Cheburashka (Чебурашка) is one of the great classics of Russian culture (one could say). The cartoons, which basically all Russians and Russian language students know and love, aired between 1969 and 1974.
The Cheburashka episodes are actually a series of short films—“Crocodile Gena and His Friends” (“Крокодил Гена и его друзья), “Cheburashka” (“Чебурашка”), “Shapoklyak” (“Шапокляк”), and “Cheburashka Goes to School” (“Чебурашка идёт в школу”). The first three are about 20 minutes; the last is about 10. The films were based on the Crocodile Gena books by Edward Uspenskiy (Эдуард Успенский), a figure who looms large in Russian children’s literature: he is also known for Prostokvashino and Fixiki. Uspenskiy, along with the cartoon’s director, Roman Kachanov, wrote the screenplays.
For those who haven’t already been inducted into the Cheburashka cult, some background: the series tell the story of dear friends Crocodile Gena (an accordion-playing crocodile) and Cheburashka, a creature of uncertain species with large ears and a squeaky voice. They meet in the first episode when Gena puts out an ad looking for friends, and are inseparable ever after. Shapoklyak, the third main character, is the show’s antagonist—she is a mean babushka who the friends eventually win over. The episodes show the characters dealing with various everyday-life situations—celebrating birthdays, trying to go on vacation, and, of course, supporting the building of communism.
Beyond the animation and the characters’ highly recognizable voices, the show is known for its songs: “Crocodile Gena’s Song” (“Песня Крокодила Гены”) became so popular that it is now sung as the Russian version of “Happy Birthday,” and “Blue Wagon” (“Голубой вагон”) is another deeply beloved favorite.
There are several statues in honor of Gena and Cheburashka all over Russia, and there is even a yearly festival/charity event for Cheburashka’s birthday (the proceeds go to orphan children).
Director: Роман Качанов
Voice actors: Василий Ливанов, Клара Румянова, Владимир Раутбарт, Владимир Кенигсон, Тамара Дмитриева
Production studio: Soyuzmultfilm
The entire set of Cheburashka episodes, from Soyuzmultfilm’s official YouTube channel: