Oct 29, 2007

East European Cartoons

Donald Duck, Road Runner, Tom & Jerry and the Flintstones are some of the most popular animated series which kids growing-up in the USA and West Europe enjoyed. In contrast to that, during the cold war, in most of the East European countries these cartoons were not or were rarely broadcasted on state TV. Instead, kids across communist countries had fun watching Lolek and Bolek, Gustav, Baltazar, Pat and Mat, and several other animated characters made in East Europe. Here is my selection of six most popular Eastern European animated series.

1. Gusztáv (Gustavus) - Hungary
Gustav is the first famous adult Hungarian cartoon character. Gustav is developed in 1964., always wears same gray clothes and is full of various human anomalies. Gustav became a well-known character in many Eastern European countries.
In the movie below Gustav is fighting against alcohol use.

2. Pat a Mat (Pat and Mat) - Czechoslovakia "Pat and Mat" follows efforts of two neighbours that try to solve mostly a self-made problem using all the tools you could imagine and building gadgets. However, this leads to even more problems. In the end, Pat and Mat manage to obtain a working solutions applying a very unconventional and very inefficient method. According to the authors manual clumsiness inspires the stories. On top of the humor that series offer also an optimistic view at life is promoted. Pat and Mat never give up until they find creative solution to the problem. They debuted in 1976. and so far around 80 episodes were released.
Trivia: Release of "Pat & Mat: the Game" is announced for 2008. It should be available for PC, Nintendo DS and XBOX360.

3. Bolek i Lolek (Bennie and Lennie) - Poland
Bolek and Lolek are two cartoon characters from the Polish TV animated series of the same title. Characters are based on sons of animator of "Bolek and Lolek". In 1964. they made a first appearance in an animated film. In English, the cartoon was distributed under the name Bennie and Lennie. Apparently, Bolek and Lolek was the only animated movie allowed to be broadcast by Iranian television during and just after Islamic Revolution of 1978.
Trivia: Kaczynski twin brothers that currently serve as the President and the Prime Minister of Poland, are sometimes, by media, called Bolek and Lolek.

4. Nu, pogodi! (You, Just Wait!) - Soviet Union (SSSR) "Nu, pogodi!" is the most popular Russian animated series. It started in 1969. and it follows efforts of the troublesome wolf trying to catch the jackrabbit. The wolf never catches the jackrabbit and hunts always ends with the wolf yelling „Nu sajaz, nu pogodi!“ („You just wait, jackrabbit!). The concept is similar to the concepts of America's Tom and Jerry and Road Runner. Interestingly, the director of "Nu, pogodi!"did not see Tom and Jerry until his son bought a VCR in 1987.
Trivia: An arcade game very similar to Pac-Man based on "Nu, pogodi!" was developed for Poly Play. Poly Play is an arcade machine made in East Germany in 1985 - this is the only arcade machine produced in Eastern Bloc.

5. Mézga Aladár különös kalandjai (The Adventures of Aladar Mezga) - Hungary

Animated series "The Adventures of Aladár Mézga" debuted in 1972. The main character, Aladár, visits every night a different inhabited planet using an inflatable space ship. The script was partly written by József Nepp who also wrote scripts for Gustav. The are two more animated series that deal with Mézga family.
Trivia: The name "Mézga" means bad luck in Hungarian

6. Professor Baltazar - YugoslaviaDefinitely the most popular animated series from former Yugoslavia. 57 episodes were made in period 1967.-1971. Baltazar is an old professor that helps his fellow citizens of Baltazar-City to solve the problems using his ingenious inventions.
Trivia: In 2006. Professor Baltazar was selected to be official mascot of Zagreb, capital of Croatia, by city parliament.

Update: More on East European Cartoons by Chris here.


Tijana said...

Jao kako me ovo momentalno vratilo u detinjstvo! Super je!

Youpidou said...

Gustav je boooog. :)

Da li neko zna kako se zove onaj crtani gde se pojavljuju kao neki čovečuljci (prasići, šta li su...) i samo nešto ćućore i šapuću? :p

Anonymous said...

misim da se zvao vumi ili wumi, tak nekak...

Youpidou said...

