Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zéró

Last day of the 2016 A to Z Challenge! Thank you all for visiting and leaving comments! Come back on May 9th for the Reflections!

When legendary criminal cat Zéró decides to sell a national park forest (and gated community) for profit, he can only be stopped by a Captain on the verge of retirement, the forest president's little granddaughter, and a handful of enthusiastic friends.
Az Erdő Kapitánya (Captain of the Forest, 1988) is a feature length animated movie that promotes the importance of the environment (among other things). It plays a lot on police movie tropes, such as "two weeks from retirement."

Once again, the cats are the bad guys: Zéró is the head of a crime network, and keeps evading capture by the upstanding members of the Police: The Captain (a dog), Ede the Corporal (a mouse), and the Emergency Signal (an owl). This formidable team is aided by Goliath, a flea, who is supposed to spy on the cats, but gets himself captured and sent back to the police under a stamp on an envelope. He finds out enough, however, to know that Zéró's aim is the Forest, so the Captain fakes retirement to get temporary housing in the gated community (since they are outside the city's jurisdiction).

At the forest, Captain makes friends with the granddaughter of the Forest President (an old and strong bear lady). Dorka is super excited about being friends with a real life cop. He also befriends Dini, the Bat, who helps him build a house on the island assigned to him - and obviously he builds it upside-down, but the good-natured Captain doesn't complain. We also get to encounter Pimpike, the Blue Bird of Happiness (a former wolf who ate a whole lot of poisonous shrooms and got an identity crisis).

All kinds of excitement ensue - chases on land and water, kidnappings, mayhem. Zéró almost succeeds at selling the entire forest to a landscaping company for immediate demolition... but in the end, the Captain stops him. After the excitement is over, the Captain decides to actually retire, and move into the Forest permanently.

This is a very adorable movie, and one of my favorites. I wish there was an English dubbed version...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for a Young Sparrow

I know I say this a lot, but this one is actually one of my top favorite Hungarian cartoons.

When a boy pisses off the Sparrow Fairy by shooting at birds, he gets turned into a sparrow himself, and has to learn what life is like for tiny birds in a bid city.
Vili, a veréb (Willy the Sparrow) is a 1989 feature length animated movie. It is not only gorgeously drawn (featuring recognizable Budapest scenes and buildings as the backdrop), but also geniously animated - you can tell that the creators spend serious hours watching sparrows... do sparrow things.

The Sparrow Fairy only turns Vili into a sparrow to teach him a lesson (and prove that she is actually a fairy, and not just a silly old woman). But her magical spray can malfunctions, and she has to go back to the Headquarters to get it fixed, so she leaves Sparrow-Vili alone in his room. Unfortunately, the family's much-tortured cat takes this opportunity to avenge herself on the kid, and Vili has to flee out of the apartment and into the park. And so the adventures begin.

In the park, Vili makes friends with a flock of actual sparrows, who are at first very surprised why he can't fly - and then save him from the cat and take him to a wise old sparrow, Cipur, for flight training. Vili confesses to Cipur that he is actually human, and they make a deal: Cipur teach Vili to fly, and Vili teaches Cipur to read and write (because the old bird has a crush on the Sparrow Fairy). In the process, Vili learns a lot about sparrows, and also a lot about friendship and bravery.

One of the things that the birds often do is rivalry for leadership. Their loud and aggressive leader, Spagyi, keeps yelling "WHO'S STRONGER?!" at every newcomer, and they all put their heads down and say "YOU!" Whoever is the strongest gives the orders. One of the most quotable lines of the movie comes from these situations:

"Any questions? No questions? Let's go!" - he always says it fast enough that no one can get a word (or question) in.

Whenever one of them says or does something dumb, they get called a "dongó," which means bumblebee. "Csures, you are bublebee" is a great way of dissing someone.

My favorite piece of wisdom, however, comes from Cipur: Every time he leaves Vili alone, he says "One eye, one ear, is always alert." While this is supposed to reflect the way tiny birds live, it is also a very handy quote for parenting in general. My mother says it a lot to me when I set off on a trip.

In addition, there is also a scene where Vili touches on the basic problems of academic writing. I blogged about it in detail here.

