Children's Cinema

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Children’s Cinema


motion pictures made specifically fcr children, comprising fiction films (both live-action films and animated cartoons), newsreels, documentaries, and educational films. The term “children’s cinema” also includes films for adults dealing with the upbringing of the younger generation. In the USSR the children’s cinema is an important means for promoting the communist upbringing of children. The children’s cinema draws upon and develops the traditions of Soviet cinematic art and the artistic achievements of Soviet literature and theater and follows the principles of Soviet pedagogy. In making children’s films the age characteristics of the young viewers and the specific character of their thinking and aesthetic perception are taken into account.

The children’s cinema was first developed as a special branch of motion-picture art in the Soviet Union. In prerevolutionary Russia screen adaptations of Russian folk tales and of works of classical literature as well as early Russian animated cartoons were sometimes shown at children’s film sessions in Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities. The first film for young people, A. A. Arkatov’s The Signal, based on V. G. Garshin’s short story, was released in 1918, and regular production of children’s films began in 1924. A conference on problems of the children’s and school cinema held in 1927 and presided over by N. K. Krupskaia greatly influenced the development of the children’s cinema. Children’s film theaters were opened in major cities and schools were provided with projection equipment. In 1931 a scientific-methodological film sector was established at the Central House for the Artistic Upbringing of Children in Moscow. At the initiative of the film director A. A. Ovanesova, Soiuzkinokhronika (Ail-Union Newsreel Studio) in Moscow initiated the monthly newsreel Pioneriia (Pioneers).

From 1936 to 1948 the center of the Soviet children’s cinema was Soiuzdetfil’m (All-Union Children’s Film Studio). In 1936, Soiuzmul’tfilm (All-Union Animated Cartoon Studio) was created, which produced cartoons for children. In 1959 the association Iunost’ (Youth) was organized at Mosnfil’m (Moscow Film Studio), and in 1963 the M. Gorky Film Studio was reorganized into the M. Gorky Central Studio of Children’s and Young People’s Films.

The films made for children and young people varied greatly in genre and theme. Epics, fairy tales, dramas, comedies, lyrical and satirical stories, and adventure films were produced, as well as screen adaptations of literary works. The film The Little Red Devils (1923, based on P. A. Bliakhin’s novella, director I. N. Perestiani) introduced the theme of the Revolution into the Soviet children’s cinema. An important event was the appearance of the first sound film for children, Torn Shoes (1933, director M. A. Barskaia; refilmed in 1970), depicting the life of children of German workers in the years before the fascists came to power. Many films have been made about the heroic period of the Revolution and Civil War and on the life and heroic deeds of Soviet children and young people during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). These films include Fed’ka (1937, director N. I. Lebedev), The Ballad of Cossack Golota (1937, based on A. P. Gaidar’s Revolutionary Military Council, director I. A. Savchenko), A Lone White Sail (1937, based on V. P. Kataev’s novella, director V. G. Legoshin), Once Upon a Time There Was a Little Girl (1944, director V. V. Eisymont), Son of the Regiment (1946, based on V. P. Kataev’s novella, director M. V. Pronin), and The Young Guards (1948, based on A. A. Fadeev’s novel, director S. A. Gerasimov).

From its very beginning the Soviet children’s cinema has dealt with a broad range of themes from contemporary life. It has addressed itself to problems of the development of the child’s personality in Soviet society as well as to problems of duty and friendship, morals and ethics, and school life. Contemporary life is the subject of the films Timur and His Team (1940, based on Gaidar’s novella, director A. E. Razumnyi), Alesha Ptitsyn Develops Character (1953, based on A. L. Barto’s work, director A. M. Granik), Vasek Trubachev and His Comrades (1955) and Trubachev’s Detachment Fights (1957, based on V. A. Oseeva’s novella, both films directed by I. A. Frez), My Friend Kol’ka! (1961, directors A. A. Saltykov and A. N. Mitta), Welcome (1964, director E. G. Klimov), The Last Day of Vacation (1964, director A. P. Zhebriunas), Someone Is Ringing, Open The Door (1966, director A. N. Mitta), and Let’s Live Till Monday (1969, director S. I. Rostotskii).

The best films have attempted to introduce children to the real world of profound human relationships and to teach them to think for themselves and to evaluate the phenomena of life on their own. A large number of films are fairy tales, many of which are based on folk tales or on the best children’s stories in classical and contemporary literature. The most popular children’s films include As If By Magic (1938), Vasilisa the Beautiful (1940), The Little Hunchbacked Horse (1941), Kashchei the Immortal (1945; director of all four films, A. A. Rou), The Stone Flower (1946, based on P. P. Bazhov’s work, director A. L. Ptushko), and Cinderella (1947, directors N. N. Kosheverova and M. G. Shapiro). The fairy-tale films of the 1960’s, such as Rou’s Morozko and R. A. Bykov’s Aibolit-66, contain elements of realism, parody, and stylized portrayal and use contemporary colloquial speech. Some of the best fairy-tale films are animated cartoons. In The New Gulliver (1935) and The Golden Key (1939, based on A. N. Tolstoy’s work, both films directed by Ptushko), live action is combined with animated cartoons and puppets. Thematic variety, a wealth of dramatic effects, and high artistic quality distinguish such films as The Little Hunchbacked Horse (1947, director I. P. Ivanov-Vano), Fedia Zaitsev (1948, directors V. S. and Z. S. Brumberg), Boniface’s Vacations (1966, director F. S. Khitruk), and The Mitten (1967, director R. A. Kachanov).

