly straightforward. They are also sumptuously animated using a combination of hand-drawn animation, digital animation, and exquisite, intricate claymation. And if you've an interest in cultural studies, they offer wonderful examples of Russian civic iconography and cultural diversity.
Every short begins with a short monolog on Russia's greatness and diversity: "We live in Russia. Russia's coat of arms is a gold two-headed eagle, mighty and proud. On its breast you see St. George the Triumphant. He impales the evil dragon with a silver spear. Russia's flag has three colors: white is the color of peace and purity; blue is the color of the sky and hope; and red is the color of glory and bravery. Our motherland's capital is the city of Moscow…
&c., &c." Speakers of Russian will notice the subtle variation and toning down of the patriotic message as the series progresses.
- Жадная мельничиха | The Miller's Greedy Wife (Ukrainian folktale) — The miller's wife steals from a poor neighbor and is cursed for her actions. Only a sincere word of thanks can return her true appearance. (A wicker fence is an important part of a traditional Ukrainian dwelling.)
- Как обманули змея | How the Serpent was Tricked (Nivkh folktale) — Needs no knowledge of Russian. (The Nivkh are a small ethnicity from the Russian far east, culturally somewhat similar to the Ainu people of Japan. The music is performed by Bugotak, a Siberian roots rock band, although the language is almost certainly not Nivkh. Most of their performances are in Kalmyk, Tatar, and Russian Siberian patois. Some samples: 1 | 2 | 3.)
- Как пан конем был | How the Wealthy Man Was a Horse (Belorussian folktale) — A wealthy man would rather make his laborers mill grain than buy a horse to do the same thing. His household spirit teaches him a lesson in compassion. (Belarus is home to a dictatorial regime and the world's largest population of European bison.)
- Кот и лиса | The Cat and the Fox (Russian folktale from the Vologda region) — A man tosses his pesky cat into the forest. The clever fox passes him off to the other forest animals as the fierce commander of the beasts. (Founded in medieval times, Vologda is known in Russia for its sweet cream butter, which is trademarked under a legal framework similar to the EU's protected designation of origin.)
- Лиса-сирота | The Orphaned Fox (Bashkir folktale) — Four animal friends band together to survive the winter. The fox cheats them of their stock of food, leading the animals to quarrel among themselves. In the end, the rooster discovers the fox's theft and tricks her in return. (The Bashkir are a formerly nomadic Turkic people from the south Ural mountains. Several Bashkir tribes traveled with the Magyars when they invaded Europe in the 9th century. The Bashkir literary tradition goes back to the early medieval times, and honey produced in Bashkortostan enjoys protected trademark status.)
- Про барана и козла | The Ram and the Goat (Karelian folktale) — The goat and his friend escape slaughter, only to run into some wolves. The goat scares the wolves away by talking about all the wolves he's killed. (The music heard in the introduction is Finnish "new folk" ensemble Värttinä's Matalii ja mustii from their Seleniko album. American listeners may be familiar with the song thanks to an episode of Arthur, a PBS children's show based on the picture books by Marc Brown (previously). On that show, Värttinä's song was sung by a Europop band who turned out to be holograms, well before the advent of Vocaloids.)
- Про ворона | About the Raven (based on Eskimo folktales) — A hunter and a polar bear tell stories to decide who gets to keep a fish. The bear explains why the raven is black and the snowy owl speckled. The hunter tells the bear how the raven stole the snow bunting's song, and how the bunting got it back. (In English, the term Eskimo is often deprecated, but is the only accepted collective term for both the Inuit and the Yupik peoples. In Russian, Eskimo is often the only term recognized by laypeople. It's also the long-established name for an ice cream treat consisting of a bar of chocolate-covered ice cream on a popsicle stick. The dessert was introduced in the USSR in 1937 as a deliberate knock-off.)
- Про Ивана-дурака | About Ivan the Fool (Russian folktale from the Yaroslavl region) — The traditional hapless third son sells the family goat to a dead tree for 200 gold roubles, guards a door, befriends a bear, and amuses the king's daughter, winning her hand and half the kingdom to boot. (The animation style recalls the art of the lubok. A recuring musical motif in the short is the song «Крутится, вертится шар голубой», which first appeared in a pre-war Soviet film. It's also a well-known Yiddish song. The bear on the Yaroslavl coat of arms refers to the semi-mythical incident in which the city's namesake and supposed founder single-handedly defeated a bear, thereby frightening some local pagans into converting to Christianity.)
- Толкование сновидений | The Interpretation of Dreams (Tatar folktale) — The king is troubled by a recurring dream. A sage from India tells the king that his dream will come true unless he steals something. While helping a poor blacksmith steal what was taken from him by trickery, the king learns of the vizier's plan to poison him. (Traditional seasonal holidays are still celebrated in Tatarstan, foremost among them being Sabantuy. The Tatar coat of arms depicts the winged snow leopard Aq Bars.)