Evo ima Wumi na YouTube, to je to. Zahvaljujem! :)

Sophia said...

i used to watch a cartoon with a white rabbit in the early 80's. i was very little so i can't remember the name. i have the impression that it either russian or yugoslavian or something like that. does anyone know that title of that cartoon? it had no dialogue or any sounds as far as i remember

Heavypsychman said...

Baltazar is Psychedelic cartoons at their best.

The animators are friends of LSD and it shows!

Is the DVD ready yet?

Chris Sobieniak said...

Since I tend to be the the American authority on Eastern European Animation (a title I don't really have, but often attributed to though early exposure to said works), I do like to say some words about this entry of interest to those who might stumble upon in later.

While it is true that hardly many American cartoons ever got much exposure in Eastern Europe, I assume the one country lucky enough to have had the best of both worlds was probably Yugoslavia (given the differences in political structure and less restrictions on foreign trade during those years), I know a couple guys on a forum who grew up watching Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry alongside Gustavus and others mentioned here. Of course the Croatian republic of the country was and still is home of of the world's famous animation festivals, the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films.

Being reminded of having first saw the Gustav cartoons some years ago and found them quite impressive with the type of contemporary issues they often dealt with in the series. While being made for adults, often children have also seen and enjoyed these cartoons alike, as they were often placed as afternoon tea-time pieces in between programming in places like Italy. I think the cartoon also got mild exposure in places like the UK though I don't think they were ever seen at all in the states.

One thing of not about Gustavus that I often noticed in the episodes I've seen was it's use of a solid color background that the outlines are placed over as cel overlays in the animation process. A similar technique was utilized very briefly in the first season of The Simpsons (1989-90), where a piece of textured paper was used often to create the look of the floors in the cartoon.

Apart from Gustavus, the production studio who made in, Pannonia Film, also produced this classic children's piece in the late 70's called A Kockásfülű nyúl or "The Checkered-Eared Rabbit", a 26 episode series created by Veronika Marék and Zsolt Richly. Much of the series involves a rabbit whom pops out of a trunk in an attic and helps out a group of kids with whatever problem occurs in the series. In the US this cartoon was seen on the cable network Nickelodeon during the program "Pinwheel" in the 1980's, though some viewers often thought the title of it was "Bunny in a Suitcase". Here's a few episodes to gander at...

When you mentioned "The Adventures of Aladar Mezga", it should be of note it was the second of three series in the Mezga Family trilogy of sorts that began in 1968 with the very first program, "Üzenet a jövőből – A Mézga család különös kalandjai" or "Legacy from the future - fantastic adventures of family Mézga". In this program, the son of the faimly, Aladar, came across perfecting a means of communicating with a descendant in the 30th Century name "MZ/X", who sends the family various gadgets from the future in the hopes of bettering their lives, which often isn't the case. The series has been a cult classic in Hungary, as well as in Czechoslovaia, Bulgaria, Italy and both German states. Here's the first episode for those to check out (though in Hungarian)...

The third series that was produced in the later part of the 1970's was "Vakáción a Mézga család" or "The Mezga Family Vacation". In the third and last series of the Mézga saga the family receive an invitation from Paula's former fiance' Steve Huffnágel who lives now in Australia. They sell everything in the house to be able to buy the tickets, hoping Steve is a millionaire, they will get everything back. Dr. Máris, their neighbor accompany the family in return for lending some money too... After arriving they have to face the truth: Steve is nowhere to find, he is wanted by the police, and they have no money at all to travel back to Budapest. The adventure begins, and their trip around the world turns into a nightmare.

Pannonia also produced another interesting cartoon in the 80's called "Pityke" about a policman who solves cases with his dog. I don't know too much about this series as it was probably not seen much outside the Iron Curtain, though a Spanish version used to air in Spain. I know one guy in South Dakota on the other hand who just found out about this show and had to order the DVD of it because it was THAT interesting to him! Here's a couple episodes of that...

Staying with Pannonia for the minute, they've also produced a number of interested animated features over the years, one that was popular in many parts of Europe and even in the US through exposure on video and Nickelodeon was a film called "Vuk" or "The Little Fox", a story about the life of a young fox, Vuk, who is taught how to survive from a wise old fox name Karak. The film was quite serious in tone and didn't stray away from exposing the viewers to the concept of death as it occurs in the cource of the story. It left quite an impression of me having saw it as a 10-11 year old over 20 years ago.

