Cheburashka, a popular character from Russia's toy world, has been appointed Official Mascot of the Russian Olympic Team. Ancient people believed that similar talismans had magical powers that could bring out competitors best qualities and help them achieve success.
Why exactly has this enigmatic little animal been selected for this important mission? This funny and naive Cheburashka toy, which is extremely popular in this country, resembles a few well-known animals: his fur and tail resemble those of a little bear, his paws are like those of a fluffy puppy or a kitten, his sail-like ears are copied from a lemur and his big owlish eyes are most expressive.
After emerging as a literary character, Cheburashka and his friends immediately won popular recognition. However, no book can compare with a movie in terms of popularising its heroes. It is the cartoons based on Eduard Uspensky's "Crocodile Gena and Friends" that have made Cheburashka so widely popular. The latter's screen image, however, differs from that in the book.
Film director Roman Kachanov started making the cartoon in 1967, a year after the book came out. He used a "three-dimensional" method of using toys instead of making drawings. Russian director and painter Vladimir Starevich was the first to use this method in Russia way back in 1911.
Kachanov formed a strong team, including the animator Yuri Norshtein, a world-renown master of cartoon making, whose film "The Tale of Tales" was recognised as "the best film of all time." Painter Leonid Shvartsman created the image of Cheburashka.
Today the 83-year-old cartoon master admits that he worked on that image "quite a long time." The creature's child-like innocence and its eyes, wide open in surprise, largely helped to make it unique and recognisable. But one more feature had to be added to make it absolutely unforgettable. And one day it dawned upon the artist that large ears might become the most distinguishing feature. The feature was backed up with an appropriate character - he was really nice, brave and intelligent. But Shvartsman thinks he was simply lucky with Cheburashka.
In the run-up to the Olympics, 15,000 copies of Cheburashka will be made for Russian fans and athletes. But will Russia be pleased to know that the 15,000 labels sewn to the furry Official Mascot of the Russian Olympics Team will tell everyone that it was made in...China?
Tatyana Sinitsyna, RIA Novosti
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