Hedgehog in the Fog Hedgehog in the Fog

Yuri Norstein meets true crime in the latest episode of Criminal, the popular podcast hosted by Phoebe Judge. In “Only in Hollywood,” Judge — who has an eye for oddball tales of wrongdoing — recounts the improbable story of Soviet animation’s piracy in the U.S. Listen here.

The story starts with Oleg Vidov, a Russian-born movie star with the looks of a Robert Redford and a passion for vintage Soviet animation. After defecting to the U.S. in the 1980s, Vidov, together with his American wife Joan Borsten, purchased the international rights to the catalogue of Soyuzmultfilm, Soviet Russia’s renowned state animation studio. Their aim was to introduce the studio’s classic works to the world.

Vidov and Borsten were initially successful with the distribution: the animated films were aired by the likes of HBO and PBS. But then orders from video stores fell. Borsten investigated, embarking on a vigilante mission that was equal parts frightening and farcical. Judge interviews her and other players in the drama, including an ex-CIA private eye and a young friend of Borsten’s stepson who joined the investigation, only to find himself way out of his depth.

The story, though extreme, draws attention to the troubles that can plague international distribution pacts, especially when the territories involved have radically different cultures and legal frameworks. And while the kind of crime it depicts now seems quaint, Judge reminds us with a parting zinger that piracy is still very much with us.

Image at top: Yuri Norstein’s “Hedgehog in the Fog,” which is featured in the podcast

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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