Doctor Aybolit (Доктор Айболит) is a series of short animated films that aired in the 1980s in the Soviet Union. The central character was created by popular Soviet poet, translator, literary critic and, above all, children’s writer Korney Chukovskiy (Корней Чуковский), and the character has appeared not only in this series but in a number of other shows and productions throughout the Soviet period. Chukovskiy’s stories about Aybolit, most of which are told in the form of poems, appeared starting in the mid-1920s, and the first live-action film based on the stories, also named Doctor Aybolit, appeared in 1938. The first cartoon adaptation, Limpopo (Лимпопо), appeared in 1939.
The Doctor Aybolit of the 1980s cartoon series is a well-meaning family doctor who often tries to treat wild animals for their varied injuries and illnesses. The show’s antihero is Barmaley (Бармалей), a prison-escapee who is fleeing to Africa with his pirate friends. Aybolit gets himself involved in the escapade and winds up in Africa himself, where he enjoys treating all the wild animals there.
The show, which consists of seven 10-minute episodes, was created by Kyivnaukfilm (Київнаукфільм in Ukrainian), the Ukrainian SSR’s official animation studio. It’s entirely in Russian, but some of the characters look like they are meant to be Ukrainian, and Aybolit is supposedly Jewish.
The series was directed by David Cherkassiy (Давид Черкасский), who is famously known for The Adventures of Captain Vrungel (Приключения капитана Врунгеля) and Treasure Island (Остров сокровищ). The show’s star, Zinoviy Gerdt (Зиновий Гердт), was a highly decorated Soviet screen and stage actor. Some highlights of his career include Eldar Ryazanov’s Say a Word for the Poor Hussar (О бедном гусаре замолвите слово), the highly popular perestroika-era film Interdevochka (Интердевочка), and the Belarusian film Me Ivan, You Abraham (Я — Иван, ты — Абрам).
Director: David Cherkassiy (Давид Черкасский)
Voice actors: Zinoviy Gerdt (Зиновий Гердт), Mariya Mironova (Мария Миронова), Zoya Pylnova (Зоя Пыльнова), Lyudmila Larina (Людмила Ларина), Lyudmila Ivanova (Людмила Иванова), Yevgeniy Paperniy (Евгений Паперный), Georgiy Kishko (Георгий Кишко), Semyon Farada (Семён Фарада)
Production studio: Kyivnaukfilm (Київнаукфільм)
The first episode in the series, “Doctor Aybolit and His Wild Animals” (“Доктор Айболит и Его Звери”):