- Умная дочка | The Clever Daughter (Russian folktale from the Voronezh region) — A well-to-do man cheats his poor brother out of a foal. The king takes interest and tells the two that the foal belongs to him, who can answer the king's three riddles: What is fattest of all? What is fastest of all? What is softest of all? Luckily, the poor brother has a very clever daughter. (Voronezh was the site of Peter the Great's dockyards. The first Russian ship of the line was built here and named using a macaronic mixture of German and Russified Latin: Goto Predestinatsiya. Сектор газа, Russia's oldest and best-known punk rock band also comes from Voronezh.)
- Шейдулла-лентяй | Lazy Sheidullah (Dargin folktale) — Sheidullah does everything by half-measures, so his exasperated wife sends him to consult with a sage in the mountains. Several creatures do favors for him in exchange for advice from the sage. It turns out that the creatures are burdened with treasure that Sheidulah is too lazy to collect from them. Then he's eaten by a wolf. (The Caucasus, as a region, has enormous language diversity. Many of its languages are collected in families that are not represented anywhere else. The Islam of the Dargins is syncretic and preserves some beliefs in spirits and demigods.)
- Большой петух | The Big Rooster (Russian folktale from the Pskov region) — (Briefly NSFW.) A woman won't let her husband have any eggs her chicken lays, and makes fun of his rooster. They leave and start their own household, but the landowner takes away their possessions. The indomitable rooster finds a just solution. (During the Northern Crusades, directed against Eastern Orthodox Christians, Alexander Nevsky won a battle against the Livonians on a frozen lake — the Battle of the Ice. The event is depicted in Eisenstein's well-known film Alexander Nevsky.)
- Ворон-обманщик | Raven the Liar (Itelmen folktale) — The lazy Raven is craftless. He escapes from some angry crabs through false promises of bringing them fish, then tricks Dog out of provisions and blames the Fox for it. Then he cheats on Man in a race. Man plays a trick on Raven in return. (The Itelmen suffered heavy losses at the end of the 17th century as a result of the Cossacks' conquest of the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east of Russia. These so-called Siberian Cossacks had little in common with the Cossacks from around the Black Sea.)
- Злыдни | Misfortunes (Hutsul folktale) — Hard-working peasants Petro and Marichka fall victim to spirits of bad luck. After much effort, Petro traps the spirits. His jealous neighbors go to check what he buried, so the misfortune comes to stay with them instead. (The Hutsuls form a distinct ethnic community in the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine. Local language is influenced by Polish and Slovak, but does not form a continuum with them. Ukraine's nationalizing efforts (as those of the USSR before it) are putting pressure on local language and culture. Soviet director Sergei Parajanov's award-winning film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors takes place in a Hutsul village. A traditional Hutsul instrument is a kind of alpenhorn.)
- Лис и дрозд | The Fox and the Robin (Ukrainian folktale retold by Ivan Franko) — Trapped in a pit after a night of stealing chickens, the fox terrorizes the robin to get what it needs. But the fox gets more than it bargained for. (The comments to the YouTube video constitute a fine miniature example of хохлосрач, a flavor of tedious, strident, and chauvinistic spat that dominates Russian and Ukrainian forums. Russian and Ukrainian languages are very closely related: patient and willing Russian-speakers can understand Ukrainian after a couple weeks of exposure, and most Ukrainians are exposed to enough Russian media to speak and understand it from a young age. For some it's actually their native language. Also, here are some instruments used in Ukrainian folk music: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4)
- Пётр и Петруша | Peter and Petrusha (Russian folktale from St. Petersburg) — An apocryphal story from the founding of St. Petersburg: A rock is blocking Peter the Great's construction plans. Foreign engineers prove useless, so the Emperor trusts the diligence and resourcefulness of a common soldier to get the job done. (The world-renowned Hermitage is located in St. Petersburg, or just "Peter" to Russians. A virtual gallery tour through the Hermitage is here. On a less cheerful note, St. Petersburg is home to a significant white suprematist presence.)
- Птичья нога | The Bird Leg (Bashkir folktale) — A demon replaces a baby girl with a cruel changeling and gives the child a bird-like leg. A brave boy saves the girl and reverses the spell. (Bashkirs have a rich body of folklore that incorporates the daevas of Persian mythology.)
- Ловись, рыбка | Bite, Little Fish (Ukrainian folktale) — The fox steals a man's fish and then tricks the wolf into getting caught by the villagers. (Vladimir the Great ruled from Kiev and was baptized on the Dnieper, Ukraine's largest river, marking the conversion of medieval Kievan Rus to Christianity.)
- Царь и ткач | The King and the Tailor (Armenian folktale) — An emissary brings news of a coming invasion in the form of a riddle. The irritable king gathers his wise men to answer it, but it is a poor tailor who can talk to the emissary in riddles. The tailor then frightens away the invaders. (In 301AD, Armenia became the first nation to declare Christianity as its state religion, predating the Council of Chalcedon and differing on some important dogmatic matters. The Armenian literary tradition dates back to the same era.)
