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Animatsiya in English

Russian Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons translated

Russian Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons translated

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drawing, old man
All of the films from the series directed by Fyodor Khitruk have now been translated into English.

"Winnie-the-Pooh" (1969) (translated by me; alternate translation by 0xDD is here and by IlyaBelkin here)

"Winnie-the-Pooh Goes Visiting" (1971) (translated by "Artem, Lesha & Co."; comments can be sent to vinni.puhi at gmail dot com; alternate translation by 0xDD is here, and by IlyaBelkin here)

"Winnie-the-Pooh and the Day of Worries" (1972) (translated by 0xDD aka. DigitalDude; alternate translation by IlyaBelkin is here)

P.S. It is possible to learn how to download higher-quality mp4 versions of Youtube videos here, or just use this website.

All of these films are classics beloved by Russian children and adults. I have to say that my personal favourite episode is the second. Pooh comes off as such a wonderfully selfish ass.

Here's a little segment that I translated from Fyodor Khitruk's recently-released Russian-language two-volume book The Profession of Animation (it was sent to me by mail, along with Norshteyn's book, by his grandson Fyodor Khitruk Jr., who is also the webmaster of Animator.ru):

The Profession of Animation (pg. 190-192, vol. 1)

 Of course, literature serves as a mighty source of ideas. It is much easier to work with an existing creation, especially with a creation that has passed the test of time. It is already well-known what precisely in that creation so excites and attracts audiences. The job at hand then becomes attempting to transfer these particular qualities into another language.
 So it was with me with "Winnie-the-Pooh". With "Winnie-the-Pooh" we... well, not we, but me personally. I don't much like using the word "me", because I think that the creation of films is, at least in my experience, after all a collective art. But I really did dream about adapting this work for a long time; although that's not the right word either. This was, again, like something spinning through the subconscious part of my brain: "Wouldn't it be nice to do Winnie-the-Pooh". At that time, I had not yet seen the Disney film; maybe if I had seen it, I would not have made my own. What is the sense in repeating? Although I must tell you that I am not very satisfied with the Disney film; and also, in hindsight, I can directly relate to you the words of the creator of that American film - Wolfgang Reitherman. He also was not very satisfied with his own "Winnie-the-Pooh".
 I was afraid to start working on my dream precisely because each line of that book was precious to me. I had read it first in English; it was a present that I was given. Only later did I get to know Zakhoder's translation. A wonderful translation! Perhaps this is not even a translation, but a second version; so interestingly did he do it. I very much wanted to start on a film, but I was afraid. It sometimes happens that you very much treasure the material and are afraid to ruin it, to do it wrong.
 First of all, one had to decide on a visual direction, on the look of these characters. I very much wanted to make them as they are in the original book. I don't remember the last name of the artist. Shepard, I think. I explored this Winnie-the-Pooh for literally several years and thought about how it could be possible to transfer all of the untransferable beauty of the language into another form; for all of that charm, that attractiveness, to flow not from the literary material, not from the text, but from the image, from the behaviour of these characters. For example, there are certain places there: "One time, Winnie-the-Pooh, the donkey Eeyore and Piglet were sitting on the porch of the house and listening to what Winnie-the-Pooh was saying" [note: I don't know the original English version of this sentence. Can anyone find it?]. This is a kind of naive absurdity. This naive absurdity contains its own charm; if you like, its own wisdom, its own integrity. There are many such moments there. When I befriended the artist Zuykov in our work on "Film, Film, Film", and after we also made a small sequence for Ryazanov, I, like some character in a Ryazanov film, began to think: "Isn't it time for us to have a go at Milne?" And we had a go; we actually did try to do it.
 At first we tried to draw Winnie-the-Pooh. Simply to see if it worked or not. Here he was, sitting in a chair. At first nothing came of it; or rather, something quite interesting came of it, maybe even more interesting that what is currently in the film, but that Winnie-the-Pooh that we thought up required an unbelievable amount of extremely complex work. Because there were such nuances there, that he had to be made of little traits separated into tens of thousands of drawings - a task that was beyond our abilities. Well, somehow we finally found a construction for him. In contrast, work on the screenplay went smoothly and without incident, because the schema was already there, the dialogue was already there, the scenes were practically almost there; we only had to pack them in, so that they would be comfortable to watch.
 The first thing that we did was to remove Robin. All of his actions were spread out among the other characters. And we did the right thing, because he only underlined that there was a person on one side and animals or toys on the other. For us this was a single world - the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Populated neither by animals nor by people, but by characters dear and beloved to us. I'm saying this because, on the one hand, adapting a literary work is always very risky; especially such, and I won't hesitate to use this word, genial works as, let's say, "Alice in Wonderland" or "Winnie-the-Pooh". One needs to gather a lot of courage and pack a lot of baggage in order to have a go at, for example, Tolstoy. Some people have the courage, but this is a big risk. We took that risk, and what was normally the most difficult thing for me - the exposition and development of a story, in other words the screenplay - was in this case amazingly easy. I must say that the first time when I did not curse myself after finishing a film was after my work on "Winnie-the-Pooh".
  • Now that I know they started with Milne's original, I wonder to what extent the weird detached slightly psychotic humor of the Russian version flows directly from the original English book and to what extent it's just innate to the language. "Но если я выстрелю в шарик, он испортится!" - "А если ты не выстрелишь, тогда испорчусь я!" Stellar.

