Winnie-the-Pooh (Винни Пух in Russian) is a Soviet/Russian animated “children’s” series, and the Russian version of the all-time American classic (well, sort of). The Russian version, although also based on the book series, is different in almost every way—from the unusual animation to the sometimes dark subject matter and Pooh’s exceptional air of melancholy. Technically, it was made for children, but adults tend to like it just as much, if not more.
The series consists of three short animated films, produced in 1969, 1971, and 1972 by Soyuzmultfilm, the Soviet animation studio: Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh Goes Visiting (Винни-Пух идёт в гости), and Winnie-the-Pooh and the Busy Day (Винни-Пух и день забот). The episodes follow Pooh and his various animal friends, Piglet (Пятачок, which translates directly as either “pig’s snout” or “five-kopeck coin”), Owl (Сова), Rabbit (Кролик), and Eeyore (Иа), on his small adventures—finding honey and disturbing bees, visiting friends, celebrating birthdays. The characters also sometimes sing very catchy, dreamy songs.
Pooh was created by some astoundingly talented people. The director, Fyodor Khitruk (Фёдор Хитрук), won many Soviet state awards for his artistic work over his life, and was a lauded film director and screenwriter as well as animator. Evgeniy Leonov (Евгений Леонов), who voiced Pooh, was a highly acclaimed theater and film actor who starred in several beloved Soviet films, and he was also a People’s Artist of the USSR.
Russians have adopted Pooh as their own, as, indeed, their version bears little resemblance to the American one. Khitruk apparently did not see the American version of Winnie-the-Pooh before filming his own, and the Soviet Union had not purchased screen rights to the American book, so he could not show the film abroad, further enforcing this Pooh’s status as almost entirely original. “Vinni Pukh” is a Soviet classic, right up there with other animated films like Hedgehog in the Fog (Ёжик в тумане), and it is beloved across Russia.
Director: Fyodor Khitruk (Фёдор Хитрук)
Voiceover actors: Evgeniy Leonov (Евгений Леонов), Iya Savvina (Ия Саввина), Anatoliy Shchukin (Анатолий Щукин), Erast Garin (Эраст Гарин), Zinaida Naryshkina (Зинаида Нарышкина), Vladimir Osenev (Владимир Осенев)
Studio: Soyuzmultfilm (Союзмультфильм)
The first Winnie-the-Pooh, 1969: