Perhaps my favorite animated short of all time, and actually voted the “best animated film of all time” in Japan in 2003, Hedgehog in the Fog is a haunting, evocative and poetic film that deserves to be seen by everyone.
The contrast between the Soviet animation emanating from Russia in the 70’s and 80’s and the saccharine schlock being peddled by Disney et al is striking and well known. In Russia and Europe, animation was not reduced to the role of children’s entertainment, and retained respect as a serious artistic endeavor. Norstein’s work, at Soyuzmultfilm and after (they fired him for being too slow in 1985), often achieved in collaberation with his wife Franchesca, is considered among the most artistic. I will post more from him here at another time.
Hedgehog in the Fog (Russian: Ёжик в тумане, Yozhik v tumane) is a 1975 Soviet animated film directed by Yuriy Norshteyn, produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow. The Russian script was written by Sergei Grigoryevich Kozlov, who also published a book under the same name. In 2006, Norshteyn published a book titled Hedgehog in the Fog, listing himself as an author alongside Kozlov.
This is a story about a little hedgehog (voiced by Mariya Vinogradova) and his friend bear cub (voiced by Vyacheslav Nevinniy). The two would meet every evening to drink tea from the cub’ssamovar, which was heated on a fire of juniper twigs. As they drank their tea, the hedgehog and the bear would converse and count the stars together. One day, the hedgehog decides to bring the bear cub some raspberry jam. On his way to meet the bear to count the stars, he passes through the woods and encounters a beautiful, white horse standing in a fog so thick that the hedgehog can’t even see his own pink paw. He is curious as to whether the horse would drown if it went to sleep in the fog. The hedgehog decides to explore the fog for himself.
He finds himself in a surreal world inhabited by frightening shapes and creatures (eagle-owl, mothsand bat) but also helpful, benevolent ones (the snail, the dog and the mysterious ‘Somebody’ in the river); that world of silence and rustles, of darkness, tall grass and enchanting stars.
The owl, which has been following the hedgehog, appears near him suddenly and hoots only to disappear again, prompting the Hedgehog to call it psycho (Russian: псих). He is frightened, but his curiosity keeps him exploring the unknown. He explores a large hollow tree, then panics as he realises he has dropped the raspberry jam he was carrying. A large dog, which is initially frightening to Hedgehog, retrieves the jam for him. Later he falls into a river and believes he is going to drown as he floats downstream on his back until he is rescued by a mysterious Somebody (a large fish) in the river that “speaks” to him silently. The characters Hedgehog and Bear Cub are convivial and tame. In contrast, the eagle-owl is more wild and mischievous, lacking Hedgehog’s introversion or appreciation of the beauty of the surrounding world.