The Twelve Months, Lolo the Penguin, and other Soviet winter animation.
January 13, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Today is, of course, December 31st, the new year's eve. And tomorrow will be December 32nd, the day after — December 33rd, and so on, until someone brings me a basket of blooming snowdrops.

The Twelve Months (Soyuzmultfilm, 1956) is a classic of Soviet animation that is often televised around the turn of the year. Based on a play by Samuil Marshak (doodle), a founding figure in Soviet children's literature, it tells the tale of a meek peasant girl, her cruel stepmother, a brave old soldier, a fickle and lazy child queen, her schoolmaster, an impossible demand, and the twelve months themselves personified.
Двенадцать месяцев (~55 min.) — Here it is, in all its Soviet glory. Without subtitles.
What, you don't understand Russian? Never fear, because in 1980 Toei Animation(TVT) released a remake. Called 『森は生きている』 (The Woods Are Alive!), it remains largely faithful to the original material, although Toei's trademark filler (junk food for low income earners) stretches it out to 90 minutes.
『森は生きている』 (English dub) — 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Actually, that's not entirely correct. You can watch the Soviet original capably dubbed into German with parallel Russian text. And, apparently, it's been presented as a stage play in Japanese. And you can listen to the "tale of the twelve months" (『十二月物語』) in Japanese on a 45 RPM record from 1956. (There's also a Russian live-action film, but I'm not sure you'd be interested.)

But let's talk about Lolo. The penguin. In the mid-80s, Soyuzmultfilm partnered with Lifework Corporation (JP) and several other production companies to tell the story of a young Adélie penguin's life in Antarctica, his struggle for survival, and escape from captivity on a poacher's boat. The film debuted on January 1st, 1986, in the USSR, and appeared as a three-part OVA in Japan in 1988.
Приключения пингвиненка Лоло (78 min.) — "The Adventures of Little Penguin Lolo," Russian, no subtitles.
The film was localized for American family audiences by Utah-based Feature Films for Families, which changed all the names, removed all scenes of violence, completely rewrote the narration, and added a new synthesizer score with several song numbers. The result can be seen on YouTube:
The Adventures of Scamper the Penguin (76 min.) — edited for an all-ages audience. Music and songs by Bullets.
Luckily, there is a version of the original on YouTube with subtitles in hilarious broken English: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

In Japan, the cartoon was reasonably titled 『小さなペンギンロロの冒険』, but no clips seem to be available. I guess it's not very well-known.

But if you still want more Soviet winter holiday animation, here are in no particular order:
  • «Ну, погоди!» short #8 (the New Year's Eve one) — No subtitles necessary, but it might help to know who Ded Moroz and Snegurochka are.
  • «Дед Мороз и серый волк» (1978, 17 min.) — Subtitled in English. The big bad wolf steals Ded Moroz's toys. Swift retribution follows. The same actor provides the voice of this wolf and the one in Nu, Pogodi!
  • «Снеговик-почтовик» (1955, 18 min.) — No subtitles. Some children make a snowman and send him on a quest to find Ded Moroz and obtain a suitable tree. The snowman overcomes dangers untold and hardships unnumbered.
  • «Новогодняя ночь» (1948, 10 min.) — No subtitles, and it's all in verse. The young and enthusiastic New Year demands that Ded Moroz provide young Muscovites with a tree with golden pine cones. Ded Moroz must bargain with the Leshy, a woodland spirit, for the festive tree. The Leshy's magical wonders pale in the light of the wonders of Soviet technology.
  • «Когда зажигаются елки» (1950, 20 min.) — No subtitles. A brother and sister are rehearsing their musical number, but the boy can't get over his stage fright without a present from Ded Moroz. Alas, Ded Moroz loses their presents, and Bunny and Teddy have to find their way to the children with Snegurochka's help. Scored by Khachaturian's nephew.
  • «Дед Мороз и лето» (1969, 19 min.) — No subtitles. Ded Moroz is kind of old and doddering and has to hitchhike to deliver toys. He is driven to distraction by hearing about this "summer" thing and sets out to experience it for himself with the help of some screaming children.
  • «Серебряное копытце» (1977, 10 min.) — Subtitled in English. Not strictly speaking a story about the New Year, but I wanted you to see and hear it anyway. Based on a well-known tale by folklorist Pavel Bazhov (some pretty illustrations).
Enjoy, and best of luck in the new year.
posted by Nomyte (11 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
This is what Metafilter is for, I think. Well done!
posted by JHarris at 11:52 AM on January 13, 2013

This is wonderful; thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2013

This post is so going to break latest Google Chrome on OS X.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2013

So much for getting any work done today.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:25 PM on January 13, 2013

But... but... snowdrops bloom in winter!
posted by moonmilk at 12:57 PM on January 13, 2013

The Australian version sends a shy aboriginal girl on a walkabout to find a basket of bloomin' onions.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2013

Молодец! Bookmarking for when I have time to enjoy...
posted by languagehat at 3:25 PM on January 13, 2013

"Касатик" or "сокол мой родной" would also have been acceptable.
posted by Nomyte at 3:42 PM on January 13, 2013

Мужик что надо!
posted by languagehat at 4:32 PM on January 13, 2013

«Серебряное копытце» - I don't understand a word of it but so magical, so beautiful...
posted by jim in austin at 6:16 PM on January 13, 2013

I don't understand a word of it…

Turn on the English captions, if you so desire.
posted by Nomyte at 7:08 PM on January 13, 2013

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