Soviet Animations: The Mystery of the Third Planet (1981), The Golden Antelope (1954) & Brothers Lu (1953)

I. The Mystery of the Third Planet (1981)

Based on a book Alice’s Travel by Kir Bulychev, The Mystery of the Third Planet was directed by Roman Kachanov and tells of the interplanetary travel of one spacecraft on board of which there are: a ten year-old girl Alice, her father biologist Professor Seleznev and their friend mechanic-pilot Captain Green. Their goal is to collect some rare animals from other planets to take them back to Earth, but they become unwittingly entangled in the web of machinations perpetuated by one evil person who randomly kills off rare birds-chatterboxes on other planets. At the heart of this mystery is also the disappearance of two legendary Captains, Kim and Buran.

The trio of adventurers in this story seem to complement each other perfectly: young and carefree Alice can be said to represent optimism, hope and “the future”; her father Professor stands for objectivity and neutrality, as well as “the present”; and the mechanic Green is the very definition of pessimism, and, arguably, “the past” (i.e. he is the most cautious person from the trio of friends and, undoubtedly, learnt that cautiousness from past mistakes). In their journey to collect rare animals and solve the mystery of the Captains, our heroes also tour the Two Captains planet and save a colony of robots from “an epidemic”. Humour and wit abound in this animation that has plenty of eccentric characters, the most memorable of whom is probably Gromozeka, whose forms were allegedly inspired by a tin can. French animation Fantastic Planet (1973) and Yellow Submarine (1968) may have provided a starting point or some influence on the Russian animators too who came up with some vivid lifeforms existing on other planets. Thus, apart from birds-chatterboxes that constantly repeat what they have heard before, we are also introduced to invisible fish, flying cows, flowers-mirrors and entities that take the form of the very last thing they “saw”. In sum, there is an Alice in Wonderland wonder permeating this film, and the memorable soundtrack only enhances the viewing experience.

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