The Soviet Union is famous for a number of achievements. Sputnik. MIR. Winnie the Pooh.
It’s a little known fact about the Soviet Union, but they actually had quite a rich history of cartoons and other forms of animation, from stop-motion puppets to lovingly drawn animated films beloved by hundreds of millions all over the world. Well, inside Russia, anyway. Plus a few other formerly Soviet states.
Most people outside the former USSR have absolutely no idea these cartoons exist. They’d believe it, of course, but they’ve most likely never seen them and simply aren’t aware of them at all. Which is why I take the opportunity at every possible juncture to inform people that the Soviet Union made their own version of Winnie the Pooh. And it’s absolutely spectacular.
Before you get all fussy and shout about the Disney version being the “correct” one, remember that Winnie the Pooh was originally a British creation, dreamed up way back in the 1920s by an English father telling stories to his kid. So the Disney version isn’t any more legitimate than the Soviet version, and there was a puppet show on TV before Disney got a hold of it anyway.
And besides, the Russian version is absolutely amazing.
The storyline is pretty similar, so you’ll recognize plenty of beloved characters. Eeyore is pretty familiar:
And here’s Owl:
But Rabbit looks a little different:
Discovering the Russian Winnie the Pooh
Before visiting Russia, I thought I’d brush up on my Russian language skills (I say “skills” in the loosest sense of the term) by watching Russian cartoons. I figured watching cartoons would be a good way to practice the language, since kids’ cartoons only use basic words and slow speech to make it easier for kids who are still learning.
This plan failed.
I present to you: The glorious, the magnificent, and the utterly bewildering Vinni Puh, the Russian version of Winnie the Pooh:
Needless to say, that rapid-fire a cappella song of his threw me off in more ways than one. Linguistically, of course, but also mentally and emotionally. How had I not seen this before!?!?!
The adorable little bear, the simplistically rendered backgrounds, the crazily fun theme song of his own devising…I just can’t get enough.
And there’s more:
Aaaaaand even more:
I was so thoroughly happy I found this. It didn’t help my Russian abilities at all (though eventually finding the subtitled versions was helpful), but I have since informed each and every person who mentions the topic of Russia or the Soviet Union or Winnie the Pooh. If you’ve never been in a hostel with a squadron of masculine 20-somethings hunched over a laptop watching a Russian children’s cartoon, well then, come follow me on my adventures and you’ll see it daily. And nightly. And often.
Vinni Puh and friends, but no Tigger
It might distress you a bit to learn there’s no Tigger. The adaptation was made for the original book, and Tigger wasn’t introduced until the sequel. They could have done it, of course; the book was about 40 years old by then, as the cartoon was released in 1969, but oh well. Most of the other characters you’ve come to know and love are there. Eeyore is pretty funny.
But for me, this is the greatest thing ever. I actually can’t remember back to my childhood days whether I was a big Winnie the Pooh junkie or not, so I can’t really compare this to any fond memories from my early years, but I’m certainly a fan of both. As far as kids’ movies go, they’re both lots of fun. The Russian Winnie the Pooh appears to have been made for a slightly younger audience, but I guess that just means my inner child is incredibly childish. And I have no shame.