If Nu Pogodi is not the most popular cartoon ever made by Soviet studio Soyuzmultfilm
, then I don't know what is. It is near impossible to find the modern student of Russian
who has not seen several episodes. If you haven't seen it, or you haven't seen all of it, and you are into the whole blatantly illegal filesharing thing
, a search for 'soyuzmultfilm' or 'nu pogodi' will get you what you're looking for.
There were sixteen episodes made, by Soyuzmultfilm, over twenty-five or so years, each around nine minutes long, and accompanied by various well-known contemporary pop songs. Then in the early nineties, capitalist interest saw fit to revive it for two final episodes, which weren't made under the roof of Soyuzmultfilm. Although there is never much dialogue, there are a lot of visual representations of Soviet and Russian culture, which is what makes the series popular as an educational tool. If I was teaching Russian, I'd certainly use as many cartoons as possible.
There are two main characters: the Wolf and the Bunny. The Wolf is a sort of a caricature of what were seen as negative by Soviet society. He smokes, has long unkempt hair, wears an untucked pink shirt, a pink baseball cap, and black bellbottom pants. A hippy, you say? Yes, a bunny-eating hippy who has a tendency to take things from children. But you sort of feel sorry for him, the same way you feel sorry for Wile E. Coyote, 'cause he obviously doesn't have anything going for him, especially not brains.
Then we have the Bunny. The Bunny, I've decided after several years of indecision and careful attention to grammatical indicators, is a boy. He generally wears a green cardigan over a white turtleneck and short pants. He giggles like a little girl and in one episode is part of the "Choir of Little Boy Bunnies." He also often helps the Wolf out when he ends up in mortal danger (ie in a lion cage).
Other recurring characters:
A cat magician, a large hippo (appears as a melon shopper, an athlete, a construction foreman, museum watchman), two bear policemen
A two and a half minute short precludes the main portion of the credits, followed by five or six minutes of running gags on a theme. For example,
Episode One (1969):
The Wolf appears on a street corner, kicks a small trash can with a malicious grin. He then espies the Bunny tending to his flowers on an apartment balcony, and envisions a roast bunny dinner. The Wolf tosses a rope to the building roof and begins to climb up, whistling happily. The Bunny, who is trimming his plants with a pair of scissors, notices the rope and snips it. The Wolf falls down, into the sidecar of a police motorcycle.
As he is carried away, he yells out "Nu, pogodi!" the title of the cartoon series, meaning, more or less, 'Just you wait!' or 'I'll get you yet!'
Credits (I'll list these at the end)
The Wolf, now in pink flowered trunks, heads to the beach, where he tries to get the Bunny with a fish gun (shoots a small triton, not sure what they're actually called), nearly drowns, is rescued by a pair of beaver-naval types, steals their boat, attempts to run down the Bunny who is happily back paddling, runs the boat across the beach, up the road, then reaches the top of a hill and slides back down to the water.
Again he spots the Bunny, now sunbathing beneath a tree. The Wolf climbs the tree and attempts to lower a rope and snare the Bunny. He is thwarted by the Bunny tossing up cherry pits into his face, falls into his own rope and hangs for a minute before falling onto a family of hedgehogs who've moved into the spot suddenly vacated by the Bunny.
Next are some hijinks on the diving high board, and finally the perfect situation for the Wolf appears.
The Bunny is sitting alone on the end of the pier. The Wolf comes up behind him. The Bunny giggles, the Wolf begins to growl -- the Bunny, suddenly frightened, tosses the water-ski rope handle he's holding onto the Wolf, who is dragged away across the water, again yelling 'Nu pogodi!'
Episode Two (1970): The Wolf turns up at a summer amusement park (probably Gorky Park) to bother small animal children, attempts to play guitar and catch the Bunny. He fails at both, but rides a Ferris wheel, visits a hall of mirrors, etc.
Episode Three (1971): The Wolf gets a motorcycle and fancy motorcycling duds. The Bunny goes by on a bicycle. The motorcycle is quickly destroyed, leading the Wolf to pursue the Bunny riding, among other things, a truck transporting live fish and a tractor.
Episode Four (1972): The Wolf in a stadium, for various athletic shenanigans on the track, lifting weights, pole vaulting, etc. He gets his ass kicked by a tiny wrestling panda bear (or koala?) and never quite manages to catch up with the Bunny.