Here's a clip of the first five minutes of this movie (though in Hungarian)...

Pannonia Film has also had it's share of more adult works such as those that often are seen in film festivals and have won awards/accolades in the process. Two noted ones I'll highlight here are Marcell Jankovics' "Sisyphus" and Ferenc Rófusz's Oscar-Winning "The Fly"...

Aside from "Pat & Mat", Czechoslovakia also had another classic animated series beloved the world over, "Krtek" or "The Little Mole, created by Zdeněk Miler in the 1950's. Neaerly fifty episodes were produced at Prague's famous "Studio Bratři v triku", spanning the past half-century, and was seen in many countries including the US where the show aired also on Nick's Pinwheel series and on 16mm for educational use. Some episodes of that for good measure!

Studio Bratři v triku might also be responsible for having animated many American cartoons, directed by American emigrate Gene Deitch, that were outsourced through Rembrandt Films in NY in the early 60's, these include MGM's Tom & Jerry, King Features' Popeye and Krazy Kat and several other productions. Often viewers who think of "Eastern European Animation" in general often conjures up rather poor memories of the T&J cartoons due to their quirky, slightly bizarre nature, that should not be the fault of the animators of course since they had never seen a T&J cartoon in their lives when they were producing these. An episode of the Simpsons, involving Krusty showing off such a terrible Eastern European equivalent to Itchy & Scratchy has been noted for more recent rants over it. If anything, Deitch's effort is said to indirectly benefited the the studio in streamlining their process a little, since more familiar methods of hand-drawn animation present in American and Western European animation hadn't came into practice yet.

Of course, alongside "Nu, Pogodi!", Soyuzmultfilm in Moscow had produced many animated shorts and movies that spanned much of the 20th Century, only to be hampered by the fall of Communism, and the rise in privatization in the country by studios like Pilot. Soyuzmultfilm also has produced very impressive mature works by animators like Fyodor Khitruk, Ivan Ivanov-Vano, Yuri Norstein and others.

Apart from "Nu, Pogodi", another Soyuzmultfilm classic character that soon became the mascot of the studio was "Cheburashka", who appeared in a series of stop-motion pieces during the 70's and 80's. Popularlity for this character went as far as Japan. A character that appears in the Japanese cartoon, "Revolutionary Girl Utena" seems like an inspiration based on Cheburashka.

Another popular series (albeit, only three films made) was one based on a story of sorts called "Three from Prostokvashino" or "Three from Prostokvashino" (Prostokvashino is a town in Russia I believe). The story revolves around a boy who finds a cat outside his apartment whom he wanted to keep, but his parents didn't want him to have him, but the boy decides to escape to Prostokvashino, where a dog they met tells them of a vacant shack they could stay at together that becomes the home for the two animals. While in the town, they encounter several characters including a bird that is used as a sort of carrier pigeon for messages and a postman as well. Later films dealt with summer and winter holidays shared by the characters...

Of course animation from the Soviet Union tends to be rather vast, and in the time I took to write this whole thing, I rather just leave it at that for now!

Interesting to hear Zagreb picked Balthazar as their mascot now, they should have done that years ago as far as I'm concern. Those cartoons were unique and colorful! They were the brainchild of animator Zlatko Grgic, one of Zagreb Film's finest animators who later emigrated to Canada where he taught animation at Sheridan College, and produced several films like the National Film Board of Canada's "Hot Stuff".

Well I guess that's all I have to say for now, but thanks for having to bring up a subject only a few of us across the Atlantic might even care about! :-)

Jasna Ćosović said...

Many thanks for such an insightful comment or better to say thanks for your in-depth analysis of this topic. I find it pity that this comment might not be visible to wider audience. If you do not mind I would gladly publish your analysis in separated post titled "East European Cartoons II". Of course, I would clearly state in at the beginning of the post that the analysis that follows comes from you.
BTW you are right about the situation in Yugoslavia (we luckily enjoyed both Eastern European and American cartoons)

Chris Sobieniak said...

