American Pooh Vs. Russian Pooh

Swiss animator Oswald Iten has written an enlightening analysis of the different approaches to narrative and characterization used by the Disney studio and Russian director Fyodor Khitruk in their respective adaptations of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

Though relatively unknown in the West until recently, Khitruk’s three Winnie the Pooh shorts are considered classics in Russia much in the same way the Disney versions are revered in the States. Among the admirers of Khitruk’s shorts was Disney director Woolie Reitherman, who once told Khitruk, “You know, your Winnie is better than mine.”

We should also take this opportunity to wish happy birthday to Fyodor Khitruk, who celebrated his 95th birthday last week. The first of his Pooh shorts, released in 1969, can be seen below:


  • http://www.cartoonsolutions.com Ryan Simmons

    One thing is for sure: the Russian piglet is way more cute than the Disney one.

  • Tomm

    Um shorts. I am sure their shirts are pretty groovy too :)

  • CrysRhey

    Aahh!
    I was just talking about this the other day! Adorable ‘VINNI PUKH’…! Great article, great timing! Cheers & Thanks!

  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    The lovable huggable Pooh Bear has developed a carnal appetite for flesh after he took a step on the Zombie Walk of Fame! See him eat until he bursts at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/03/zombie-winnie-pooh.html

  • KB

    I freakin LOOOOOVE this !!!

  • http://aalong64.blogspot.com Aaron Long

    The Pooh shorts are one of the few Disney works I still love as an adult, but the Russian ones are awesome in a completely different way.

  • http://artnote.blog.com Stephen

    I disagree with Woolie Reitherman; Disney’s version wins from superior character animation. However, this is delightful. The backgrounds are great.

  • Julian

    Oh yes, Awesome Pooh! I freakin’ love Russian animation. One of the few underrated gems in my book.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Certainly both films have their strengths in different ways. I certainly love the Russian Pooh’s little quirks in the eyes and movement. While there’s no Christopher Robin to deal with in these, the approach resembles what he’d might create in his head of these adventures.

    Nice to hear that Khitruk’s still around!

  • Rufus

    The Russian is infinitely better than the Disney version. USA Pooh is basically an idiot, whereas the Russian one at least has an agenda.

    • http://chuckrekow.blogspot.com/ Chuck R.

      The Disney version is just more faithful to the original. (refreshingly so, after The Jungle Book took so many liberties with its source material) The A.A. Milne Pooh was none too bright.

      Along with 101 Dalmatians, Pooh is the other xeroxed Disney flick where the design really works in spades. It’s not my favorite, but it is beautifully done.

  • Scarabim

    While I’m an admirer of some Russian animation (the marvelous Russian version of “The Snow Queen” being my favorite), I don’t see how this minimalist version of Pooh is better than Disney’s by any criteria. The Russian Pooh Bear looks like a panda for heaven’s sake, and that’s the least of its flaws IMO.

    • JM

      Flaws??. like what ,like it´s speaking in a language that you don´t understand?

      sorry but YHO doesn´t sound H.

      • Scarabim

        You appear to be *writing* in a language you don’t understand. Correct punctuation does matter if you’re trying to get your point across in an intelligent manner.

        And, for the record, I watch quite a lot of un-dubbed anime, so language is hardly a barrier to my enjoyment of GOOD cartoons.

      • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

        It would be interesting to hear what rankles you so Scarabim… apart from grammar on the internet of course

  • James

    This is very interesting since this essentially pre-dates the Disney animation by roughly 8 years. Could they have been an inspiration the the Disney staff to adapt the books?

    Not only the designs, but also the characterizations in this are a refreshing change to the Disney characters. Pooh is less sloth-like and Piglet is not the craven coward seemingly afraid of his own shadow. Rabbit is less of a fuss-budget and Eeyore less manic-depressive. Most unexpected of all, Owl is a hen (though essentially the same character).

    While the look of the characters mostly are drastically different from the book illustrations, they seem like they might be even more closely in-tune with the book’s characters as far as personal nuances. However, the short subjects tend to add more zip and overall faster pace in both the dialogue and storytelling.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      “This is very interesting since this essentially pre-dates the Disney animation by roughly 8 years. Could they have been an inspiration the the Disney staff to adapt the books?”

      I think you’ve got it wrong actually, the first Disney Pooh adventure came out in 1966 (Winnie The Pooh and The Honey Tree). Two other adventures would be released in ’68 (Blustery Day) and ’74 (& Tigger Too). In 1977 a feature-length “The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh” was released theatrically, comprising of those three short films strung together with newly animated bridges. I’m sure the feature was what you were thinking of, but Disney’s use of Pooh actually predates Soyuzmultfilm’s initial start by a few years.

      Khitruk’s first Pooh short was released in ’69, with subsequent films in ’71 and ’72, so roughly both studios were producing Pooh films concurrently during that period.

  • alan

    Thanks for bringing this gem to my attention Amid. From the moment Pooh apeared on screen i was hooked. What a corker!

  • http://daryl-rhystaylor.blogspot.com DarylT

    The Disney version is infinitely better.

  • http://909pop.com Mike Scott

    i enjoyed that. both disney and russian versions have loads of charm.

  • http://www.daganm.blogspot.com Dagan

    GREAT treat!

    Have been in LOVE with this Russian ‘Pooh’ piece (the first one) since a friend first showed it to me several years ago.

    For my money, it’s gotta be one of the most utterly charming pieces of animation I have ever seen.

    When my daughter was 2-ish she would sit on my lap and watch with me on YouTube, laughing at Pooh’s little walk/singing bit in the beginning… so cute!

    Have never seen the other 2 pieces, but would love to.
    Would also be great to learn more about Fyodor Khitruk…

    This is a great start, thanks Amid!

  • Rachel Gitlevich

    AAHHH! I grew up with this! The Russian pooh’s faults are a lot more obvious and far more charming, but then again I’m biased ;)

    Unfortunately Youtube took down a lot of the Russian cartoons with English subtitles, but here are a few in Russian if anyone wants to take a look:

    Flying Ship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7-CLqiNJWM&feature=related

    Karlson Who Lives on the Roof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6-gk9KHAhE&feature=related

    The Little Mermaid (with Subtitles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O331YUr2gI

  • Slinky Dog

    The Disney version is way better. Mr. Reitherman doesn’t give himself or the rest of the Disney crew enough credit.

  • Aymanut

    Everyone should seek out and watch Khitruck’s “Boniface’s Holiday”, in my opinion it’s much better than the Pooh shorts, a true masterpiece.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    That is great. I like the disney one but I love this one

  • Tom Pope

    Just all kinds of awesome.

  • MissConception

    Personally, I like this Piglet better than the American one.

    One thing both versions do very well is capture Pooh’s contrived, childlike logic. However, the Pooh in this one seems more tricky and aware of what he is doing, particularly in the episode about Rabbit. The American one is played a little more innocent and ignorant of his social faux pas.

    Still, both are fun and entertaining to watch. It’s always interesting to see different interpretations of the same story.

  • Animon

    Hi. I’m Russian. In Russia there are no people who don’t love Russian Winnie-the-Pooh. Disney made fine films about Winnie, but Khitruk made it under our mentality. Sorry for my English.

  • http://saturnome.blogspot.com/ Saturnome

    Fyodor Khitruk is such a great artist. Look for his non-Pooh shorts too, a lot of them are simply amazing.

  • http://okgrillo.blogspot.com Oscar Grillo

    American Pooh?…Winnie the Pooh IS BRITISH!!!!!

    • Josh

      I’ve always thought the Disney version of Pooh had an American flavour different from the Pooh books. But the Russian Pooh also has it’s own distinctive flavour. So maybe it’s impossible not to imbue a character with something of the culture in which it is adapted.

    • http://www.sisterson.co.uk Dennis Sisterson

      I think the ‘American’ in the title refers to the Disney cartoons, Oscar, not the original creation.

  • James

    The fictional Winnie-the-Pooh is British, though the actual bear named “Winnie” that inspired Milne was a Canadian black bear caught near White River, Ontario. White River still claims Pooh as its own– it is a very tiny town now, having a Winnie-the-Pooh statue and museum.

    I think the “American Pooh” on the title is referring to the Disney adaptation.

  • Rose

    Russian Winnie the Pooh, inspiration for Wicket the Ewok?

  • Principal Dondelinger

    Man, I love this. If I seen this as a child I would have skipped Corporate Pooh altogether.

  • Jeff

    I have them on a PAL DVD – THEY REALLY ARE GREAT!

  • Anna

    Russian Pooh-bear all the way!! … tho might be a tad bias since grew up with it, and love the voice