How the Hedgehog and the Bear-Cub Changed the Sky (Как Ёжик и Медвежонок меняли небо, 1985) by Natalya Marchenkova

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How the Hedgehog and the Bear-Cub Changed the Sky
Как Ёжик и Медвежонок меняли небо
Як Їжачок та Ведмежа міняли небо
Kak Yozhik i Medvezhonok menyali nebo (ru)
Yak Yizhachok ta Vedmezha minyaly nebo (uk)
De cómo el erizo y el osezno cambiaron el cielo (es)
Kuidas siilike ja karupoeg taevast vahetasid (et)
Comment le petit hérisson et l'ourson changeaient le ciel (fr)

Year 1985
Director(s) Marchenkova Natalya
Studio(s) Kievnauchfilm
Language(s) Russian
Genre(s) Comedy
Folklore & myth (Rus./East Slavic)
Literature (Rus./East Slavic)
Animation Type(s)  Cutout
Drawn (cel)
Length 00:10:00
Wordiness 2.76 profile Ru, En
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In an old attic, Bear and Hedgehog discover a picture of the sky. Unfolding it, they find themselves in a hot summer, then in a rainy autumn, then in a frosty winter, and in the mix they meet the characters of various fairy tales. A dreamy and phantasmagorical story about the search for harmony, adapted from the story by Sergey Kozlov.

This was the directorial debut of Natalya Marchenkova, who'd been working as an animator for 20 years already by this point, often in the films of her husband, director David Cherkasskiy.

The original story can be read here (3rd story), although the film departs from it significantly. There are many cameo appearances from East Slavic folk tales as well as other stories that were well-known to Soviet children at the time.

For example (characters in square brackets still need to be identified):

2:53 - [man carrying heavy chest through desert, brigands on flying carpet following him]
2:59 - Alyonushka and her brother Ivanushka (who turns into a little goat after drinking from a puddle formed by a goat hoof-print)
3:19 - the genie of the magic lamp
3:51 - the frog traveler from the 1887 story by V.M. Garshin
3:58 - Baba Yaga's hut on chicken legs
4:08 - Baba Yaga
4:14, 5:39 - Doctor Aybolit (a Soviet character featured in poems, books and cartoons inspired by Dr. Doolittle)
4:39 - Father Frost / King Winter / Santa Claus
4:55 - [the Snow Queen?]
5:03 - [the (personification of the) New Year? e.g. like in this 1945 cartoon]
5:06 - the wolf trying to fish with his tail (from "The Wolf and the Fox")
5:14 - Zmey Gorynych (the three-headed dragon)
5:51 - Grandpa Mazay and his hares (from A. Nekrasov's 1881 poem)
5:54 - Three wise men of Gotham - from the short English folk poem well-known in Russian thanks to Samuil Marshak's translation
6:00 - Tsar Saltan and his mother, from Pushkin's famous verse novel
6:15 - Thumbelina and the little bird who saves her
6:43 - the Pied Piper of Hamelin and his rats

The Russian and Ukrainian-language versions of the film were made at the same time. The first video above is the Ukrainian-language version (which has been restored and has a nicer image), while the second one is the Russian-language version. The restoration was done by the laboratory of the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center in 2021-2022 from 35mm film material preserved in its collection (source).




I think this was a very strong beginning to Marchenkova's directing career. It's has lots of variety and changes in mood, not to mention animation techniques and visual styles, and it already seems to have most of the elements that she would draw from in one way or another in her subsequent films. It feels both pretty grounded (in how carefully the attic and the two character's interactions are shown) - a bit like Yuriy Norshteyn's films - as well as phantasmagorically inventive - a bit like Robert Saakyants' films.

The only real downside I see is that it rather relies for its humour on the viewer being familiar with the characters and stories being visually referenced, and that will only be true for those above a certain age within the (former) Soviet cultural sphere. Younger children will not have been exposed to the stories yet, while in other places even older viewers wouldn't know them. In North America, for example, some of the stories are also fairly well known, at least by reputation (the genie and flying carpet, Baba Yaga and her hut, Santa Claus, the Pied Piper, Zmey Gorynych) but others aren't well-known at all (Alyonushka and her brother, the frog traveler, Doctor Aybolit, Grandpa Mazay, the 3 wise men, Tsar Saltan) - I'm not quite sure about the wolf fishing with his tail or about Thumbelina.


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