- Жихарка | The Rascal (based on folktales from the Ural Mountains) — Two blacksmiths keep a little girl around the house. When they leave for the market, the fox tries to kidnap the girl. When she finally succeeds, she almost wishes she hadn't. (The girl's name and the title of the cartoon — "Zhiharka" — is from the dialect word "жихать," meaning "to spin, to push over, to rock." Arkaim, a Bronze Age settlement discovered in the southern Ural steppes around the time of the fall of the USSR, has become a locus of renewed Russian nationalism (PDF) and mysticism.)
- Мальчик с пальчик | Tom Thumb (Belorussian folktale) — Tom Thumb wants to help, but he's all thumbs, so his parents give him away to a passing nobleman. He tries to help out some cattle thieves, but is eaten by a wolf. Even then he's a liability. (Belarus has a tradition of nativity-themed puppet theater — батлейка. There are numerous folktales similar to the story of Tom Thumb told around the world.)
- Не скажу! | I Won't Tell! (Russian folktale from the Rostov region) — Ivan, peasants' son, won't tell anyone what he dreamt: not his parents, not the prince. It's a prophetic dream! The prince is asking for the hand of a princess, but she will only marry one who can hide from her, and everyone else gets executed. Oh, and then there's a flying carpet, a cap of invisibility, and some seven-league boots. It's basically this story. (Rostov predates Moscow by three centuries. In fact, Moscow was originally a part of the Rostov Principality. Rostov is known for a traditional craft called финифть — a kind of enamel painting on metal, somewhat related to cloisonné.)
- Непослушный медвежонок | The Disobedient Bear Cub (Yakut folktale) — The bear cub doesn't want to do as his mother tells him. First he wants to be an Arctic ground squirrel, then a reindeer, and then a duck. In the end, he realizes that being a bear is best of all. (Yakutia is an autonomous republic within Russia. Its area is slightly less than that of India, but it's inhabited by less than a million people. Although the capital, Yakutsk, experienced warm summers, it's also the coldest city on Earth, with average January lows of –45°F. And here you thought Winnipeg is a frozen shithole.)
- Сердце зверя | The Heart of the Beast (Nanai folktale) — A hunter returns to his village to find it ransacked by invaders. He escapes, but falls into a bear's den — and anyone who sleeps in a bear's den turns into a bear. Now it's payback time! (Visually very reminiscent of Disney's Mulan. The Amur river basin, the historic home of the Nanai people, is also home to a population of tigers.)
- Солдат и смерть | The Soldier and Death ("Udmurt" folktale) — A soldier, returning home to his beloved, meets a beggar and shares food with him. In exchange, he gets a magic bag, a deck of magic cards, and a magic ring. It turns out the village people were captured by the Vodyanoy, and the townspeople were all abducted by devils. The soldier beats them at cards and cheats Death herself. (The folktale is made up of typical Russian motifs, although it's dressed in weird, stylized visuals. The Udmurt people live on the river Kama, Volga's largest tributary, and speak a Finno-Ugric language.)
- Соловей | The Nightingale (Tatar folktale) — The wealthy merchant and his family love their caged nightingale and care for it lovingly. When the merchant prepares for an expedition, the nightingale asks it to pass a greeting to his brother. The nightingale's brother send him a unique reply. (Tatars are Russia's largest ethnic minority. Tatarstan's national sport is koresh, also köräş, a kind of wrestling with belts. Originating from the Persian میدان, Tatar майдан is cognate with similar words in Hindi and Ukrainian.)
- Шиш | Jack Squat (Russian folktale from the Tula region) — Another third son story: the two elder sons dispossess their aging father and hapless younger brother. On the way to the market to sell his cow, Jack spends the night at a witch's cottage. When a band of cutthroats descend to spend the night there too, Jack decides to present himself as a supernatural expert. Other stuff happens. (Tula, which stands since medieval times, is the traditional center of samovar manufacturing. The Tula Samovar Museum has a site that presents the history of the samovar — click the roman numerals on the left sidebar for more. See also: traditional printed Tula gingerbread.)
- Заяц-слуга | The Hare Servant (Tatar folktale) — Hard-working Hakim loses everything he has thanks to three lazy roustabouts. Getting no help from them, he hatches a plan to convince the wealthy fops that he has a magical hare servant. Having sold the hare to one of his tormentors, he then berates the man for making the hare run away. (The capital of Tatarstan is the ancient city of Kazan. The site has been settled since the early medieval times, and may have been a stopover on the Volga trade route from Scandinavia to Iran. Many legends surround Kazan's Lake Kaban, including tales of a lost city at the bottom of the lake.)
- Крошечка-Хаврошечка | Kroshechka-Havroshechka (Russian folktale from the Kursk region) — An orphaned girl lives with a cruel mistress and her three ugly daughters. The girl's magical cow helps her with three impossible tasks. Even after the cow dies, it helps the girl marry the prince. (The Battle of Kursk was an important turnaround point in World War II. You might recall the ill-fated submarine of the same name. Kursk is also known for its magnetic anomaly, which exerts a pull on new-age mystics from all over Russia.)
- Куйгорож | Kujgorož (Moksha folktale) — A lazy old couple decide to get rich with the help of the supernatural. But the imp they obtain must always have a task, or else it destroys everything it has created. (The Kujgoroz is a mythological creature similar to the Hungarian lidérc: hatched from an egg that's warmed in a human armpit, it carries out tasks and brings its master riches. The Hungarian connection makes sense, because the two peoples are distantly related and speak Finno-Ugric languages. Also: Stepan Erzia, prominent Mordvin sculptor.)
- Медвежьи истории | Bear Stories (Evenk folktales) — How the chipmunk got his stripes: the bear petted itin return for some food. How the carp got flattened: the bear squished it after losing a bet about who can stay out of his element the longest. Why the nutcracker is skinny: it cheated the bear out of pine cones, and so is doomed to never benefit from the food it collects. (The Evenk people are the aboriginal inhabitants of central Siberia, occupying it since at least Neolithic times. The Tunguska blast of 1908, the largest meteoroid impact in recorded history, happened on the territory of the Evenk autonomous district.)
- Ну, вот еще! | As If! (Russian folktale from the Vladimir region) — A man has a stubborn, contrary wife. She goes to hell, but the devil doesn't want to keep her. (Vladimir is not named after Vladimir the Great, who baptized Rus. That's the Vladimir in western Ukraine, dating back to 988 AD. It is in fact named after Vladimir II, his great-grandson. Andrey Rublev, medieval icon artist and subject of the Tarkovsky film, painted much of his work in Vladimir's Успенский собор.)
- Рыбак Оскус-оол | Oskus-Ool the Fisherman (Tuvan folktale) — The creepy, obsequious lama drugs the old man's daughter and sends her down the river in a casket. A young man fishes her out of the river and serenades her with some throat singing. But then the khan takes an interest in the girl, so the fisherman sets out to retrieve his beloved. (Uh… Genghis Blues, Kongar-ool Ondar, Richard Feynman. But also: As of 2011, Tuva still has no railroads. Scythian tumuli in Tuva have been rich sources of archeological finds. Tuva suffers from high unemployment and rather tense interethnic relationships, leading to the extensive out-migration of Russians since the fall of the USSR.)
- Чепоги | Chepogi (Korean folktale retold by Nikolaj Garin–Mikhajlovsky) — Poor Kim earns a living by catching fish and collecting firewood. Day after day, the fish he catches are stolen by a magical sky tiger. In exchange for fish, the tiger gives Kim lasting fortune, but warns him that the fortune is borrowed from another. Kim decides to kill his nemesis, until he realizes that his fortune's true owner is an infant. So he adopts it. (Approximately 500 thousand Koreans live in former Soviet areas. Many were forcibly relocated from the Far East to central Asia in the 1930s. The late Korean-Russian rocker Viktor Tsoy, a child of that diaspora, remains one of the legends of Russian popular music.)
- Глинька | Glinka (Russian folktale from the Moscow region) — An old potter and his wife lead lonely lives, until one of the potter's pots magically comes to life to terrorize them. But then it's defeated by a small child. (The Kremlin and the Red Square are home to a double handful of Russia's most iconic national artifacts, monuments, and locations: the twenty towers of the perimeter wall, including the most-recognized Spasskaya tower; the enormous, symbolic Tsar Cannon; the titanic Tsar Bell; the enormous riches of the Armory — use the sidebar to navigate the gallery; the Renaissance-period Faceted Chamber; and the various cathedrals.)
- Гордый мыш | The Proud Mouse (Ossetian foktale) — The Mouse wants to marry into power, so he sets out to learn who is most powerful. The moon says the sun is stronger. The sun says the cloud is stronger. The cloud says the wind is stronger. The wind says mountain is stronger. And the mountain can be subdued by the work of mere mice. (Ossetians historically descend from the Alans, an ancient people who built a kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. Most were forced to move south under pressure from the Mongols in the 13th century, although one subgroup relocated to Hungary. Also: dancing.)
- Как помирились Солнце и Луна | How the Sun and the Moon Made Peace (folktale from Taimyr) — Once upon a time, both Sun and Moon shone by day. The one-eyed subterranean Kung wanted to steal the Sun's sleigh and the Moon's rowboat, so he instigated a rivalry between the Sun and the Moon to steal them. Their magic stolen, the Sun and Moon stop shining, so people send a brave hunter to talk to them. With the help of skilled companions, the hunter meets the Sun and the Moon and wins back their magic. Since then, the Sun and the Moon shine individually for six months out of each year. (The Taimyr peninsula is the northernmost point of the Russian mainland. It is inhabited by small groups of hunters and fishermen like the Dolgan, the Nganasan, and the Enets.)
