MOSCOW — Fyodor Khitruk, the creator of the former Soviet Union's animated version of A.A. Milne's classic Winnie the Pooh tales, has died in Moscow, according to a report by The Moscow Times. He was 95.
The Russian Animated Film Association said in a statement on its website on Monday that Khitruk died Monday morning at his home in Moscow.
The three much-loved Soviet cartoons of Vinni-Pukh, as Winnie the Pooh is known in Russia, were made between 1969 and 1972 and continue to be aired frequently on television.
Along with Yuri Norshtein, whose 1975 "Hedgehog in the Fog" remains a cult classic, Khitruk has been credited as a leading innovator in the history of Soviet animation.
Khitruk was born in the city of Tver in 1917, months before the Bolshevik Revolution, and moved with his family to Germany in 1931, where he studied at a commercial art school in Stuttgart.
After his return to the Soviet Union, he began working for iconic Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1937, which had been founded a year earlier. Khitruk recollected that the inspiration to take up animation came to him after he saw the Walt Disney cartoon "Three Little Pigs."
Although Khitruk's best-known work was made for children – including his telling of the Russian version of Pinocchio – his more adult-oriented work is also highly regarded.
"Story of a Crime," a cartoon drawn in the era of political liberalization of the early 1960s ushered in by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, was a mischievous satire on the adversities of living in cramped Soviet accommodation in a big city. "The Island," produced in 1973, riffs on Robinson Crusoe imagery for a sparely drawn and acerbic critique of capitalist values.
In its obituary on Monday, the Russian Animated Film Association lauded Khitruk as "the Teacher" who set up a school of animated film studies, where he taught until the age of 90.
Watch "Island" by Khitruk, which won the 1974 Golden Palm for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Golden Dragon at the 1974 Cracow Film Festival: