Cheburashka, the animated film character

Cheburashka, also known as Topple in earlier English translations, is a character in children's literature, from a 1965 story by the Russian writer Eduard Uspensky. He is also the protagonist (voiced by Klara Rumyanova) of the animated film series by Soyuzmultfilm studio, the first episode of which was made in 1969.


According to the story, Cheburashka is a funny little animal, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. Cheburashka is not a personal name; it is a species name invented by the puzzled director of the shop where he is found. The salesman takes the animal out and sits him on the table, but his paws are numb after the long time spent in the crate, and he tumbles down ("cheburakhnulsya" (чебурахнулся), a Russian colloquialism, "tumbled" in English) from the table onto the chair and then from the chair, where he could not sit, for the same reason, onto the floor. The director of the shop, who witnesses the scene, called him Cheburashka. Words with this root were archaic in Russian; Uspensky gave them a new lease on life. (The 19th-century Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian language of Vladimir Dal gives the meaning of "cheburashka" as another name for the vanka-vstanka tumbling toy.)

Cheburashka cartoon series Edit

  1. Gena the Crocodile and His Friends (Крокодил Гена и его друзья) - 1969 (the same title as the 1965 story)
  2. Cheburashka (Чебурашка) - 1971
  3. Old Lady Shapoklyak (Шапокляк) - 1974
  4. Cheburashka Goes to School (Чебурашка идёт в школу) - 1983 created by HAILEY WILKINS


Cheburashka is male, has a bear-like body, large round ears, and is about the size of a 5-year-old child. In the tale, he hangs around with a friendly crocodile Gena, who wears a hat and a coat, walks on his hind legs and plays an accordion. He works in a zoo as a crocodile. Gena's favorite songs are "Birthdays Happen Only Once a Year" and "Blue Wagon".


In the cartoon, Cheburashka and Gena have their adventures made more difficult by a character named "Старуха Шапокляк" (Old Lady Shapoklyak, from French chapeau claque, a kind of top hat). Shapoklyak is a mischievous but charming old lady. She is tall and thin, wears a hat and a dark-coloured dress, and carries around the rat-like creature — "Lariska" — in her purse to help her play pranks on people. The chorus of her theme song contains her motto, "One won't ever get famous for good deeds."

Copyright controversyEdit

Cheburashka A.V. Alfeevskiy 1965

Cheburashka in 1965, in the first edition of the book.

The rights to the Cheburashka character and image have been heavily debated in court.[1] In 1994, Eduard Uspenskiy (the writer) copyrighted the character's name and image and proceeded to sell the rights to various countries. Leonid Shvartsman, the art director of the animated films, has tried to prove in court that he was the creator of Cheburashka's visual appearance and that this copyright should be separate from the rights for the literary character. On March 13, 2007, Shvartsman and his attorney lost a 4.7 million ruble lawsuit against BRK Cosmetics and Eduard Uspenskiy. Shvartsman alleged that Uspenskiy sold the rights to the Cheburashka image (which was allegedly not his to sell) to BRK Cosmetics, which used it on packets of toothpaste. The defence argued that the artist who drew the character for the packets had never seen the animated films and, despite the fact that the character on the packets was an exact copy of the one in the animated films, had created the character himself after the impressions left from reading Uspenskiy's books. Vladimir Entin, the prosecuting attorney, suspects that the jury had to have been bribed in order to hand such an unlikely verdict, but admits that there is no proof. [2]

Cheburashka spottingsEdit

Cheburashka doll

A Russian talking Cheburashka

Cheburashka is now a staple of Russian cartoons, and there are several licensed products on the market, such as children's anecdotal books and stuffed toys. He is also one of the few Russian animation characters to be a subject of numerous Russian jokes and riddles.

The word "Cheburashka" is also used in a figurative sense to name objects that somehow resemble the creature (such as an An-72 aircraft which, when seen from the front, resembles the character's head) or are just as nice as it is (e.g. a colloquial name for a small bottle of lemonade – from brand name "Cheburashka").

Cheburashka has also been chosen as the official mascot for the Russian Olympic Team in the following games:

Cheburashka also became known in some countries outside the former Soviet Union (and of the Soviet Bloc). He became very popular in Japan after an animated film series about him was shown in 15 cinemas all over Japan and was watched by approx. 700,000 Japanese between summer 2001 and spring 2002. In 2008, the Cheburashka films were inducted into the Ghibli Museum Library with Japanese theatrical release[3] on the same date as Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.[4]

"Drutten och krokodilen", Sweden Edit


"Drutten och Gena"

In the 1970s a series of children's television shows, radio shows, records and magazines were produced in Sweden featuring the characters Drutten and crocodile Gena. These two characters were based on a couple of Cheburashka and Gena dolls purchased on a trip to the Soviet Union, so they were visually identical to Cheburashka and Gena. "Drutten" is a fairly good approximation of a translation of "one who tumbles down," as one meaning of the Swedish colloquial verb "drutta" is "to fall or tumble down."

But that is where the similarity ends. The two characters sang and told different stories from those in the USSR, lived on a bookshelf rather than in a city and are hand puppets operated in live action rather than stop motion. Only occasionally Swedish state TV would broadcast a segment of the Russian original, dubbed in Swedish. So, while many Swedes may visually recognize Cheburashka, they will generally not associate these characters with the ones Russian children know.

Collectibles Edit

Cheburashka dolls and other collectibles are produced in Russia and Japan and sought after by collectors around the world. United States National Champion figure skater Johnny Weir is known to be an avid collector of Russian Cheburashka items.

The white & red Olympic mascots were made in 3 sizes (6" (14 cm), 7" (18 cm) & 11" (27 cm)) and wear a sponsor's jersey featuring the "Bosco Sport" logo on the chest.

Cheburashka movieEdit

Ivan Maximov had said in a 2004 interview [5] that Pilot Studio had been planning to make a Cheburashka feature film and that the scenario had been written out and possibly some footage shot, but that it had been frozen for lack of funds. Cheburashka's popularity in Japan is such that on April 4, 2006, TV Tokyo broadband issued a press announcement [6][7] that it (in partnership with Frontier Works, Inc.) has acquired the rights to remake the Cheburashka shorts as a feature film. It is unclear if this was the very project that Pilot Studio had been forced to abandon. It was announced that the film, like the original shorts, will be based on puppet animation enhanced with modern stop-motion technology and computer graphics effects (similar to the plans for the Pilot Studio film), and would be shot simultaneously in two languages – English and Russian. No news have been released since that announcement.

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