- Майма-долгожданный | Majma the Long-Awaited (Nenets folktale) — A monster has stolen the people and taken them to a tree at the edge of the world. Majma, the last man, sets out to defeat the monster. Mice eat Majma's handmade wings, but then help him clib the tree. The monster's strength is in the milk birds bring him. Majma takes the monster's wings, drinks the milk, and replaces it with mouse milk. He defeats the monster and returns people to Earth. (The Nenets Autonomous Region is the location of Pustozersk, the northernmost outpost of Muscovy. Founded in 1499, Pustozersk stood for 300 years as the seat of the surrounding uezd's voivode, and was later gradually abandoned. It served as a place of exile for the enemies of the Tsar — most notably the schismatic Old Believer figure protopope Avvakum, who wrote a celebrated autobiography while enduring great privations. After spending 14 years of confinement in an Arctic dugout, he was burned alive.)
- Никита Кожемяка | Nikita the Tanner (Russian folktale from the Nizhny Novgorod region) — A three-headed dragon shows up to demand a tribute of women to eat. He steals the princess and takes her to a cave he shares with Baba Yaga, who has fallen on hard times in her dotage. Acting on Baba Yaga's advice, the prince sends the mighty Nikita the Tanner to do battle with the serpent. After three days of battle, both Nikita and the dragon are tired. Since there's no food, they play cards to decide who gets to eat who. The dragon is frightened and offers to divide the earth in half between them. They get to the sea, and the dragon falls in and drowns. (Nizhny Novgorod was a center of Soviet auto manufacturing. The region is also known for its traditional glazed wooden objects — хохлома. Merchant Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky of Nizhny Novgorod led the force that liberated Moscow from Polish invaders during the Polish-Muscovite war in the so-called Time of Troubles. Their accomplishments are honored in a monument near the Kremlin in Moscow. In modern times, a duplicate monument was erected in Nizhny Novgorod.)
- Про Василия Блаженного | The Story of St. Basil — Holy blissful martyr Basil is holy, blissful, and a martyr. He's like a 17th-century Patch Adams. (St. Basil's was built under Ivan IV (the Terrible). Moscow's Kremlin was built in the 14th century under Prince Ivan Kalita, of wood. It was finished in white stone a few decades later under Prince Dmitry Donskoy. The modern red-brick version was built by Ivan III in the late 15th century.)
- Про Степана-кузнеца | The Story of Stephan the Blacksmith (Cossack folktale) — A gypsy woman tells the cossack ataman's childless wife that she will have a child if she eats a fish from the river. But if the child is a daughter, she will need to marry the third man who asks for her hand. The daughter falls in love with the village blacksmith's son. The devil comes to ask for her hand as well. Refused, he steals the sun, the moon, and the stars. The ataman promises his daughter's hand to the one who can return them. The young blacksmith wins contests against the devils and marries the ataman's daughter. (Historically, Cossacks were a kind of stateless land-pirates, inhabiting unstable border regions and serving as mercenary troops. Cossack hosts on the river Don and downstream from the Dnieper cataracts fought with the Ottomans and participated in a multitude of other campaigns. Other "cossack" groups were the Russian Empire's forward troops in the colonization of Siberia, central Asia, and the far east. Soviet Nobel laureate Mikhail Sholokhov's Тихий Дон is set among the Don cossacks.)
- Егорий Храбрый | St. George the Brave (based on Russian folk spiritual verses) — St. George is born, grows up, and goes off to carry the Christian faith to "the Latin kingdom," where he faces the evil Latin king. Luckily, St. George is protected by the power of Jesus. After 30 years of imprisonment in a dungeon, St. George busts out and defeats the Latin king. Then he sermonizes to some forest animals. The dragon draws near Moscow and demands human flesh, and the tsar's daughter offers herself up for the sacrifice. St. George then defeats Cetus… erm, the dragon. (The story and art design closely follow the puppetry play by "Learned Bear" theatre. St. George was the patron saint of Yuri Dolgoruky, i.e., "Yuri the long-armed," the founder of Moscow.)
- Козья хатка | The Goat's Hut (Russian folktale from the Bryansk region) — A little tatterdemalion is pursued by a wolf and find himself in a loittle house occupied by three hard-working goats. There follows a musical interlude. The goats decide to take turns guarding the house against intruders. The goats find the little thief and turn him out to be eaten by wolves, but then have a change of heart at the last second. (Historically, Bryansk was a center of metallurgy. One in four Russian rifles used in the War of 1812 were manufactured there. Bryansk is also the birthplace of Russian Romantic poet Fyodor Tyutchev. Tyutchev's "Silentium" was famously translated into English by Nabokov.)
- Лягушка и муравьи | The Frog and the Ants (Altai folktale) — The lazy frog steals food from others. Pursuing a grasshopper, it ends up in the forest. The ants take the frog in for the night, and it eats all of their food. But when the ants show up on its little island to seek hospitality in return, the frog hides. And that's why ants have thin waists. (The Altai Republic's coat of arms is a griffon. Altai is an archeologically rich area, yielding a number of burials with tattooed mummies. Altai's landscape inspired many of Russian mystic Nicholas Roerich's paintings and written works.)