Episode Five (1972): Back in town, for once the Wolf manages to get the Bunny in his sack! Fortunately, as he's being carried off, the cops ride by, and the Wolf makes a big show of bowing and turning out his pockets while they pass, then baring his belly and back and thumbing his nose at them once they've gone. There's a bit with a watermelon stand, a bit with a trolley bus, a bit in a television shop (where we learn the Bunny can't sing either), a bit with an autowater machine (you don't know what this is because they don't have them in the States), and finally a bit on the metro (they cover a lot of ground here!).
Bonus music identification! "Those were the days my friend" during the trolleybus bit
Episode Six (1973): The Wolf follows the Bunny onto a plane, to find he's practicing parachuting. Falling out of airplane and parachuting gags follow. They land in a village, where the Wolf gets beaten up by a rooster in the henhouse (where he lands), then falls in a well, gets in trouble with a hay-baling machine (things baled include: hay, cabbages, chickens, wolves) and, of course, never catches the Bunny.
After this point the series begins to make self referential jokes.
Episode Seven (1973): The Wolf, dressed as a sailor, with excessively belled bottoms on his pants, manages to get on board a steamship where the Bunny is taking a trip. (When he is thrown off by the Captain, a pun is made which I didn't get until I'd been studying Russian for seven or eight years. 'Rabbit.' says the Captain. 'Yes, rabbit, rabbit!' says the Wolf, whereupon the Captain says 'Nu, rabbit, pogodi!' and gives him the boot. 'To ride rabbit' (khodit' zayetsom) on busses in Russia is to be riding without a ticket, as the Wolf is doing.) The Wolf proves unable to catch the Bunny either above or below decks but he does nearly sink the ship. The Bunny helps him fix the hole and man a pump, and they are friends until the Bunny steps on the Wolf's pant cuffs and rips them...
Episode Eight (1974): A winter episode, where the Wolf steals a bear cub's skates to try and catch the Bunny on ice. Of course there is a lovely doubles skating scene, the Wolf crashes a nice New Year's party and plays Snegurochka to the Bunny's Ded Moroz. Then there's a ski lift chase, and the Wolf's yelling 'Nu pogodi!' causes an avalanche.
Bonus Music Identification! "A Banda" by Chico Buarque de Hollanda (also record by the Tijuana Brass in the US)
Episode Nine (1976): We see the Wolf at home, where he breaks most of his meager furniture trying to dent a dried fish. This is either a testament to the hardness of the fish, or the shoddiness of Soviet-made things, I'm not sure. Before he breaks his tv, he sees the Bunny on tv, so he heads off to the television station to find him. Wolf chases Bunny through various tv shows and movie sets, including a nice duel scene a la The Three Musketeers and a magic show which sends him back to his apartment.
Bonus Music Identification! At the tv station, the first studio door the Wolf listens in on, he hears the theme song for the nightly children's show 'Good Night, Little Children'
Episode Ten (1976): The Bunny is curiously wandering around a building site, where the Wolf chases him with wheelbarrows, bathtubs, gets welded into the plumbing, painted several times, and ends up on the hospital after falling several stories. Under anesthesia he dreams the beginning of the first episode (see above) with the roles reversed and the Bunny trying to catch him.
Episode Eleven (1977): The Wolf goes to circus, steals a little badger's seat to sit next to the Bunny. Chase scenes: high wire, lion cage, around the circus ring. He also ends up with a snake at one point and has to charm it.
Episode Twelve (1978): Wolf pursues Bunny into a museum, dressed in a suit of armor. He loses in combat against a caveman figure, drops a cigarette in his armor (disregarding no smoking signs), makes some attempts to destroy museum pieces he thinks the Bunny is hiding in/behind, passing through exhibits on cavemen, medieval weaponry, Egypt, and Ancient Greece.
Episode Thirteen (1980): There's a gathering of international sportsmen, I mean sportsrabbits, for the 1980 Olympics. The Wolf chases the Bunny around the airport, where he's come to greet the international rabbits. The Wolf goes through a series of mistaking various international athlete rabbits for the Bunny he is used to dealing with. There's a boxing rabbit, a seven-foot basketball rabbit, and a karate rabbit. Chase scenes: tandem bicycle!