Jasna Ćosović said...
Many thanks for such an insightful comment or better to say thanks for your in-depth analysis of this topic.


I find it pity that this comment might not be visible to wider audience. If you do not mind I would gladly publish your analysis in separated post titled "East European Cartoons II". Of course, I would clearly state in at the beginning of the post that the analysis that follows comes from you.

I wouldn't mind! You can make any corrections you see fit as well since I noticed a bit here and there in having to write it (since it was late at night were I was when I did it).

BTW you are right about the situation in Yugoslavia (we luckily enjoyed both Eastern European and American cartoons)

Just had to remind myself of doing a report on Yugoslavia back in junior high around '90 or so and having to look up a few books on the matter. Rather a shame I had to learn about the new countries that came out of the split, as it made it so much easier to know of it as one whole entity. Seems like the only country that faired better out of it is Croatia.

Anonymous said...

Hi, if possible, could you please find out the name of the main character of a late 1960s (or 70s)cartoon character who resembled a cross between a penguin and a monkey. He was black with a red nose, big eyes, and he would not speak, but mutter sounds when he was happy or sad. It showed in Puerto Rico for many years, and in some part of the US and recently in a youtube video I saw a humongous plush toy of the character in a british video. Thanks for your help.

Wearsba said...

Can someone please tell me the name of East European Cartoon, which had a dog as the main hero? It used to save people, other dogs. By the way it was drawn, i think it must be polish, as it drawn the way Bolek and Lolek are. Not sure though...

Anonymous said...

E European cartoon with the dog as the main hero?

That should be Dašenka, Czech or Slovak cartoon.

Cartoon was combined (it had animation part and "ordinary movie" part).

Does anybody remembers the cartoons about the fairy Amalka (Czechia and Slovakia), Inspektor Maska (Croatian, excellent one, but underrated, cartoon was much better, than its airing shows), bear Bojan (Slovenian), astronaut ... (E Germany), parrot (Czechia and Slovakia, do you remember the episode when it sang the song of Karel Got), or the cartoon about the dog (I remember the episode, when a child, thought that the dog ate his cake, which was, in fact, a small alien spaceship)...

Anonymous said...

I've posted this minute ago, but for some reason, it wasn't shown.

E European cartoon with the dog as the main hero?

That should be Dašenka, Czech or Slovak cartoon.

Cartoon was combined (it had animation part and "ordinary movie" part).

Does anybody remembers the cartoons about the fairy Amalka (Czechia and Slovakia), Inspektor Maska (Croatian, excellent one, but underrated, cartoon was much better, than its airing shows), bear Bojan (Slovenian), astronaut ... (E Germany), parrot (Czechia and Slovakia, do you remember the episode when it sang the song of Karel Got), or the cartoon about the dog (I remember the episode, when a child, thought that the dog ate his cake, which was, in fact, a small alien spaceship)...

Anonymous said...

"Can someone please tell me the name of East European Cartoon, which had a dog as the main hero? It used to save people, other dogs. By the way it was drawn, i think it must be polish, as it drawn the way Bolek and Lolek are. Not sure though..."

I think that the cartoon you're looking for is REKSIO
Take a look:

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know the name of the cartoon series featured by two dogs - black and white and there was also a black bird who always disturbed them. I think the cartoon was itself in black and white. I can't remember if it was Polish or Czehoslovakian.. Thanks!

Anonymous said...


This is the answer, about the searched film , black and white dog, and the raven that allways does something bad to them.
Original name is "Štaflík a Špagetka"


Wearsba said...

Thank you so much. It was REKSIO indeed. I spent so much time trying to find the name.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

Does anybody know the name of the european cartoon series that evolve around a kid with a funny looking head - shape as half a egg or cone? The cartoon series was aired in Australia in the early 80s in black and white (I think).

As i recall the kid didn't talk and just walked around alot. The series could have been called - "Lenier" or something like that...

Someone told me that it could be Eastern/western/cental european carton.

This carton was fanstic.....


Anonymous said...

To anonymous re black and white cartoon...
I asume is La Linea and it's italian.
You can download lots from torrents on mininova search:

It's a linear animation and character is being drawn as we watch it.