- Похождения Лиса | The Fox's Journey (Evenk folktale) — The fox is lazy and greedy. He steals the owl's reindeer and its firewood. The fox's wife convinces the owl to take the fox fishing, where he proceeds to drown. At the bottom of the lake, he finds Mother Fish and steals her golden tail. He trades the tail for food, and it's up to the own to make things right. (Traditional Evenk skis are lined with hides.)
- Про собаку Розку | The Story of Rozka the Dog (Russian folktale from the Arkhangelsk region) — A chihuahua is abandoned by a passing nobleman. The yappy chihuahua proves to be a peasant's best friend. (Naturalist, polymath, one of the founders of Russian secular poetry, Mikhail Lomonosov was born near Arkhangelsk. The city is home to the "Sutyagin house," a wooden monstrosity.)
- Рогатый хан | The Horned Khan (Kalmyk folktale) — A cruel khan regularly abducts village residents. A heroic young man learns the khan's secret and endures a perilous journey and befriends a giant serpent, a wolf, and an evil witch before returning to defeat the khan. (Kalmyks are a central Asian people closely related to Mongols and speak a similar or identical language. During WW2, they were deported to Siberia en masse, leading to many thousands of deaths. They were not "rehabilitated" until 1957, by which time their homeland had been occupied by Soviet settlers. Kalmyks are one of the few Buddhist minorities in Russia.)
- Солдатская песня | A Soldier's Song (From one of Sasha Cherny's stories about the Krasnodar region) — Peacetime. Some sildiers are stationed at the garrison, watched over by their guardian angels. The angels talk about the garrison commander, whose betrothed back home has eloped. Also, the meekest private's money is stolen, and it's up to the thief's angel to stage an intervention. (Originally ‘Yekaterinodar,’ after Catherine II, who granted the Kuban Cossacks a perpetual charter to the surrounding lands, Krasnodar is a former border stronghold laid out on a grid. Prehistoric dolmens in the region are a center of Russian new-age mystycism.)
- Зубы, хвост и уши | Teeth, Ears & a Tail (miscellaneous folktale) — A forest monster traps some hunters — an Estonian, a ridiculously offensive Chinaman, and a Russian — and tells them to tell animal riddles. If he can guess which animal it is, he eats the one who told the riddle. The Estonian tells about a small, cowardly rodent that goes to the sea to drown itself. The Chinaman tells about a troublesome animal that wants to steal the turtle's cabbage, and loses its long tail as a result. The Russian tells about a forest animal with excellent hearing. It overhears a pair of moose doling out antlers to the other forest animals. The critter takes the moose's antlers, but ends up with long ears instead. (Hint: it's the same animal every time.)
- Проделки лиса | The Fox's Tricks (Khanty folktale) — Back when humans and foxes coexisted, a lazy fox lives near a hard-working herdsman. The fox takes the herdsman on a river journey and tricks him into slaughtering his own reindeer. The herdsman tries to exact revenge, but the fox is too clever. However, when its tricks catch up to it, the fox has much to lose.
- Пумасипа | Pumasipa (Mansi folktale) — Two hunters, one skillful and the other lazy and boastful, ask for the hand of the village beauty, but she asks them to prove themselves. The hunters spend the night in the cannibal witch's dugout. She sends the hunters to seek a reward from her brother, who lives under a rock at the end of the world. The brave hunter defeats several monsters and the lazy one takes all the credit. In the end, the brave hunter gets an iron chest full of riches and the lazy one turns into a mosquito.
Between 1995 and 1996, Tatarsky reused the main characters from "Brothers Kolobok Lead the Investigation
" in a sequence of rather repugnant post-Soviet shorts. The shorts are illustrative of the scramble for dubious outside funding and liberal creative borrowing of the early post-Soviet years. For some reason the main characters were renamed as "the Pilot Brothers," although they never became the studio's official mascots. Oh, and the studio didn't use the same voice talent, and recycled much of the music and sound effects from the original cartoon. Also, the action now takes place in the town of Berdichev
in 1950. Subtitles are not available, but a knowledge of the characters should be sufficient to understand the simple plots.
- Братья Пилоты снимают клип для MTV | The Pilot Brothers Shoot an MTV Music Video (1995) — My hand is a dolphin! Keep an eye out for the Ninja Turtles, that iconic T. Rex skeleton from Jurassic Park, and the Beatles' yellow submarine… if you can stand it long enough.
- Братья Пилоты иногда ловят рыбу | The Pilot Brothers Occasionally Go Fishing (1996) — It is perhaps difficult for English-speaking listeners to appreciate the villain's humorous broken Russian.
- Братья Пилоты вдруг решили поохотиться | The Pilot Brothers Suddenly Decide to Go Hunting (1996) — The short is built around a single gag. Note that the (borrowed, unlicensed) soundtrack is recycled from another short.
- Братья Пилоты показывают друг другу новогодние фокусы | The Pilot Brothers Do Magic Tricks on New Year's Eve (1996) — Sorry for the terrible video quality. The "magic word" the trick starts with is the name of the company that funded the shorts: "Suprimex," (Googlish) apparently a short-lived holding company.
