Any study of modern Russian culture would be incomplete without watching some classic Russian animated films. Even as early as the Tsarist era, Russia established itself as a pioneer in animation. However, the Soviet era produced the most memorable films and characters. Certainly the most famous of these soviet animated characters is the loveable little creature that no one can figure out named Cheburashka (Чебурашкa).
Cheburashka made his first appearance in the Soviet children’s story “Crocodile Gena and Friends” (Крокодил Гена и его друзья) written by Eduard Uspensky in 1966. The story was soon made into the animated film “Crocodile Gena” (Крокодил Генa) in 1969.
In the story, Cheburashka is discovered in a crate of oranges by a shopkeeper. Surprised, the shopkeeper pulls him out of the crate and tries to sit him down. But he cannot seem to stand up. He keeps falling over. The shopkeeper was confused and unable to figure out what kind of animal he is, so, he gives him the name Cheburashka, which comes from the Russian word “ чебурахнуться” which means to fall down, or tumble. After being rejected by the zoo, Cheburashka meets a crocodile who works there named Gena (Генa). They quickly become friends and go on many adventures together.
In all, there were four films made featuring Cheburashka and his friends throughout the 70’s and 80’s. The story and its characters became extremely popular throughout the USSR and even in other countries such as Japan, who made their own versions of the films.
Today, Cheburashka can be seen in children’s toy stores as a stuffed doll, on the packaging of many different products and even as the official mascot of the Russian Olympic team.