Smeshariki (Смешарики; taken from the words смешные, “funny,” and шарики, “balloons”) is a Russian cartoon series for young children. It tells of the daily lives and occasional adventures of nine little balloon-creatures. Thus far, the show, which started in 2004, consists of more than 450 episodes of around 10 minutes each.
It sounds silly, but the cartoon actually has an important social message. It’s part of the Russian Ministry of Culture’s World Without Violence educational project, aimed at helping children distinguish right from wrong and to understand one another. And Putin himself has praised the show, in 2013 calling it “an entire world—bright, good-hearted, and entertaining.”
The main heroes are Nyusha (Нюша), known for her fashion sense; Sovunya (Совунья), a highly energetic owl; Losyash (Лосяш), who looks like a reindeer and is a teacher; Pin (Пин), an explorer-penguin; Yozhik (Ёжик), basically a pink-and-purple Sonic the Hedgehog; Krosh (Крош), an adventurous rabbit; Kopatych (Копатыч), who gives good advice and, though he is a bear, looks like a potato; Kar-Karych (Кар-Карыч), a bird; and Barash (Бараш), a creative sheep. They live in the Country of the Smeshariki.
While of course the show is geared toward children, there’s something in it for everyone (if, for example, you are raising a Russian child and have to watch it with them… or you’re an adult trying to practice your Russian). KinoPoisk points out a number of TV tropes to watch out for, including allusions to the films Psycho and Forrest Gump.
The series has several spin-offs, including the full-length films Smeshariki: The Beginning (Смешарики. Начало) and Smeshariki: The Legend of the Golden Dragon (Смешарики. Легенда о золотом драконе). There are also several related educational TV series and even an American spinoff called KikOriki, which aired on the CW in 2008.
Producers: Ilya Popov (Илья Попов), Aleksandr Gerasimov (Александр Герасимов), Vyacheslav Mayasov (Вячеслав Маясов)
Voiceover actors: Vadim Bochanov (Вадим Бочанов), Mikhail Chernyak (Михаил Черняк), Igor Dmitriev (Игорь Дмитриев), Sergey Mardar (Сергей Мардарь), Svetlana Pismichenko (Светлана Письмиченко), Vladimir Postnikov (Владимир Постников), Anton Vinogradov (Антон Виноградов), Vladimir Maslakov (Владимир Маслаков)
Production company: Peterburg
TV channel: various, including STS (СТС) and Perviy Kanal (Первый канал)
The first episode of Smeshariki, from 2004: