January 8th, 2009

drawing, old man

Russian Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons translated

UPDATED 2021-06-06 with links to working versions on animatsiya.net.

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)

Click here to watch on animatsiya.net.

"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)

Click here to watch on animatsiya.net.

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

Click here to watch on animatsiya.net.

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".