pyotr yershov


Конёк-Горбуно́к (The Humpbacked Horse)

29 in x of animated feature film history
Release: Jan. 10th, 1947
Country: Soviet Union
Director: Ivan Ivanov-Vano

“The Humpbacked Horse––dubbed in the United States as The Magic Pony––is a 1947 Soviet film directed by animator Ivan Ivanov-Vano and produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow. The film is based on the poem by Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov, and because of this everyone in the film speaks in rhymes.

A young peasant boy named Ivan witnesses a magical flying horse eating hay from his farm at night while his older brothers sleep. The horse gives him two large black horses and a small humpbacked horse, all of which have magical abilities. When his brothers attempt to sell the black horses behind Ivan’s back, he instead sells them to the Tsar himself, becoming their official caretaker. Jealous of Ivan’s sudden success, the Tsar’s right-hand man prompts the king to make wild demands of Ivan, such as capture a fire bird or retrieve a rumored Tsar-Maiden. Ivan completes all these tasks with the help of his humpbacked horse.

Yershov wrote the fairy-tale poem “The Little Humpbacked Horse”––his masterpiece––in 1834, at the age of 19. It brought him instant fame. Censors banned the complete story for over 20 years in the mid-19th century because it made the Tsar appear foolish. Until 1856, the tale was published with dots representing omitted verses and songs in many sections. The tale is meant to be a satire on the absurdities of Russian feudal and bureaucratic life at the time.

In 1975, the film’s director, Ivan Ivanov-Vano made another version of the same film. The 1975 film is 70 minutes long; 15 minutes longer than the original. Although the progression of scenes and their plot content is usually the same as in the original, the animation and specific actions of the characters are different; for example, a scene may be taken from a different angle or in a different location (all of the backgrounds were also newly-drawn).

This was done because the original film was then in a very bad shape and the technical expertise for a restoration did not exist.

The 1975 version was redubbed, recut and released in the United States as The Magic Pony in 1977, with Jim Backus as the voice of the Tsar and Johnny Whitaker as Ivan.”

(see more)

The Humpbacked Horse is available on YouTube without English subtitles.
You can also find a 1949 English dub here.