Sunday, June 29, 2008


Talking to an Austrian coworker at the Landmark today got me thinking about childhood, toys, and growing up in general. There really isn't anything like cartoons. And I'm not talking about Pixar. I mean pre-CGI, Rudolph circa 1970-type stuff. I was raised on adorable Soviet moralizing tales, so artful and intelligent that they made me detest Barney and Sesame Street. No American craft can compete.

No kid will understand the smarts behind Wall-E or Ratatouille until much later, and Snow White is plain boring. Mr. Rogers, though he means well, is just too slow, and Barney is plain stupid. Instead, I was raised on the Swedish Karlsson-on-the-Roof, a portly funny-looking dude with a red propeller strapped on his back. I had the audiotapes and would listen to the stories all day.

Here's a youtube clip I found of the first 10 minutes of the show:

There's also Cheburashka, comprising the heart and soul of every true Soviet ex-Patriot kid:

Isn't he cute?

I was given the DVDs of this guy for my 18th birthday. I also bought a bona fide toy Cheburashka in St. Petersburg when I was 16 and burst into tears. The thing about Cheburashka is that he, or it (it doesn't really have a sex...) is its own species, one-of-a-kind, who isn't accepted by society because, well, he's a little weird looking and doesn't fit in. So the show/toy becomes all about the dilemma of finding friends who will accept you as you are. It's sweet, although there's more than a little bit of Soviet propaganda. But who doesn't love that?

I was also touched by this '50s-era stop-action animation:

I didn't watch it when I was a kid, but it's genius, and I nearly cried watching it. Can lambchop, cool as he was, ever achieve the same thing? I think not.

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