Masha and the Bear (Маша и Медведь) is a highly popular Russian cartoon series that originated in 2009. Now in its eighth year and its third season, it consists so far of 60 seven-minute episodes, featuring cute animation and few words. It’s already a classic—among not only Russian children but also students of the Russian language.
The series is technically based on the Russian fairy tale of the same name, which tells the story of a young girl who lives with her grandparents. One day, she goes to pick mushrooms in the forest and gets lost. She finds an izbushka (избушка; a little cottage that, in folklore, usually stands on chicken’s legs), which turns out to belong to a bear. He demands that she live with him and cook for him, but it all works out in the end, of course. The fairy tale also had an earlier animated interpretation, in 1960: a film called Mashenka and the Bear (Машенька и Медведь). It follows the original fairy tale, with the addition of a Soviet-style educational ending.
The latest Masha is only loosely inspired by the fairy tale. In the first episode, Masha arrives at the bear’s house and trashes it; he kicks her out into the dark forest, but later starts to worry about her. He brings her home and they become friends. After Masha returns to her own home, she begins visiting the bear (named Mishka) often. The series follows their adventures and those of the other characters—various forest residents, including a female bear and the animals who live with Masha at her house in the village. There are also occasional guests, including a panda and a penguin, whom the bear has adopted.
Masha and the Bear has led to two spin-offs, Masha’s Fairy Tales (Машины сказки) and Masha’s Scary Stories (Машкины страшилки).
Creator: Oleg Kuzovkov (Олег Кузовков)
Voiceover actors: Alina Kukushkina (Алина Кукушкина), Varvara Sarantseva (Варвара Саранцева), Boris Kutnevich (Борис Кутневич), Mark Kutnevich (Марк Кутневич), Irina Kukushkina (Ирина Кукушкина)
Production company: Animakkord
TV channel: Rossiya-1 (Россия-1)
The first episode of Masha and the Bear, from 2009: