Russian* Winter Animations

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and I would like to wish all my readers and followers a very Happy New Year! It is that time of the year when one would like to come home, make a hot cocoa, switch on the TV and cosily tuck themselves under a duvet. Then, what better way to spend winter holidays than by watching some wonderful winter-themed animations? Below are three classic Russian-language animations from the Soyuzmultfilm Studio.

Snegurochka Poster2I. Snegurochka (The Snow-Maiden) [1952]

Drawn from the Russian folklore and based on the opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (previously also based on the play (1873) by Alexander Ostrovsky), this is the tale of Snegurochka or the Snow-Maiden, the daughter of Spring Beauty and Grandfather Frost. The Snow-Maiden, who has to shun direct sunshine because her natural abode is winter and frost, decides that she wants to spend some time in the company of humans, and is adopted by Bobyl-Bakula and his wife. What follows is the Snow Maiden’s life in a rural village among people there, and one can glimpse from that Russian traditions as the tale of one stunning beauty unsettling the whole village unfolds. The Snow-Maiden meets Lel, a youth with a talent for music, and is wooed to marriage by a reckless man Mizgir, previously a fiance of a local girl Kupava. The animation stands out because of its beauty and music (magnificent vocals). Most elements of this animation-opera are exquisitely drawn, especially the background. The story is sad, but also rather moving as it tells of the Snow-Maiden’s desire to experience/feel love at whatever cost; see the animation here

12 months posterII. The Twelve Months [1956]

The Twelve Months” is a heart-warming animation in which a girl (a step-daughter) is sent to the woods in winter to gather snowdrops, even though these flowers only bloom in April. That way, her stepmother desires to receive a basketful of gold promised to anyone who will manage to find and collect snowdrops in winter. The order is given by a capricious young Queen, whose arrogance and whimsiness cause much chaos in her palace. Little people now that the step-daughter, who is a kind and good person, managed to befriend the Twelve Months brothers in the woods, and they agree to change the order of their appearance on the calendar for one hour so that spring can come early and our heroine can collect her snowdrops. Problems arise when the Queen demands more snowdrops. “The Twelve Months” is an entertaining and wonderfully-drawn animation with an important message at its centre, for example, not to meddle with the nature’s clock and be respectful and considerate even to people below one’s social standing. It is also an animation which celebrates the seasons, and showcases not only beautiful winter landscapes, but also interesting palace activities; see the animation here.

the snow queen posterIII. The Snow Queen [1957]

Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, this simple animation is lively and memorable. Narrated by Ole Lukøje, the story is about Gerda and Kai – two children devoted to each other when Kai gets a glass splinter lodged in his eye and heart when confronting the Snow Queen through the window. Kai’s personality changes for the worse, and soon after the Snow Queen claims him as her own by abducting him. Gerda does not give up on Kai and their tender friendship, and sets out on a dangerous journey to free him from the clutches of the Snow Queen. The animation is nicely-drawn, and the characters stand out in particular. The Snow Queen is a mysterious and fascinating character, and the Little Robber Girl nearly steals the whole show with her vivid displays of personality and character development. The magical narrative and the important message to never give up on one’s loved one are some of the reason to seek out this animation. Also, unlike Disney’s “Frozen” (2013), the plot of “The Snow Queen” provides greater insight and atmosphere, and in that, as well as in drawing, it reminds of another animation from France loosely based on Andersen’s fairy-tale “The King & the Mockingbird(1980); see “The Snow Queen” animation here.

Check out also these wonderful short animations – “Little Silver Hoof“, based on a fairy tale by Pavel Bazhov (previously on the Siberian folklore), and “The Winter Tale“.

*I call them Russian, even though, strictly speaking, the animations were produced in the USSR, just to emphasise their Russian cultural heritage and language. 

4 thoughts on “Russian* Winter Animations

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