3 Russian “Fairy Tale” Animations

Previously I made this list where I talked about some Russian winter animations, so today I thought I would talk about other examples from the Russian/Soviet animation history. The three animations below were all made by the Soyuzmultfilm Studio between 1947 and 1964, and are good examples of animations made for children in the USSR that are based on fairy tales.

I. The Scarlet Flower [1952]

This animation is based on a story of 1858 by Sergei Aksakov who, in turn, re-worked the tale of Beauty and the Beast . In The Scarlet Flower, three daughters of one wealthy merchant request from their father overseas presents. The eldest daughter wants a diamond tiara, the middle daughter – a mirror that only shows the beauty of a person looking in it, and the youngest, Nastenka, says that she wants the Scarlet Flower. The father gets the presents for his two daughters in his travels, and the present for Nastenka he picks in the surroundings of one strange, enchanted castle. The hidden master of the castle is so angry at the father for taking the Scarlet Flower that he demands that the father sends one of his daughters to him.

The Scarlet Flower is a beautiful animation with amazing vocals (one of the songs of Nastenka is sung by Victoria Ivanova (1924 – 2002), one of the USSR’s leading voices at that time). Even though the presentation of the beast leaves much to be desired, the animation still remains one of the best Soyuzmultfilm ever produced. The director of The Scarlet Flower was also Lev Atamanov (1905 – 1981) who is known for his animation of 1954 The Golden Antelope. You can see The Scarlet Flower here.

II. The Little Humpbacked Horse [1947]

The Little Humpbacked Horse is based on a folk tale written in verse by Pyotr Yershov in the 1830s (although some now dispute his authorship). This almost one hour-long animation tells of Ivan the Fool, a very common character in Slavic folklore, who is gifted with two beautiful horses and one little humpbacked horse that becomes his friend. Ivan and the horse’s adventures begin when Ivan is appointed to be the head of Tsar’s stables. He is tasked by the Tsar to do the seemingly impossible tasks, such as procuring very rare animals and people, and, amazingly, Ivan does so with ease because the hunchback horse helps him. His adversary becomes the Tsar’s ex-advisory man.

The animation has a lot to tell about the value of friendship and the dangers of avarice. The presentation of two wonder-horses gifted to Ivan, as well the Fire-Birds, is stunning, and the brilliant music and the final task set by the Tsar to Ivan are very memorable. You can see the dubbed version of The Little Humpbacked Horse here.

III. Thumbelina [1964]

Thumbelina is based on a fairy tale of 1835 by Hans Christian Andersen. In this story, Thumbelina, a very tiny girl, has to fend for herself in a brutal environment after being stolen from her home. A frog, a beetle and a mole all become her potential marriage suitors, and she just about escapes them all. Then, Thumbelina’s kindness to a wounded swallow finally gives her a chance at happiness.

The director of Thumbelina was famous Soviet animator Leonid Amalrik (1905 – 1997) who is best known for his animations Magic Shop [1953] and Grey Neck [1948]. Thumbelina may be a rather simplistic-looking animation, but it also has a beautiful choice of music, and both humour and a heart, teaching children important lessons about kindness and keeping faith no matter what.

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