Episode Fourteen (1984): The Wolf, dressed to the nines, goes to visit the Bunny with a bouquet of roses and bottle of sparkling cider. (Understand my gender confusion re: the Bunny.) Opening the bottle rockets him out the window before he gets around to doing anything to the Bunny. Next the Wolf follows the Bunny to a robot museum. Modern machinery gives him a working over as he is pursued by a robotic Bunny turned mean!
Bonus Music Identification! 'Millions of Scarlet Roses" by Alla Pugacheva
Episode Fifteen (1985): The Wolf seeks admission into the House of Culture, where the Bunny is in charge of a talent show. The Wolf crashes the show, taking part in ballet, and chasing the Bunny around backstage, attempting to evade the hippo guard and smuggle out the Bunny in a guitar case. He ends up with a guitar of course, and does his best Vysotsky.
Bonus Music Identification! The Choir of Boy Bunnies sings a medley of songs from other Soyuzmultfilm cartoons (I'm fairly certain)
Episode Sixteen (1986): The Wolf is reading a book of fairy tales on the beach and gets heat stroke, during which he dreams he finds a bottle with a Bunny genie who identifies himself as ibn Khattab (as in the Soviet children's film Khattabych). Instead of giving him a wish, though, he sends the Wolf to a land of fairytales, where he steals Baba Yaga's broomstick, and gets into trouble inside her hut on chicken legs. Then he drinks out of a puddle which turns him into a goat kid, but the Bunny brings him back to normal, whereupon he wakes up on the beach again.
Episode Seventeen: Getting modern and capitalist here, the Wolf calls the Bunny on an AMT cell phone (the Bunny answers his Nokia pager) to tell him 'Nu pogodi.' The credits include an endorsement for AMT, and then we're on to a 25th anniversary episode. Seen the 50th anniversary Warner Brothers, where they tap-dance with canes on stage? Same deal. The Wolf pulls the Bunny backstage, where he turns into a WereBunny! and the Wolf wakes up to a werebeast tv show left on. The Bunny brings him a twenty-five candle cake, then goes up in a hot air balloon. The Wolf gives chase, they end up on a desert island with tribesbunnies watching 'Nu pogodi' on a Nokia tv. They spy the Wolf and are going to eat him (with salt and mustard), but the Bunny saves him.
Episode Eighteen (1993): Another AMT production, with product placement for Troika (some sort of beer, I think), GE, Crona safes and more Nokia. The Wolf gets chatted up by a cell phone and accidentally steals an expensive car. The Bunny goes along for the ride, but gets away, of course. Next we visit a big store (still a novelty to newly capitalist Russia to have things on the shelves) where the Wolf looks for a Bunny-sized frying pan, gets his photo taken in a booth with the hippo storekeeper, gets locked in a safe, and as usual, destroys a lot of things without catching the Bunny.
The names do change slightly from episode to episode, but here's one set
Voice of the Wolf: Anatoly Papanov
Voice of the Bunny: Klara Rumianova
Authors of the Scenario: F. Kamov, A. Kurliandskii, A. Khait
Director: V. Kotyonochkin
Artist-Producer: S. Rusakov
Compositors: A. Zatsepin, G. Garanian, V. Babushkin
Operator: E. Petrova, A. Chekhovskii
Sound Operator: G. Martyniuk, V. Kutuzov
Cutter/Monteur: T. Sazanova, M. Mikheeva
Assistants: T. Zebrova, E. Turanova, S. Kashcheeva, A. Rybchevskaya, etc.
Musical Arrangement: G. Krylova
Artist-Animators: O. Safronov, V. Likhachev, V. Arsientev, O. Komarov, V. Krumin, F. Yeldinov, V. Zarubin, A. Kaiukov, S. Marakasov, N. Troianova, etc.
Editor: A. Snesarev
Director of Pictures: F. Ivanov
Songs by: G. Saveliova
So take this cartoon, not much more, originally, than a rip-off of the old Tom and Jerry/Coyote and Roadrunner/Sylvester and Tweety idea, and play it for small children in the Soviet Union for thirty years. Then, even once the Soviet Union has im/ex-ploded, citizens of the FSU will still speak of it nostalgically, even though they may hate most products of the USSR with a passion. And then you can play it for American high school students who are studying Russian, and they too will think it's great, because it's television, and generally neither test nor homework producing.