Once Upon a Time there Lived a Dog (1982) Poster

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Unspeakable magic
Maksik19 June 2000
Probably, the best Soviet cartoon. It is based upon Ukrainian folk stories and tells us a story about friendship between dog and a wolf in critical moments of their lives. First a wolf saves a dog when the latter driven out from home, then a dog saves a wolf from hunger at winter. Unspeakable and untranslatable magic shines through every frame of this masterpiece. I highly recommend it to every person - it is continuous moment of truth.
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The dog and the wolf
ackstasis1 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, I don't understand a word of Russian. Because the video of 'Zhil-byl pyos' that I was watching did not contain subtitles, I decided that I would just sit back and let the images and music tell me everything that I needed to know. This is the mark of a good animated film – the beautiful pictures speak for themselves. The somewhat sparse Russian dialogue and narration, though I'm sure it clarified a few details, was pretty much unnecessary; even without understanding a word of the language, I could follow the story perfectly, and it was certainly a beautiful one.

Eduard Nazarov's 'Zhil-byl pyos' (or, alternatively, 'Once Upon a Time There Lived a Dog') is based upon a classic Ukrainian fairytale that told of a dog making friends with a wolf, re-enforcing the age-old wisdom that good is always rewarded by good. When the clumsy and lazy domestic dog (voiced by Georgi Burkov) is banished from his home after neglecting to stop a burglar, he depressingly retreats into the forest and seems as though he is about to hang himself. However, a wheezy old wolf (Armen Dzhigarkhanyan) manages to talk him out of it, and he offers the dog his assistance in reclaiming the love of his family.

The following winter, the dog, long ago returned to his home, hears the mournful howls of the wolf, and he follows the sound. He finds the wolf huddled cold, weak and hungry amidst the snow, and so sets about returning the favour that had saved his life previously. His family is having a cheery party gathering in the house, and the dog and the wolf both crawl beneath the heaving table, with the former snagging every piece of food he can scrounge for his famished friend. Bloated and satisfied, the wolf thanks the dog and retreats drunkenly into the winter snow.

A combination of wonderful animation and a touching morality tale makes 'Zhil-byl pyos' one of the finest Russian animated shorts that I've seen. Interestingly enough, my favourite Russian animation of all time – Yuriy Norshteyn's 'Skazka skazok / Tale of Tales' – also features a wolf as a main character, and the film's title was originally to be 'The Little Grey Wolf Will Come,' before it was rejected by Russian censors.
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dog and wolf in Ukrainian lore
lee_eisenberg9 December 2016
Eduard Nazarov's adaptation of a Ukrainian folk tale depicts a dog and wolf who come up with creative ways to help each other (unbeknownst to the dog's owners). Seeing how the dog's owners treated him, it's no wonder that he joined up with the wolf to devise a scheme. The animation in "Zhil-byl pyos" (alternately called "Once Upon a Dog" and "Once Upon a Time there Lived a Dog" in English) isn't what we think of as advanced, but I don't care about the animation looks. I care about the plot, and there's a good one here, with some impressive voice work. A lot of these old Eastern Bloc cartoons are worth seeing. Certainly more interesting than the these animated features starring the celebrities of the moment. I recommend it.
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Perfect symbiosis
Horst_In_Translation27 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This 1982 10-minute short film from the Soviet Union is a nice little fable. The protagonist is an old dog, but as he gets more and more immobile and lazy and at one point even does not stop an intruder from burgling his owners' house. So he gets kicked out and goes into the forests. Starved and exhausted he meets a wolf and the two come up with a plan. The wolf steals the family's baby and the dog appears as the savior. All goes well and the dog is back to his home again. But he does not forget who helped him. When it's cold outside and the wolf is starving he helps him and gets him a delicious meal. So one helped the other on two several occasions. I also liked the final comment that they will maybe help each other again in the future if they are in need. It is not only a partnership of convenience, it is a friendship between the two. The writer and director is Eduard Nazarov, a longtime-filmmaker born in Moscow, who is not that prolific though. The animation in his work here is fine, the story is even better. All in all, a decent little short movie about helping others in need and the special genetic relationship between wolf and dog makes this even more interesting. Recommended and there is also some pretty good music in it, especially towards the end.
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