Magical Journey

Magical Journey (Керемет көч) is a Kyrgyz children’s animated television series. It began in 2006 and was the first Kyrgyz-language cartoon produced in independent Kyrgyzstan. Like many Russian cartoons, it has an educational goal—to teach children how to deal with unpleasant situations, avoid unnecessary conflicts, build self-esteem, and uncover their potential.

The show is a social project as much as an educational/entertaining one: it was developed through the support of UNICEF and several other international organizations as part of the UN’s efforts to help Kyrgyzstan realize its possibilities. Thus the show also tries to instill early on in children the UN’s most important values—gender equality, tolerance, equal rights, interethnic tolerance. It’s become very popular in Kyrgyzstan, as UNICEF asserts that any Kyrgyz child could tell you all about the program.

The show has changed a certain amount over the years, as the creative team found their footing. Early episodes were only 5 minutes long, but by 2008 they were already 15 minutes each—and today there are already more than 600 episodes. Among the changes around that time were that regular Kyrgyz kids took over the voiceover roles, taking the place of professional actors. Child psychologists were also brought on board to improve the show’s educational capacities.

The series’s main heroes are best friends Aktan (Актан) and Akylay (Акылай). They travel through a magical world, going on adventures, learning useful lessons along the way, and helping each other with their problems. A few years after the show first debuted, more characters were added, including one with special needs. At the same time, Akylay, the little girl, became more of a leader, while Aktan became more emotional.

The show has an all-star cast of participants, both actors and the creative team. For the first 260 episodes, the two main roles were both voiced by actress Makhabat Baygabylova (Махабат Байгабылова), who is usually a theater and film actress. One of the creators of the show is well-known Kyrgyz playwright and journalist Zhanysh Kulmambetov (Жаныш Кулмамбетов), and a former consultant for Sesame Street is also involved.

 

A 2014 episode of Керемет көч:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.