Russian* Winter Animations

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and I would like to wish all my readers and followers a very Happy New Year! It is that time of the year when one would like to come home, make a hot cocoa, switch on the TV and cosily tuck themselves under a duvet. Then, what better way to spend winter holidays than by watching some wonderful winter-themed animations? Below are three classic Russian-language animations from the Soyuzmultfilm Studio.

Snegurochka Poster2

I. Snegurochka (The Snow-Maiden) [1952]

Drawn from the Russian folklore and based on the opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (previously also based on the play (1873) by Alexander Ostrovsky), this is the tale of Snegurochka or the Snow-Maiden, the daughter of Spring Beauty and Grandfather Frost. The Snow-Maiden, who has to shun direct sunshine because her natural abode is winter and frost, decides that she wants to spend some time in the company of humans, and is adopted by Bobyl-Bakula and his wife. What follows is the Snow Maiden’s life in a rural village among people there, and one can glimpse from that Russian traditions as the tale of one stunning beauty unsettling the whole village unfolds. The Snow-Maiden meets Lel, a youth with a talent for music, and is wooed to marriage by a reckless man Mizgir, previously a fiance of a local girl Kupava. The animation stands out because of its beauty and music (magnificent vocals). Most elements of this animation-opera are exquisitely drawn, especially the background. The story is sad, but also rather moving as it tells of the Snow-Maiden’s desire to experience/feel love at whatever cost; see the animation here

12 months poster

II. The Twelve Months [1956]

The Twelve Months” is a heart-warming animation in which a girl (a step-daughter) is sent to the woods in winter to gather snowdrops, even though these flowers only bloom in April. That way, her stepmother desires to receive a basketful of gold promised to anyone who will manage to find and collect snowdrops in winter. The order is given by a capricious young Queen, whose arrogance and whimsiness cause much chaos in her palace. Little people now that the step-daughter, who is a kind and good person, managed to befriend the Twelve Months brothers in the woods, and they agree to change the order of their appearance on the calendar for one hour so that spring can come early and our heroine can collect her snowdrops. Problems arise when the Queen demands more snowdrops. “The Twelve Months” is an entertaining and wonderfully-drawn animation with an important message at its centre, for example, not to meddle with the nature’s clock and be respectful and considerate even to people below one’s social standing. It is also an animation which celebrates the seasons, and showcases not only beautiful winter landscapes, but also interesting palace activities; see the animation here.

the snow queen poster

III. The Snow Queen [1957]

Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, this simple animation is lively and memorable. Narrated by Ole Lukøje, the story is about Gerda and Kai – two children devoted to each other when Kai gets a glass splinter lodged in his eye and heart when confronting the Snow Queen through the window. Kai’s personality changes for the worse, and soon after the Snow Queen claims him as her own by abducting him. Gerda does not give up on Kai and their tender friendship, and sets out on a dangerous journey to free him from the clutches of the Snow Queen. The animation is nicely-drawn, and the characters stand out in particular. The Snow Queen is a mysterious and fascinating character, and the Little Robber Girl nearly steals the whole show with her vivid displays of personality and character development. The magical narrative and the important message to never give up on one’s loved one are some of the reason to seek out this animation. Also, unlike Disney’s “Frozen” (2013), the plot of “The Snow Queen” provides greater insight and atmosphere, and in that, as well as in drawing, it reminds of another animation from France loosely based on Andersen’s fairy-tale “The King & the Mockingbird(1980); see “The Snow Queen” animation here.

Check out also these wonderful short animations – “Little Silver Hoof“, based on a fairy tale by Pavel Bazhov (previously on the Siberian folklore), and “The Winter Tale“.

*I call them Russian, even though, strictly speaking, the animations were produced in the USSR, just to emphasise their Russian cultural heritage and language. 

12 thoughts on “Russian* Winter Animations

  1. I haven’t seen any Russian animation before. That could be something to try. I’ve seen animated works from America, Japan, France, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, and even Nigeria, but not Russia. That Snow Queen adaptation would be a perfect idea for an “Alternate Disney Universe” goal I have for this year. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great goal you have – “Alternate Disney Universe”! I focused on winter animations above, but other good classic Soviet animations are also The Bremen Town Musicians (1969), Thumbelina (1964) and The Scarlet Flower (1952).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I got the idea after a conversation with Winst0lf after telling him about the Chinese Mulan live-action remake that came out in the late 00s. It would be a fun idea by checking out movies or series based on the same stories that Disney adapted. There’s even an anime version of The Snow Queen that Osamu Dezaki directed in the 00s, too! Thanks for the recommendations.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I had no idea that there was a Chinese Mulan live-action in the 2000s! Interesting! I will certainly be very interested in following this goal of yours through the year. Disney simply had the name, the reputation and the money to make very successful adaptations of animations and fairy-tales. Some were excellent (largely those made a long time ago now), but I definitely agree that that also inevitably means that others, which might have been just as good, remain underrated, underseen and even forgotten.

          Snow Queen by Osamu Dezaki sounds good, and that reminds me of the animated adaptation Pinocchio directed by Seitaro Hara. I watched it my childhood over and over again. It had its great moments, but I also have to confess that, at that young age, its vision traumatised me too! lol

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, and it was the first Chinese movie I reviewed on Iridium Eye. The director intentionally made it not to be like the Disney movie. The filmmakers wanted it to have more cultural accuracy which makes a lot of sense. It was a good watch, but other critics REALLY loved this film which I can see why. I’m curious to see other takes on different stories. Another alternate Disney movie I saw was A Tree of Palme which was an avant-garde/sci-fi anime take on Pinocchio of all things.

            I’ve seen a few episodes, but it is a trek since it’s 52 episodes long. I didn’t know there was a different anime move about that story!

            Liked by 1 person

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