- Братья пилоты готовят на завтрак макарончики | The Pilot Brothers Make Macaroni for Breakfast (1996) — Apparently, one of the steps on the way to macaroni is a kolobok (see above).
In December of 1997, the Pilot Brothers reappeared as the 3D-animated hosts of «Чердачок Fruttis» | The Fruttis Attic, a novelty half-hour talk show named after (and sponsored by) Fruttis
, a brand of yogurt. (Fruttis
must have had a persuasive marketing pitch, because around the same time they also sponsored an episode of the above-mentioned Good Night, Children
, wherein one of the puppet characters was cured of the cold using delicious Fruttis-brand products.) The show ran until mid-1998. The guests on the show included famous Russian singer Filipp Kirkorov
, famous Russian singer Valery Meladze
, famous Russian singer Leonid Agutin
, famous Russian singer Kristina Orbakajte
, famous Russian singer Dmitry Malikov
, famous Russian singer Arkady Ukupnik
, famous Russian singer Oleg Gazmanov
, famous Russian singer Larisa Dolina
, and various notable figures in the worlds of cinema, television, radio, and journalism. Here's what an episode
looked like. The guest is TV personality and stage actor Igor Ugolnikov.
In 1999, after Fruttis went off the air, the Pilot Brothers returned as the animated hosts of «Академия собственных Ашибок» | The Academy of Our Mistaks [sic]
, a news and current events show delivering hard-hitting analysis of the issues of the day
. Animated versions of Stalin, Lenin, and Brezhnev made periodic appearances. Here's what it
looked like. The show ran for ten episodes. It was created in collaboration with «Другие реформы
», which was some kind of political entity, and the TV company VID
(VID was founded in part by journalist Vlad Listyev
, who was later the target of an apparent assassination. Listyev was also the first host of Russia's version of Wheel of Fortune
— the topic of that day was cats).
The characters have also starred in a variety of mind-numbing commercials: car insurance
, automotive safety PSA
, dental services
, home renovation supplies
Not satisfied with two animated news shows, Pilot produced «Тушите свет» | Turn Out the Lights (2000–2003). The show first aired on NTV
, and after that channel changed hands, on TNT
, and TVS
. The show featured updated, "adult" 3D animated versions of the familiar puppet characters from the above-mentioned Good Night, Children
(this is the third time it's come up in this post): Khrusha, Stepashka, and Filya
became co-hosts Khrun Morzhov and Stepan Kapusta
and special correspondent Filipp Sharikov
(yes, like the Bulgakov character). Together with a cavalcade of human guest hosts, the characters discussed news and current events, at first
in a real-life studio and in later years from one of the characters' animated kitchen
. The show also featured occasional expert analysis from characters with names like Alfred Krueger
of the fictional Gazprom
After TVS closed its doors in 2003, the show was reinvented as «Красная стрела» | The Red Arrow, named after the iconic train
. The main characters were now conductors on a 3D train, talking
about news and current events and quotidian rubbish. Sometimes they were joined by a human co-host. The show was canceled in 2004.
Between 2002 and 2003, Pilot also produced about 20 episodes of the animated «Кремлевский концерт» | The Kremlin Concert
, an animated musical satire that featured the political figures of the day (in the clip provided, note Putin remotely controlling the outcome of the "race" — visually reminiscent of this ingenious Soviet driving toy
Oh, but I shouldn't leave out «Мульти-Россия
», Pilot's ongoing series of 60-second claymation spots promoting the history and heritage of various towns and regions in Russia. Tatarsky inaugurated the series with the following words: "We must keep in mind that we live in Russia and not, for example, in the countries of Benelux. Our country is gigantic and very special. One can and must be proud of this fact." Needless to say, it's co-funded by the government and a travel agency and has a clear promotional agenda, but that shouldn't stop most from admiring the gourgeous animation. The following spots have been released:
- Vladimir oblast — home to fairy-tale knights, heavy draft hourses, Andrey Rublev's icons, the historic town of Suzdal, and center of glass manufacture.
- Kursk oblast — historic site of holy miracles and pilgrimages, a magnetic anomaly, and the largest tank battle of WW2.
- Moscow — one of Europe's largest cities, center of business and culture, home to a historic subway system, Arbat, and the Red Square.
- Moscow oblast — home of the nesting doll, Gzhel porcelain, Zhostovo metalcraft, Pavlovsky shawls, that song, and the battle of Borodino.
- Ryazan oblast — birthplace of Pavlov and Yesenin, site of various military training facilities.
- Smolensk oblast — built by Boris Godunov's architect Fyodor Kon, center of jewelry manufacture, birthplace of Yury Gagarin, Mikhail Glinka, and Aleksandr Tvardovsky.
- Tambov oblast — home of one of the contenders to the title of the original electric lightbulb, paradoxically well-knwon for its wolves and fertile chernozem, and the birthplace of the agronomist Ivan Michurin.
