The Best Loved Russian and Soviet Cartoons You Need To Watch

Cheburashka from “Gena the Crocodile”, 1971
Cheburashka from “Gena the Crocodile”, 1971 | © Soyuzmultfilm
Dasha Fomina

Traditions of Russian animation go back to the USSR, where cartoons were turned into a cultural phenomenon and often reflected public mood as well as serving their entertainment purpose. Here are some of the best examples of Soviet and Russian animation.

Vinni Pukh (Винни Пух)

The first Russian animated film character to get a personal Buzzfeed list, Vinni Pukh is a Soviet take on Winnie the Pooh. Three cartoons about the adorable bear hit Soviet theatres in the late 1960s and immediately became a great hit with adults and kids alike. Surrounded by a group of charming sidekicks, Pukh sets off on a quest for honey, gets stuck in a rabbit hole and finds the donkey’s tail all while posing some seriously existential questions and singing the catchiest songs in the history of Soviet animation.

Well, Just You Wait! (Ну погоди!)

The Soviet version of Tom and Jerry, you don’t have to know any Russian to enjoy, Well, Just You Wait! is a slapstick classic with the chain-smoker Wolf and the childlike Hare instead of a cat and a mouse. The plot of the best-known Soviet cartoon is unapologetically simple: the smoking, drinking and flared-jeans-wearing Wolf is trying to catch the model Soviet teenager – Hare, only to end up beaten, miserable and wearing nothing but his pink boxers.

The Mystery of the Third Planet (Тайна третьей планеты)

Based on the kids science fiction series by Kir Bulychev, The Mystery of the Third Planet tells us about Alisa, a 10-year-old girl living in the robotic communist future. A spine chilling detective story full of complex characters, space pirates, and aliens. Adults will probably get more out of it although the kids are sure to love the colorful animation and catchphrases.

The Bremen Town Musicians (Бременские Музыканты)

Catchy rock music, flared pants, very happening mini-dresses and songs about freedom are not what you’d expect from a 1969 Soviet cartoon. Still, this classic of Soviet animation was revolutionary in many ways, employing lots of apparently Western cultural references, that were banned in the USSR at the time. To this day the two animated episodes of The Bremen Town Musicians are some of the best-known and loved cartoons of the Soviet era.

Hedgehog in the Fog (Ежик в тумане)

Created in 1975 by visionary Russian animator Yury Norshtein, this classic of world animation feels more relevant than ever. What at first seems to be a simple story about a hedgehog getting lost in the fog on the way to visit his bear friend, turns out to be a visually stunning melancholic meditation on the nature of life, death and friendship.

Three from Prostokvashino (Трое из Простоквашино)

This 1978 cartoon follows the story of a six-year-old Fyodor, leaving home after his parents refuse to keep a talking cat, he has found in the street. Mature beyond his years, Fyodor travels travels, meets a talking dog and together with the dog and the cat sets up a home and has some amazing adventures.

Gena the Crocodile (Крокодил Гена)

Arguably the sweetest Soviet cartoon about friendship Gena the Crocodile is a cult animation full of charismatic characters and songs every Russian knows. Gena the Crocodile has a steady job as a crocodile at the zoo, but his life changes when he meets Cheburashka, an animal unknown to science, looking like a cross between a bear and a monkey. Cheburashka, who has arrived in the Soviet Union in a box of oranges, can’t really fit in anywhere and is in a constant search for friends. It’s a perfect movie to watch with your kids, since even Gena’s nemesis is incredibly likeable and Cheburashka is just the cutest little thing.

Masha and the Bear (Маша и Медведь)

Loosely based on a Russian folk tale of the same name, this computer-animated television show is set in modern Russia. Launched in 2009 the cartoon grew to be a great success in Russia and abroad. Every six-minute episode follows adventures of the show’s main characters: a tom-boyish mischievous Masha and her bear friend, a retired circus entertainer who does his best to keep her safe.

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