Several outstanding Soviet films have been very important in the upbringing of children: V. I. Pudovkin’s Mother, based on M. Gorky’s novel; the Vasil’ev brothers’ Chapaev, based on D. M. Furmanov’s novel; G. M. Kozintsev and I. Z. Trauberg’s trilogy about Maksim; and M. S. Donskoi’s Gorky’s Childhood, based on M. Gorky’s autobiographical works.

Prominent writers, artists, and composers participate in making children’s films. The directors L. O. Arnshtam, V. M. Petrov, G. L. Roshal’, A. A. Shneiderov, and S. I. Iutkevich have made children’s films.

The children’s cinema makes extensive use of the opportunities offered by the documentary and educational cinema. Educational newsreels include Zvezdochka (Little Star; four times a year), Khochu vse znat’ (I Want to Know Everything; monthly), Gorizont (Horizon; monthly), and the documentary Pioneriia (Pioneers; monthly). Educational films combine a humanistic outlook with entertaining presentation and science with elements of the poetic fairy tale, for example, The Little Hare, The Little Gray Star, How the Seagull Pursued the Truck, and Tuk-Tuk-Tuk.

Many Soviet children’s films have received honorary awards and prizes in international film festivals. Such films include Eisymont’s Once Upon a Time There Was a Little Girl, I. V. Lukinskii and M. N. Fedorova’s Chuk and Gek, V. P. Basov and M. V. Korchagin’s School for Courage, T. E. Abuladze and R. D. Chkheidze’s Lurdzha Magdany, L. V. Golub’s A Girl Searches for Her Father, and Iu. Iu. Karasik’s The Wild Dingo Dog.

The Commission on the Children’s Cinema of the Cinematographers’ Union of the USSR maintains contact with children’s film-makers abroad and promotes the development of the children’s cinema. K. K. Paramonova and others have been working on the theoretical and practical problems of the children’s cinema.

The most prominent directors of children’s films in other socialist countries are K. Zeman and K. Kachyňa in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, D. Petrov and S. Shivachev in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, H. Ballmann, G. Klein, K. Petzold, W. Beck, H. Carow, and K. Georgi in the German Democratic Republic, G. Palásthy and Z. Fábri in the Hungarian People’s Republic, E. Bostan in the Socialist Republic of Rumania, and J. Nasfeter in the Polish People’s Republic. They produce films on the history of the revolution and on contemporary themes, both live-action films and animated cartoons, and they make screen adaptations of folk tales and classical and contemporary children’s literature. They also produce educational films and newsreels.

In many capitalist countries the production of children’s films began after World War II (1939-45). The best feature films produced in Great Britain show a profound understanding of the child’s inner world and are very poetic. A number of films deal with the friendship between children and animals. In France the director A. Lamorisse produced the poetic allegorical tales White Mane and The Red Balloon, which were followed by a series of short films about the spiritual world of children. Among the films produced in the USA, W. Disney’s films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938). and Bambi (1942) are widely known. Film versions of fairy tales and of works of world classical and contemporary children’s literature are made, as well as films about the friendship of children and adults with animals. Children’s films in the capitalist countries, especially in the USA, often preach antihumanistic ideas that corrupt the minds of children. U. Hellbom’s film series Little Tjorven, Batsman and Moses, Tjorven and Skrollan, and Tjorven and Mysak, based on themes from A. Lindgren’s short stories, represent a significant phenomenon in the children’s cinema of Sweden. Children’s cinema clubs in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, and several other countries organize special film showings for children, conduct debates and conferences, and publish bulletins.

The International Center of Films for Children and Young People, set up under UNESCO in 1958 and located in Brussels, coordinates the work of national centers, organizes annual international children’s film festivals (held since 1953), and publishes information on the children’s cinema.


Betak, B., and Iu. Gromov. Bol’shoe iskusstvo dlia malen’kikh. Moscow, 1949.
Dolinskii, I. “Razvitie detskogo kino.” In Ocherki istorii sovetskogo kino, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
Dolinskii, I. “Detskoe kino.” Ibid., vol. 3. Moscow, 1961.
Paramonova, K. K. Rozhdenie fil’ma dlia detei. Moscow, 1962.
Paramonova, K. K. Obraz-kharakter—rol’ v fil’me dlia detei. Moscow, 1966.
Paramonova, K. K. V zritel’nom zale—deti. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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