- Tver oblast — known for its crayfish, location of the headwaters of the Volga, Dnieper, and Daugava, canals tying the Baltic and Caspian seas, heavy equipment manufacturing, and medieval merchant and traveler Afanasy Nikitin.
- Yaroslavl — where the manuscript of the Tale of Igor's Campaign was found, center of automotive manufacturing and the first theater in Russia, the birthplace of Nekrasov, first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova, and Oscar-winning animator Aleksandr Petrov.
- Kaliningrad oblast — former Konigsberg, home to Immanuel Kant, site of the geographic peculiarity Curonian Spit, and center of amber commerce.
- Murmansk oblast — site of the deepest oil well in the world, immense mineral resources, and the northern-most ice-free port in Russia, home to a submarine fleet.
- Kuban (Krasnodar region) — location of medieval Tmutarakan, now home to many posh Black Sea resorts, formerly land granted by the Russian crown to Kuban cossacks.
- Rostov-on-Don oblast — site of the Tanais of antiquity, lands formerly held by the Scythians, Khazars, and Pechenegs, now home to heavy equipment manufacturing and rich coal deposits, birthplace of Anton Chekhov.
- Kirov oblast — the site of the peculiar Lake Shaitan, covered in little floating islands and artesian water spouts, center of folk crafts and modern manufacturing, and birthplace of the Vasnetsov family of painters.
- Nizhny Novgorod oblast — home of Khokhloma woodcraft, center of commerce and manufaturing, birthplace of inventor Ivan Kulibin, Soviet author Maxim Gorky, and celebrated air ace Valery Chkalov.
- Penza oblast — birthplace of the Russian circus, historic center of glass manufacturing, site of a cave monastery, the birthplace of the writer Kuprin and artiste Meyerhold, Lermontov's childhood home, and center of medical device research.
- Samara — where Gagarin's spacecraft was built and the Trans-Siberian Railroad crosses the Volga, manufacturing center, the inspiration for this Repin painting, the seat of Soviet government during WW2, and the location of Russia's largest festival devoted to "bard song."
- Tatarstan — where Lobachevsky taught, the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers, center of …, and home to a rich cultural heritage.
- Udmurtia — the birthplace of pelmeni, historic center of arms manufacturing and home of the Kalashnikov, "land of 1000 springs," and Tchaikovsky's birthplace.
- Ulyanovsk — birthplace of writer Karamzin, who introduced the long-suffering letter «ё» into the Russian alphabet, center of aeronautic engineering, precise border of the Volga and Sviyaga watersheds (they flow in parallel, but in opposite directions here), and the ironic birthplace of both Lenin and Kerensky.
- Magnitogorsk (and Chelyabinsk oblast) — location of Paris, RU, Berlin, RU, and Varna, RU (inspired by this one), thanks to being settled by well-traveled Cossacks, an iron-rich mountain that exerts a magnetic pull, and enormous metalworks and steel production plants, a former closed city thanks to its strategic importance. Sits astride the boundary line between Europe and Asia.
- Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (Yugra) — former hunting and pasture lands of nomadic Ugric tribes, now experiencing massive urbanization and population influx, in part due to the exploitation of extensive oil reserves. Also the location of the confluence of the rivers Ob and Irtysh, which form Russia's biggest watershed.
- Yamal peninsula — land of frozen mammoths, numerous reindeer and herders, productive fisheries, and rich deposits of natural gas. The regional capital Salekhard straddles the polar circle.
- Altai region — where Russia's first steam engine was built and the Kolyvan Vase was cut from local jasper, home of untouched wilderness, agriculture, and dairy production, and a rich nomadic prehistory.
- Krasnoyarsk region — Russia's geographical center, site of a giant hydroelectric dam that is depicted on the 10 Ru note and a bridge that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, location of plentiful coal and mineral deposits, the site of the Tunguska blast, and peculiar cliffs.
- Novosibirsk oblast — home to Russia's largest theater, third most populous city, and "Russia's educational and scientific center." "Everything's larger in Siberia." The Transsiberian Railroad crosses the Ob here.
- Omsk oblast — home to a punishing winter marathon and Kolchak's capital of White Russia. "But the real treasure of Omsk is its people." Center of construction, manufacturing, and oil production. Birthplace of Vrubel and Dostoevsky's "inspiration."
- Taimyr peninsula — more mammoths, World Heritage Site Putorana plateau and the closed city of Norilsk, land of 25,000 lakes, and more reindeer.
- Tomsk oblast — home of a rich woodcarving tradition (including a wooden ruble coin), land of Siberian pines and one of the world's largest swamps, abundant natural resources, "the Athens in Siberia," home to engineers who developed maglev trains and the Ostankino TV tower.
- Khakassia — home of the "Dead Sea in Siberia," rich deposits of copper, molybdenum, and aluminum, Russia's most powerful hydroelectric dam, and a rich prehistory.
- Kamchatka region — Russia's largest bears, Eurasia's highest active volcano and some 300 others, as well as numerous geysers, Russia's eastern-most time zone, regional capital founded by explorer Vitus Bering.