December 28, 2007

Karlsson is from Sweden after all

You know Karlsson who lives on the roof. Everybody knows him.

Being a soviet kid, I've always had this impression that the "true" Karlsson appears in the well known soviet short animated film "Malysh and Karlsson", created in 1968. I've watched it countless times, just like any other soviet kid at the time.

Now I've had a chance to watch a newer 2002 Swedish full length version: "Karlsson pa taket".

What was really surprising is how similar the images of Malysh (the little one, in Russian adaptation) and Karlsson himself were. And not just those two, the entire visual style is strikingly similar. See for yourself.

Russian version:

Swedish version:

Excuse me, but I don't believe that two different teams of animators working at different times in different countries can come up with something so similar. What's going on here ?

Here is what I found.

The first clue is right there in the titles to the Swedish film - it is declared to be based on the work by Ilon Wikland. As it turns out to be, she has illustrated the first edition of the book back in 1955.

The design of characters in Russian version is ultimately attributed to Anatoly Savchenko, although at least here he is said to have been inspired by illustrations to the first Swedish edition of the book. You know, judging by the look of it, I wouldn't even call it inspired, rather based upon.

This is it then, the one and only Karlsson belongs to Ilon Wikland and not to the biggest soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm.

What is sad though is that the Russian version doesn't indicate the borrowing. I can see that at the time the Russian film was made it would have been a suicide to refer to a western source in Russian product. Still, it is very sad and obscuring fact.