Hope that's the one you are looking for


Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me where I can download / buy Gustav cartoons online.
Love them!

Ivana said...

ooooooo, pa bravo bravoooo :)
Pozdrav blogerima

Carsten a.k.a. Roy/SAC said...

Since you seem to be interested into the subject and woke some old child memories in me and don't speak German, here some interesting facts about the series "Mézga Aladár különös kalandjai", which I translated from German to English for you.

Here is where I found the Info.


German Titles: "Adolars phantastische Abenteuer" aka "Archibald, der Weltraumtrotter"
Original Title: Mézga Aladár különös kalandjai
Hungary, 1973

I am not sure about the "Weltraumtrotter", but I do recall from my own experiences that Adolar was also called Archibald.

Director: József Nepp, Józef Gémes
Script: József Nepp, József Romhány

The show was supposedly the sequel to "Heißer Draht ins Jenseits" (Hotline to the Afterlife) from 1968

Debut on East German TV on Channel "DDR1" January 22, 1977
12 Episodes were broadcasted using the title "Adolars phantastische Abenteuer".

Adolar's dog, "Schnuffi" in original German version, is able to speak.

Something that Adolars parents and sister also don't know, in addition to the existence of his inflatable space ships and his nightly trips to distant and weird planets.

The initial version of the show was dubbed in German Language by the East German DEFA studios.

The regional West Berlin TV station SFB (Sender Freies Berlin) acquired the broadcasting right for the series and re-broadcasted it again.

The West German Bavaria Studios re-dubbed 13 parts of the series in German again at the end of the 1980s for the TV station "Tele5", which aired the show using the title "Archibald, der Weltraumtrotter" and also changed the dogs name from "Schnuffi" to "Blöki".

It was part of the early morning Kids show "BimBamBino", which was later running also at 5:00 am in the morning on the TV Station RTL, which acquired Tele5 in the early 1990s.

In August 2000 acquired the (fee based) cable network "Premiere World" the rights to it.

There are many opinions that say that the re-dubbed version was of much inferior quality, in both respects, the sound effects itself as well as the actual translation of the original Hungarian script into German language.

p.s. Lolek and Bolek were cool. I know Tom & Jerry etc. from West Berlin TV, which many (but not all) East Germans were able to receive over the air, using regular TV antennas.

Also print versions of comics like Mickey Mouse (especially those monthly "Books" .. called "Lustige Taschenbuch" that were published in West Germany were popular) were available, but scarce. Other comics that were published in West Germany as well, such as the popular French comic characters Asterix & Oberlix or the U.S./French comics of Lucky Luke.

Often did the Kids of friends and families, who lived in the western part of the country leave their "reading material" behind when they visited their friends and relatives in the eastern half of the country. Remember, the Wall was open for West Germans, but not the other way around (so much about the notion of a "Anti-Capitalistic Bulwark" to protect East Germany, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union..). We got that in East Germany, because we were not stupid, regardless of the propaganda and brainwashing that occurred.


Carsten a.k.a. Roy/SAC said...

There is another popular Eastern European cartoon series. I just stumbled over 30+ episodes of it on YouTube.

It's called in German "Der (Kleine) Maulwurf", which translates to "The (Little) Mole", offically without the "Little", but its often added by people who talk about it.

It appears that the original name of it is "Krtek", which sounds Hungarian to me, or maybe Czech, but I think its Hungarian.

Here is the link to the episode that I remembered the most ... It's in German and titled "The Mole and the Music"


Also worthwhile of mentioning is that in Eastern Europe were tv shows using puppets very popular (and also easier to produce than animated movies).. examples are the characters Pittiplatsch (short Pitti) and Schnatterienchen (short Schnatter) from East Germany or the Czech characters Spejbl (Speivel) and Hurvinek.

Germans had obviously always very similar tastes, regardless if East or West German, because puppets were also popular in West Germany. The various series created by the "Augsburger Puppenkiste" are legendary, e.g. Jim Knopf, which is probably the most famous of them all.

Nikalla said...

"Krtek" (the Mole) is a Czech cartoon...,, funny is how popular it still is! my partents were bred on it so was I...and now my little niece just can´t get enough when she´s watching the Mole´s stories...:-)

Anonymous said...