SOOO... this movie exists on YouTube with English subtitles... but also Russian dubs, for some godforsaken reason...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for the Checkered-Eared Rabbit

Plush Rabbit Square-Ears?...
This is as close as I'm going to get to X, so bear with me.

A plush rabbit lives in an attic and spies on people until his services are needed, at which point he uses his large ears to helicopter down and save the day.
A kockásfülű nyúl (The checkered-eared rabbit) is an animated TV show that aired 26 episodes between 1974 and 1976. I actually am not sure if the rabbit is a he or a she, or something else, because Hungarian language is gender-neutral, and also no one speaks in the entire show. Therefore, it is easily watchable for children of any language.

Once again this is a show that is mostly known for the ridiculous adorableness of its main character. You can buy Checkered-Eared Rabbit plushies in several stores in Hungary, and people recognize them as part of their childhood. Rabbit always carries a large spyglass, and looking through it sees children getting into trouble - ruining a birthday cake, losing a drawing, being bullied, etc. Rabbit then helicopters down with his large checkered ears to help them solve the situation. The episodes are short, and come with cheerful music (that can get a bit repetitive). It is great fun for smaller children.

Watch episodes of the show here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for the Water Spider

America has Wonder Woman. Hungary has Wonder Spider.

A strange new spider moves into a little pond: He prefers to build a crystal palace of air bubbles under water, and wears another air bubble for pants when he swims around. He makes friends with creatures both on land and water, among them the grumpy, sarcastic Cross Spider. (Hey, this works as a pun in English!)
Vízipók-csodapók (Water Spider - wonder spider) is an animated TV show that aired 40 episodes between 1974 and 1984. It was made to educate children about life in sweet water ponds, and also various insects and creatures in and out of the water. The show was created with the collaboration of Bálint Ágnes, writer, and Dr. Kertész György, a biology professor from the Eötvörs Loránt University in Budapest. Thanks to their work together, the cartoon is not only adorable and colorful, but also biologically very accurate.
(Legend says the water snails were modeled on the professor's PhD students at the time).

What I love about this show is that each episode introduces fascinating, tiny creatures that you don't usually hear about - and they all exist in your own backyard! Water snails, sharp-edge snailssweet-water hydras, backswimmers, one-eyed copepods, caddisflies, dragonflies, color-changing flower-spiders, mole crickets, and more - and yes, I had to look all of those up in the English dictionary.

I am endlessly happy that I grew up with a cartoon like this. I always loved animals and nature (I also grew up reading Gerald Durrell's books), and Water Spider introduced me, and thousands of other children, to the tiny miracles right under our noses. I think it is the most amazing cartoon show Hungary has ever done.

Watch episodes of the show (in Hungarian) here.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Vuk

Once again, a film that miraculously does exist with English dubs! (Although a little hard to track down.)

After his family is killed off by a hunter, tiny fox Vuk is raised old fox Karak, and uses his skills and brains to take revenge on the Human and his hunting dogs.
Vuk (The Little Fox) is a feature length animated movie that premiered in 1981 (you are probably seeing a pattern here, our golden age of animation ranged from the 70s to the early 90s). It is based on a famous novel by Fekete István, published under the same title, in 1965. You can buy the book in English on Amazon, it is worth the read.

Vuk is known for its ridiculously adorable main character, a fox cub that has a lot to learn about... well, being a fox. After his family is taken by the Smooth-Skin (which is what forest animals call humans) and his Barkers (dogs), Vuk is left all alone - he only survives because he sneaked out and went hunting against his parents' orders. The most heartbreaking moment of the cartoon is the tiny baby fox sitting in front of the empty den, muttering "I am alone... I am tiny... I am hungry... Someone help Vuk the tiny fox..."
(This line is often quoted by people who are sad or tired)

Things turn for the better when old fox Karak shows up and adopts the cub. It soon becomes clear that Vuk is very gifted (has a sense of smell like no one else), but also has a lot to learn (he jumps on a hedgehog). Karak patiently trains him in the art of hunting, until Vuk grows up and becomes the smartest hunter in the forest. He spends his time stealing chickens from the Hunter's home right under the dogs' noses like his father did. On one of his trips he also meets an imprisoned girl-fox, falls in love, and rescues her from her cage.

Vuk is a classic in all senses of the word - a great story, lovable characters, and beautiful animation. I high recommend this movie to everyone.