Thursday, January 19, 2012

Evolution of Soviet Sports Cartoons

Russian sports cartoons seem to be intermittent for a while. The first, A Calm Forest Meadow, is in a very Disney-like mold, like a Silly Symphony in its forest setting and initially meandering pace before it goes into a happenstance sports game between rabbits and unsuspecting bears. The second, The Champion, is about a skiing race with an amateur dog who practices and ends up in a race with other youngster-like animals and a cocky wolf. Again, there's quite a bit of pre-action, still much like a Western cartoon, even if there's not a Western sports cartoon with such a focused plot. The third, Who is the First?, involves four young bicyclists who race through a forest, more event focused than the earlier cartoons, though the race meanders quite a bit. It's a more focused race.

Skip ahead five years after that, and there's Unusual Match where soft toys play against professional rugby wooden figurines. This one focuses on the home team aspect and in its longer time, about 20 minutes, shows how the participants practice and prepare for the game. In the sequel, the game is water polo. Both of these shorts show sophisticated competition, the first more than the second. In dramatic play and style, I think these show many strengths over co-director Boris Dezhkin's later solo films.

The skiing film isn't really a sports cartoon, it just has prototypes to the characters in Shaybu! Shaybu!, the next hockey film. Shaybu! Shaybu! is a hockey cartoon. It's about two teams, both human players this time, a blue home team and a red visiting team of pushy horseplayers, Dezhkin's usual formula. The main character is the person who apparently tends the rink where the game is played. It's an atmospheric trip through the game, the pre-game, the reactions of the crowd, and a comic while tense version of the game itself.

From what I can tell, few of the characters have any identities beyond what's shown on screen, most of them appearing to be nameless. There's the generic forest animals in the early cartoons. After that, it's dolls and then people with no names. There's nameless major characters in US sports cartoons as well, but they seem to flow in reverse, nameless knockoffs of well known characters. This happens frequently in Goofy cartoons.

Does seeing these give you any ideas for future sports animations? I'd like to see some rocket races to Mars, or any number of things so long as they're good with real, dynamic competition.


MultiKoteika said...

Hi. I saw your comment on about translating Fedor Hitruk's book and lerning language... I'm russian and I try to learn english better. I'd offer a mutual support, if you would want?

GW said...

That sounds like a great idea. I'd like to do that when I can in my free time.

MultiKoteika said...

Good. Thank you. You may write me at, when you want.