Despite being a Western Country, Bolek and Lolek was common in Greece too

Anonymous said...

I just thought i would point out that when i was a child in the 70's in Hungary, we saw many Western cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, Road Runner, the bear with the picnic basket in the national park who always used to harrass the humans... (I knew these were not Hungarian from the completely different style, and the fact that the writing used to be in a foreign language, and sometimes if i remember well there was a voice reading out that one word like "grocer shop" or "dynamite" or something from the user's guide in the Road Runner) These cartoons are what i can remember - there were probably more. I don't know on what basis Chris above wrote that Western cartoons were seen probably only in Yugoslavia, but clearly it's not true. I find people make a lot of incorrect assumptions about our countries, and the assumption usually reflects negatively on us. Lucky they are just those - assumptions! I just wish i wasn't constantly confronted with them and having to educate.

Actually i can remember my whole town Oroszlany (in Hungary) receiving satellite TV with channels like Sky, Sky Sport? or Eurosport?, RTL, SAT, MTV, etc (there were 9 from memory, because the satellite channels and the 3 Hungarian channels fit onto the 12-key remote for our TV). Cable was put in underground throughout my town (population 24000) around 1984? as a trial in Hungary. Then the town council installed a huge satellite dish on a hill next to the water-tower, and distributed the satellite channels to the whole town using the cable. This was cool and advanced, i am still proud of what a useful decision they made! We enjoyed the above US and German channels for free, everybody according to their language skills in the particular languages.

Somebody above wrote about the Mezga Csalad cartoon series. They were popular, and yes, there are 3 series, all are on youtube. (Actually "Mezga" has no meaning, "mazli" has meaning, and it means good luck, not bad luck) I would like to mention some other Hungarian cartoons that were equally popular and are high quality in both their images and their educational value.

My favourite one is Vizipok Csodapok, a very successful cartoon by Pannonia Studio (i read a wiki page about it, but not sure whether it was in Hungarian):

Some other good-quality series and cartoons out of the Hungarian studios:

Magyar nepmesek (Hungarian folk tales)

Magyar mondak (Hungarian legends)

Varjudombi mesek (tales from Crow Hill)


Janos Vitez (based on the epic poem of the same title by Petofi Sandor)

Matyas kiraly (legends about King Matthias, a real Hungarian king in the renaissance)


Futrinka utca (Futrinka street)

Mazsola es Tade

Pom pom

Mekk Elek, az ezermester (handyman/jack-of-all-trades)

Ho ho ho horgasz (fisherman)

Dr Bubo Bubo

(i'll have to continue the list in the next post, because i ran out of acceptable length)

Anonymous said...

(here is the list, continued)

Mikrobi (apparently this was exported to Cuba)

Pityke ormester

Susu a sarkany (Susu the dragon)

Ludas Matyi (only part of a long movie)

ENEK A CSODASZARVASROL (a historical poem/legend)

Frakk, a macskak reme

Icipici kis mese

Oreg nene ozikeje

kockas fulu nyul

These below are still probably Hungarian, but i would have to check before i categorically state that.

A legkisebb ugrifules

Kukori kotkoda

And these ones below are either not Hungarian for sure (some of them are famously German, Swedish, Italian, etc), or probably not Hungarian and would have to check because they have Hungarian titles, but were probably made in another Central or Eastern European country (more the ones towards the end).



Moha es pafrany

Lolka es Bolka

meno mano = badum badum = la linea

Paff, a buvos sarkany


Eger a marson e



Nils Holgersson

Maja, a mehecske



Hupikek torpikek

Az ido urai

Csipet csapat

There were so many nice cartoons when i was growing up, and in spite of the huge populations supporting the cartoon industry in the USA, Japan, China, etc (as opposed to Hungary with 10 million in the 70's and 80's), i don't think the cartoons nowadays would be very entertaining or beautiful to kids...

Frank said...

Does anyone remember an animation (from Zagreb, perhaps) called Max Cat? This was probably back in the 70's and there were a number of them. Very inventive and the name's stuck with me all this time but I've never been able to find anything on it. Thanks!