Friday, May 12, 2006

Cheburashka Goes Japan

Cheburashka - a favourite animated figure from the soviet 1970's is about to have his comeback on the filmscreen. "After stealing hearts at the Turin Winter Olympics, the famed Soviet cartoon charater is about to become a movie star in Japan," Moscow Times reports on Friday. The question now is whether the heritage of a cult character like Cheburashka may be preserved in a contemporary version by a non-Russian moviemaker.

For the generation brought up during the 1970's, Cheburashka and his accordion-playing companion Krokodil Gena, represent reminiscences of a happy childhood. The story of the small and unknown tropical animal - Cheburashka - that by chance is carried off from the jungle to Moscow in a crate of oranges, and his friendship with the lonely and not always so wise Gena, has fascinated generations of children. As any good adventure, there is an enemy as well - in the form of the mischievous but rather harmless Starukha Shapoklyak.

Cheburashka first saw daylight in the 1966 childrens' novel "Crocodile Gena and His Friends" by Eduard Uspensky. As Cherburashka now turns 40, he is about to have his comeback as a major moviestar - this time in Japan. In 2001, the old Soyuzmultfilm cartoons, produced from 1969 up till the 1980's, were shown in Japan, attracting great popularity. However, Cheburashka's real breakthrough came in connection with the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, where he acted as mascot - though in white winter fur - for the Russian team.

Now a major Japanese film company has purchased the screen rights of Cheburashka to make it into a major motion picture. So now Cheburashka fans worldwide will live in great anticipation until the new Cheburaska is launched in a year or so from now. Still, one wonders if the Japanese will be able to live up to expectations among those who still have the soviet original cartoons as a point of reference - not to speak of the anecdotes. Images of cult phenomena like Cheburashka are not easily altered without public outrage. Only a couple of years ago, a new translation of Karlson na kryshe aroused massive protests in Russia. It remains to be seen how well the Japanese succeed in conveying that special character that so many associate with Cheburashka - a soviet childhood hero.


TulipGirl said...

Oh my goodness! A Japanimation Cheburashka?!?!

an-lu said...

Sounds promising, although I cannot imagine a russian caroon to move manga-style!!!!

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Cheburashka à la japonaise... I do not know what to say really, and will probably buy the original series on DVD instead once I get an opportunity.