    I must object to "кричалки" and "вопилки" being rendered "cry-poems" - I mean, what? There's just no level on which the word "poem," with everything it connotes and denotes, correlates with а "кричалка."

    And there's a lot of little absurd things that sort of get smoothed out into mere exaggerations in the translation. "Высокий Превысокий Дуб" - the charm of those words is that "Превысокий" is not a word you are ever likely to see as part of an actual name of an object or place; it's inherently a figure of speech and not writing, which is why the sign is funny. "Very Tall Oak" sounds like a slightly cartoonier "Long Island." It ought to be "Exceedingly Tall Oak" or "Really Rather Tall Oak" or "Pointlessly Tall Oak."

    And the poem he recites while falling from the oak the first time... For me, the main point of it was always that it got hilariously punctuated by him whacking his head on the branches. The poem that gets rendered into English doesn't lend itself to that.

    And there's other details of the sort, but I guess I'm nitpicking. Still, it's great to have these. Now I can finally share them with my Anglo friends. :)
    • I completely agree with you about the oak. If Youtube allowed editing a video after one uploaded it, I would change that line. Regarding "cry-poems", I know it's bad, but I did not find anything better. i.e. a "yeller" in English has a different meaning, that of a person who yells a lot. 0xDD used "yellers" in his translation, and his translation translated the "oak" sign better. I still think that my ep. 1 translation is better for the most part, though; there are no grammatical errors and it flows better for native English speakers, though I realize that my opinion is hardly impartial here. But 0xDD's translation of episode 3 is quite good, an improvement over his first one!

      And the ep. 2 translation by the vinnipuhi group is brilliant, only marred by the subtitles sometimes appearing too quickly to read the text.

      As for the poem that Pooh recites falling from the oak, I disagree with you there... I think that was one of the better parts of my translation. But again, my opinion is hardly impartial. :p
      • With regards to poems - I agree, it's not "yeller." I think it's "screamies, howlies, huffies" - that sort of thing. I mean, they aren't exactly common Russian words either. I'd even say "scream-alongs" and "howl-alongs", but that's too many syllables.

        Your translation and his have different strengths: he sticks closer to the original text, but obviously you have a far better grasp of the English grammar.

