Anime in Russian - Animal Treasure Island & Ali Baba

Okay, you'll really like this.  On my post featuring the trailer for The Flying Ghost Ship, I remarked how Toei's anime movies sound really good in Russian.  So I scored a couple of great examples from Youtube.  Give these a spin and see what you think.

The first is the pirate song from Animal Treasure Island, one of my favorites.  Doesn't this just make you wanna be a pirate?  Look at how much fun they get to have!  Action, adventure, cool fights, treasure galore, and root beers in the basement!  Oh yeah, ohh yeah!!  I've never really been a fan of song numbers in cartoons (I was more into Bugs Bunny or Rocky & Bullwinkle), but I really like the Animal Treasure Island songs.  Heck, the whole movie is wonderful.  I can't believe I'm the only one who really loves this movie.  Make it your goal this year to send DVDs to your family and friends.

The second video is the big song number from Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.  As with the previous clip, the Russian dub doesn't change the original song, which is very nice (take that, Milt Delugg!).  It's a catchy melody and you can tell the animators had a lot of fun with this scene.  This is, for me, one of the best scenes in the film, along with the Ali Baba flashback scene (animated in a clever storybook cut-out style), and of course, Hayao Miyazaki's wild and zany chase through the castle ramparts.  And the syncopation of the Russian singers is spot-on, which is very nice.  But, of course, the Russians are masters of animation themselves.  There's another country with a rich history that we need to explore.


serhei said...

Of course, 'Russia', 'animation', and 'song numbers' cannot be brought up together without instantly reminding one of the Musicians of Bremen:

Russian animation is interesting to study in terms of 'what-might-have-been' questions - what it might have become with a bit more artistic freedom and investment. The problem, of course, was that the only producer of animation, for the longest time, was the Soviet government. This had several effects. First of all, few full-length features were produced. Animation in Russia suffered somewhat from the 'genre ghetto' in which certain topics and certain styles of portrayal were assumed to be the domain of live action. The shorts that did end up being produced have a distinct 'grant animation' flavour to them.

For comparison, Canada's National Film Board has an archive of government-sponsored animation projects. (For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Canadian government wishes there to be a unique Canadian culture. Its solution is to throw money at the problem.) The NFB cartoons have a distinctly Soyuzmultfilm feel to them... though the overall quality of it is not as high, since unlike Soyuzmultfilm, NFB is neither the first nor the only choice for skilled and creative animators who want to work in North America.

Trying to imagine a different Russian animation industry, though, quickly leads one into trying to imagine a Russia that didn't take a 75-year detour into Communism, which quickly leads into total failure of the imagination.

It's interesting to look at the few examples that exist of pre-revolutionary animation in the Russian empire. Here is a stop-motion film by a Polish entomologist who was fooling around with film technology:

As you can see it is significantly freaky. It belongs very much to the sardonic portion of Russian culture that was either diluted or forced into samizdat during the Communist era. It would be certainly be tough to imagine selling a project about stop-motion cockroaches committing adultery to Soyuzmultfilm. Or to the NFB, for that matter.

GW said...

It's interesting to hear your perspective, Serhei. From my post-Cold War American perspective, Soviet Russian animation completely outdid the US industry during the same time period from the late 40's to the late 80's. It's unfortunate to see some of the best styles and how they got surpressed. Looking back on it, however, I have yet to find an animation industry with more influence stemming from its early works. US animation hasn't taken much from Windsor McKay, for example. It all got washed over by Disney influence. Once the Disney influence had spread a bit and loosened, we started shifting towards cheap artistic styles and animated television effectively wiped the industry out as short films went out of style. I'm not quite sure what many early films are like in Japanese animation.

I'd like to know what Russian animation would have been like without Communism, seeing it develop without political suppression. It certainly hasn't helped the current state of the industry. As far as the industry in Soviet times, especially after 1960, I have to say that the industry ranks second behind Japan and the variety of short films produced has yet to be surpassed. With other studios like Pilot, Eccran, and such in the mix before the fall, it's hard for me to be too pessimistic about the state of Russian animation during Soviet Times.