In a peasant village, Masha forgets to mind little Vanya. He is spirited away by magical birds to become Baba Yaga's next meal. On the journey to rescue her little brother, Masha helps three magical creatures, who in turn repay her for the kindness she showed them.Аленький цветочек | The Little Scarlet Flower (1952, 40 min.)
† The "geese-swans" of the title are an example of a verbal formula resembling the pillow words of Japanese poetry. Russian folktales abound in this kind of fixed expression.
(Horrible English dub with wretched video quality: 1 | 2 | 3)Сестрица Аленушка и братец Иванушка | Sister Alena and Brother Vanya† (1953, 11 min.)
Perhaps the crowning achievement of this era of Soviet animation; a version of the tale of the Beauty and the Beast retold by memoirist and slavophile Sergey Aksakov.
Two children lived in a hut at the edge of the woods: Alena and little Vanya. While Alena is raking hay, Vanya insensibly drinks from a magic puddle and turns into a little goat. Alena is espied by a handsome rider who asks for her hand come autumn. In the meantime, Vanya is lured away from home by a witch in the guise of a crow. The witch also drowns Alena when she comes in search of her brother. The hero returns to defeat the witch and save the siblings.Царевна-лягушка | The Frog Princess (1954, 39 min.)
† Dang those Russian hypocoristics and the difficulty in rendering them adequately in English!
A tale of a well-known type: Vasilisa the Beautiful is abducted by the sorceror Kaschei the Deathless. Spurned by Vasilisa, Kaschei turns her into a frog for three years and three days. Meanwhile, a king dispatches his three sons to find bride by loosing an arrow each. The arrow of Prince Ivan, the youngest, lands in Vasilisa's swamp. Keeping his word, the prince marries the frog. Erewhile, the king demands to see a display of the craft and grace of his sons' wives, whereupon the transfigured Vasilisa stuns the court. But the prince foolishly destroys the frog skin before Vasilisa's term of punishment is up, forcing him to confront Kaschei himself to rescue his beloved. Ivan encounters a wizard, finds several animal allies, and learns the secret of Kaschei's weakness from Baba Yaga.Соломенный бычок | The Straw Calf (1954, 10 min.)
(Based on a Ukrainian folktale. Note the Ukrainian-style peasant huts, Ukrainian instrumental accents, and clothing.)В некотором царстве | Once Upon a Time† (1957, 28 min.)
An old peasant makes a straw calf with tarred sides to entertain his granddaughter. A variety of forest animals get stuck to it. The peasant realeases the animals on condition that they stop making trouble.
(English captions: 1 | 2 | 3)PUSHKIN'S VERSE TALES
Scruffy Emile captures and releases a magical talking pike that grants him magical powers. Meanwhile, princess Marya is resisting her father's efforts to marry her off to a foreign fop. When Emile collides with the foreign prince on his horseless carriage and magically wishes the princess to fall in love with him, her father, the king, locks her up in a tower and demands that his top general bring the offender to justice. War breaks out, and Emile wins handily using his magic powers. The king abandons his throne.
† This is not a literal translation of the title, which is an example of a formulaic opening phrase common in Russian folklore: «В некотором царстве, в тридесятом государстве…», or "In a certain kingdom, in the one-score-and-tenth principality…"
(English verse translation presented in captions | English translation with parallel Russian here)Сказка о мертвой царевне и о семи богатырях | The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Warriors† (1951, 30 min.)
A verse tale about greed and just deserts, following the outlines of the similar Brothers Grimm story. Includes an animated rendition of the well-known prologue from Ruslan & Ludmila.
(English verse translation presented in captions | text of English translation here)Сказка о золотом петушке | The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1967, 30 min.)
A Snow White tale, minus the dwarfs. Pushkin's verse follows the Brothers Grimm version of the story.
† The actual word is богатырь, a kind of archetypal warrior-hero.
A tale of hubris, supernatural peril, and magical retribution (complete English translation of the poem here). Scholars identify in it clear influences of Washington Irving's "Legend of the Arabian Astrologer" (from his The Alhambra), Friedrich Klinger's Die Geschichte vom Goldenen Hahn, and other literary contemporaries.Конёк-Горбунок | The Humpbacked Foal† (1975, 71 min., remake of 1947 version)
The animation is notable for its unusual, starkly stylized appearance.
(English translation of the poem; English captions, blurry video: playlist missing part 1 of 8. If you like, a dubbed, edited version is available as Mikhail Barushnikov's Stories From My Childhood: Ivan and His Magic Pony.)Сказка о царе Салтане | The Tale of King Saltan (1984, 53 min., remake of B&W 1943 version)
Possibly of interest to fans of My Little Pony. A tale in verse by a contemporary of Pushkin's, it combines the motifs of the third son, who is an idiot, a magical animal servant, and tasks of supernatural difficulty. There is a long-standing controversy regarding the poem's authorship, attributed by some in whole or in part to Pushkin himself.
(Bonus: the 1947 version of same — compare the style of the animation.)
† The difficult-to-translate word is the diminutive of "horse," best rendered by the Spanish caballito.
(Blurrier video with simultaneous English subtitles: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | playlist)HUMOR AND REVISIONISM
This cartoon has everything: betrayal, wicked sisters, magical heroes, island fortresses, enchanted princesses in animal guises, insects, magic squirrels that gnaw on golden nuts with emerald kernels, merknights… no Hoombas.
The animation of this late effort doesn't have the same striking, gemlike quality. However, it does include the entire verse — all 900-odd lines (Russian with lovely illustrations, rather loose English translation).
(With surprisingly good English captions: 1 | 2)Летучий корабль | The Flying Ship (1979, 19 min.)
Bobby is lazy and would rather read wish-fulfillment fantasies than more practical books. He is transported by his school librarian to the magical land of folktales where he is berated by a king who paints fences around his own court. He escapes and meets the old woman with her broken basin from The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish and is ridiculed by the magic fish for his arrogance. Next, he is bored by a lecture on differential equations at a conference for magical princesses. Finally, he finds a pair of magical servants who will do everything for him — they will even enjoy the fruits of his wishes for him. Sick of being a failure, Bobby takes matters into his own hands and learns how to do stuff on his own.
The old king wants his daughter, the wilful princess Zabava, to marry the corpulent merchant Polkan. Zabava falls for the scruffy commoner Ivan and tells her father that she will only marry a man who can get her a flying ship. Ivan seeks the help of a depressed, lonely vodyanoy and a coven of musical witches. Polkan steals the ship Ivan builds, but only Ivan knows the magic words to make it fly.Ивашка из Дворца пионеров | Vanya from the Young Pioneers' Club† (1981, 9 min.)
Notable for multiple musical interludes sung by the well-known performers of the day with rockin' instrumentation.
† The witches' musical number is an example of chastushka, a kind of fast folksong made up of rhyming quatrains, usually humorous and usually sung by women.
Baba Yaga sends her magic geese to abduct a child for her upcoming birthday party with Kaschei the Deathless, Zmei Gorynych, and Hypnocat. The child turns out to be a plump, but resourceful scout who thwarts the witch's plans using his superior mastery of woodworking tools, magnets, and duct tape. No need for Masha to save him.Enjoy, and feel free to ask about anything that you might find unusual or unclear.
† The Russian title has "pioneers' palace," which is a kind of architecturally monumental children's recreation center (e.g.).
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