Fyodor Khitruk, 1917-2012
Fyodor Khitruk died today. He was the leading Soviet animator from about the 1960s to until the Soviet Union ended in 1991. I met him briefly at the 1989 International Festival of Animation here in Los Angeles. He had brought the leading animators from each of the 15 Soviet republics to L.A. with him. They stood around muttering something like, "What are we doing in America?" "I don't know, but Fyodor said that we had to come."
I remember that he was an extremely imposing personality, probably the most dynamic person at the festival even though he was a dumpy old man. He was the sort of man who dominated a crowd even when he was just standing around doing nothing.
Khitruk was born just before the Russian Revolution, so he lived through the entire Soviet era. His animation tended to be the "arty" style that won awards but lost money because it was too intellectual. The Soviet government subsidized that sort of thing in the name of "we are not profit-oriented capitalists", but when the Soviet Union ended and the new Russian government was profit oriented, Khitruk could not get his films funded any more because they were not commercial. He mostly taught animation at the Moscow Academy since then.
He was not known for anthropomorphic characters, but he made very cute films of three Winnie the Pooh stories in the 1960s and 1970s that are nothing like Disney's, and are good enough to justify his obituary on Flayrah. Here is the second of them.
About the authorFred Patten — read stories — contact (login required)
a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics
His Film, Film, Flim also seems interesting, albeit not anthropomorphic (but there is a lion!).
Oh he's the guy who did those Winnie The Pooh ones? Those have a good reputation. Some of this eastern bloc/iron curtain/soviet era stuff is fucking STELLAR animation. Lots of people know Nu Pogodi... I loved picking up souveniers from the Little Mole/Krtek AKA the Iron Curtain's Mickey Mouse, they were all over the place last time I was in Prague. Both of interest for anthro animation.
I love the Nu, Pogodi! animated cartoons! After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the late ‘90s availability of DVDs, the new management of what had been the Soviet Animation Film Studio put the eighteen of them made in Soviet days out on one two-disc DVD, that every Russian bookshop in the U.S. has for sale. So they are now easily obtainable – but you hardly need to buy it, since the whole series is available for free on YouTube.
Except that Nu, Pogodi! is the one series of Soviet-era animated cartoons so popular that it has been commercially feasible to make new ones. The new ones aren’t quite as good as the old ones, but they are still pretty good.
Some boring Nu, Pogodi! trivia: Anatoli Papanov, a very popular actor who did the wolf’s voice (the Soviet government put out a commemorative postage stamp to honor him), died in 1987 after making the 16th cartoon. Later Nu, Pogodi! cartoons were designed to recycle his voice tracks.
After the Soviet government collapsed, the new Russian government did not restrict travel outside Russia as the Soviets had. From 1992 for the next seven or eight years, the annual World Science Fiction Convention was full of adolescent and early-20s Russian s-f fans who tried to finance their travels by selling ex-Soviet “souvenirs” such as cosmonaut lapel pins, KGB agent passbooks (which were commonly believed to be counterfeits since so many Russian fans had them for sale), cosmonaut wrist watches (Jim Groat bought one; he complained it quickly fell apart), and so on. I bought all of the Nu, Pogodi! merchandise that I could find. All of it that consisted of more than one piece of metal or plastic soon came apart.
Some background on the 12th Nu, Pogodi! cartoon which you link to: in Soviet Russia, museums were often established in what had been the mansions and palaces of the Tsarist nobility. These often had floors of marble and other semiprecious stones. That is why visitors were (and still are) required to exchange their shoes for soft slippers that will not mar the stones. The smooth marble is very slippery, and it is easy to skid, slide, or do a pratfall if you don’t walk carefully.
The Soviets notoriously did not respect international copyrights. If you watch all eighteen Nu, Pogodi! cartoons, you will recognize many familiar bits of music in the background music. This one has the Irma la Douce film theme about a minute before the end.
Those must have been very interesting times for fandom with all the post-soviet visitors.
Prague is the only former eastern bloc location I've been to and it was quite an experience. The food and architecture were the most fantastic I found in Europe. It was cleaned up a lot of course, with almost 20 years since the iron curtain time. I visited the museum of communism and met people dealing in vintage soviet era goods, saw a few scams go down with travelers unused to the money exchange and maze-like old city center, and met people who were more interested in meeting americans than anywhere else I went in Europe. My favorite coffee mug came from there, it has The Little Mole on it.
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