        As for vinni-puhi - the cartoon hasn't even started yet, and I've already spotted a whopper. "Пошел в гости а попал в безвыходное положение" is emphatically NOT "went visiting but ended up in a predicament." That ruins the whole wordplay. They should understand this - most Schtirlitz jokes are built around very similar syllepses! The point is to have similar verbs of action get distributed over grammatically different part of speech - that's the joke. So he can't have gone "visiting" - he went "to a friend's house" but ended up "in a predicament." i.e., he went to some place, but ended up someplace different - except obviously a predicament isn't a geographic place.
    • (no subject) -
      • Oh yes, it's still funny - it's just that these cartoons are so sparsely worded that one should conserve all possible levels of meaning. So my approach to it would be rather surgical - carefully analyze what precisely is humorous about each phrase and try to replicate the joke in English.

        I wonder what that oak was called in the original Milne... Then again, does it even matter? We are not trying to re-create Milne, after all, but Zahoder's original Russian take on Milne...

        "Ridiculously" is good, as is "awfully" or just plain "extremely." I personally like "pointlessly", but that adds a layer of judgement not present in the original. "Rather Tall Oak" is also good, because it's very verbal and not as easy to misread as "Quite Tall Oak."
        • Sorry about that, I tried to edit my post by deleting it and reposting it. So the order is all broken up now.

          I actually did use Milne's original text for reference, but I don't think I found anything for the oak. Actually, Milne's text was mostly unsuitable for the film because it was too... well, English. English is the best language to be wordy in, and that's just what Milne's Pooh stories are. In Russian, the text is less aristocratic and more intuitive.

          I'm not really sure that I'm using the right words here, but I can't think of any better ones right now.

          The only element of Milne that really made it into my translation unchanged is Pooh saying "isn't it fine?" as he's floating up with the balloon. That has a very different tone than the Russian version of that sentence.
          • Yeah, I've always marveled at a certain... snarkiness of Winnie the Pooh. It's also buttressed by visual clues. Pooh behaves like a bastard and he *looks* like one, not making eye contact, dominating everyone's space, and in general being a sort of comical jerk. The visit to Rabbit is just priceless: they both plainly dislike each other's company, and poor Piglet, who really does seem nice, if a bit dizzy, completely misses all the subtext.

            I do think there's a way for English to be made precise, not in the same way Russian is precise, but similarly enough. Trouble is, then it usually starts sounding overly sophisticated and unsuited for a children's book. My friends and I used to run around our playground back in Moscow calling each other "hybrid of a cucumber with a dandelion" - sounded like a dandy insult to us, but not exactly ripe for transplant into the soil of American playgrounds. There are just more distinct words in Russian that are still in constant daily use. Pooh favorite "подкрепиться" has a close analogue in English - "fortify oneself" - but that's too long and requires an indirect object - fortify yourself with what? The closest intransitive analogue is "refuel" but that's not suited to Pooh's universe.
            • He is indeed a bit of an ass, but what makes him endearing is that he's a fallible ass who is more cunning than he is smart. And of course, he also has positive qualities, besides his artistic bent; i.e. he had no obligation to do anything for Eeyore in episode 3, but decided to anyway. Him being a bit of an ass actually gave him an advantage in dealing with Owl, who is not exactly Mrs. Accommodation herself (notice how he put he foot in the door when she was about to close it). Like with Rabbit, a good deal of Pooh's conversation with Owl happens under the surface.
    • Hmm, I guess you're right. But it's still somewhat funny, even with the current wording. The vinnipuhi translation has a number of little flaws, most importantly the bad timing of the subtitles, but I think that the underlying text is quite strong. Though it certainly takes some liberties with the translation in places.

      I found a way to "fix" subtitles, by the way, by adding an annotation that covers them. So I replaced "Very High Oak" with "Ridiculously Tall Oak", which is maybe a little better, yes?
  • In fact, I think you did a good job on the translation (even if you had to translate things back into English which were just invented by Zakhoder and were not in Milne's original novels).

    Also great job on the songs.
  • I forgot to mention

    I'll link to this page in my article on Vinni-Pukh by way of thanks.
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