For the current generation of 40-year-olds, “Maria, Mirabela” is not just the names of charming girls, but one of their favorite childhood films, with magical characters and beautiful songs. In Soviet cinema, this is the first experience of creating a film using the method of combining feature films with hand-drawn animation.
After the premiere screening of the animated feature film for children "Maria, Mirabela" (1981), the joint work of Romanian and Soviet filmmakers received two prestigious awards at once: at the International Film Competition in the Italian city of Giffon (in the category "Animated Films") and at the 15th All-Union Film Festival in Tallinn.
Announcements and reviews, offering a full-length 64-minute tape for viewing, position "Maria, Mirabela" as a fairy tale film for everyone - both children and adults who have not forgotten their childhood and remained kind at heart.
Kind fairy tale
"Maria, Mirabela" is a beautiful, bright, musical story about the amazing adventures of two little girls who decided to help a frog, a firefly and a butterfly to solve their problems. To do this, they go together to visit the Fairy of the Forest. What miracles do not happen to them. In the clearing, the sisters meet the King of Caterpillars, lead a round dance with butterflies. In the fairy kingdom, Mary and Mirabela are greeted by little maids of honor: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. On the way, the sisters face many dangers, but they overcome fears, cope with difficulties. In the most difficult moment, the King of Hours helps the brave travelers (it turns out that he knows how to stop time). And they succeed. Maria and Mirabela help Kwaki free his paws, frozen to the icy lake. They do everything so that the ability to fly returns to the butterfly Omida. And the Skiperich firefly has new glowing shoes.
The sisters were not very upset when it turned out that in fact all these adventures took place in a dream. But Mom (Fairy of the Forest) and Dad (King of Hours) were nearby. And their true parental love.
The plot is built in such a way that the fairy tale not only entertains. It helps to understand the difference between good and evil, teaches compassion, kindness, courage. Of course, there is also a place for philosophical maxims. For example, one can hear phrases from the characters: “The past cannot be returned, it can only be remembered”, “Only the very brave can save a friend in trouble”, “Water freezes from untruth”. But isn't this the same folk wisdom for which both children and adults love old, kind fairy tales.
Features of collaboration on a film
The project for the creation in 1981 of the musical animation and feature film "Maria, Mirabela" was international (USSR-Romania) and was carried out with the participation of the All-Union Association "Sovinfilm". The film product was prepared jointly at three different film studios: Romanian Casa de Filme 5, Moldova Film and our famous Soyuzmultfilm. The scriptwriter and stage director was Romanian director Ion Popescu-Gopo, together with his colleague Natalia Bodul.
The work was carried out not at one site, but was distributed among countries by segments. The game part, including location shots, was behind Romania and Moldova. In addition, according to the terms of the contract, Romanian actors were invited for all roles. The animation was created in Moscow. At Soyuzmultfilm, the whole cycle went from creating characters and drawing scenes with their participation to the stage of production, when the talking animals were animated. The final product was presented in two forms: the original version in Romanian and a dubbed version for the Soviet audience. For dubbing, a constellation of wonderful actors and masters of voice acting were involved: Lyudmila Gnilova and Natalia Gurzo (Maria and Mirabela), Maria Vinogradova (Kvaki), Alexander Voevodin (Skipirich), Klara Rumyanova (Omide), Alina Pokrovskaya (Fairy of the forest) (Georgy Vitsin caterpillars), Rogvold Sukhoverko (King of Hours). Unexpectedly for our actors, the Romanian language turned out to be difficult for synchronous dubbing, sometimes it was not possible to “get into the labial” (as it is called in professional jargon).
The directors faced another difficulty when they began to work with the performers of the main children's roles (Maria - Medea Marinescu, Mirabela - Gilda Manolescu). They had to introduce their animation characters, conduct dialogues with imaginary characters, know which way to look and speak. To make it easier for the girls to work, our animators specially sculpted for them plasticine figures of the heroes participating in a particular episode. Despite the consonance in the surnames, the girls, like their heroines, were different in character and temperament: restless and mobile Medea (Mirabela) and soft and gentle Gilda (Maria). They were united by one thing: spontaneity and an open child's soul. At the time of filming, the actresses were 6 years old. The preschoolers were not yet quite confident in reading, but they could not memorize a voluminous text by ear. Much of what entered the frame was invented by them on the go. They knew how to fantasize and compose, and therefore turned out to be sincere and convincing on the screen.
After the end of filming, the girls never met each other. The dark-eyed Medea Marinescu, who played the mischievous fidget Mirabela, over the years has turned into a stately beautiful actress. Her sister in the film, Maria, the blonde-haired and blue-eyed Gilda Manolescu, had a different fate. She no longer acted in films. Having survived two terrible tragedies that eventually broke her, a young, beautiful woman passed away at 35.
The on-screen mother of the sisters, the Fairy of the Forest (Ingrid Celia), remained an actress of one role for the audience. No information about the career and work of this Romanian actress can be gleaned either at film forums or in other information sources.
The on-screen image of the Pope (in a fabulous childhood dream he is the King of Hours) does not immediately match the personality of Ion Popescu-Gopo. In his homeland, a talented director and cartoonist from time to time appeared on the screen as a performer of small roles, both in his own films and in the films of his fellow producers. He comes from a Russian-Romanian family. He mastered the art of animation while studying in Moscow. Ion Popescu-Gopo was remembered by Soviet children for one role, in the image of Uncle Vremya (this is the name of the character in the original version of the film). By the way, according to Romanian critics, old fairy-tale motives are involved in the plot of the story invented by the director.
Interactive with cartoon heroes
Today, you can see animated inserts in fiction films quite often - with the help of cartoon titles, the necessary tone of the film is easily set, and hand-drawn inserts within the plot are used to depict various kinds of dreams and hallucinations.
The idea of getting people on the screen to communicate convincingly with cartoon characters has excited the imagination of even pioneers of animation such as Jay Stewart Blackton, Emile Kohl, Winsor McKay. However, for a long time it was impossible to give a full-fledged "interactive" for technical reasons. Disney studio was able to take the height. In 1944, the first musical cartoon "Three Caballeros" appeared - about Donald Duck's journey across Latin America in the company of Jose Carioca the parrot and Panchito the cockerel. Mixed animation - feature films began to develop actively in the West. The Americans perfected the idea of integrating cartoon characters into a feature film by releasing in 1988 the Oscar-winning comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
But Soviet audiences in the 80s did not have wide access to the classics of Walt Disney Pictures. It was possible to see how real actors interact with the drawn characters only in the Disney version of the story about Mary Poppins. Therefore, the appearance of the first animated film "Maria, Mirabela" was perceived as some kind of miracle. For Soviet children, not spoiled by spectacles, a movie tale with cartoon characters, and even of foreign origin, was a resounding success. For Soyuzmultfilm, the Soviet-Romanian project was the first experience of using hand-drawn animation in feature films.
The director of the picture was the famous artist Lev Milchin. The director of the film Nikolai Evlyukhin recalls the words that Lev Isaakovich repeated at every meeting: “This is the first film practically in the Soviet Union, we make such a combined one. Of course, there are many characters. Of course, it's hard for us. " Arguments often arose between the production designer and the director of the picture, and it even came to quarrels. The cartoonists could not decide how the main characters of the picture would look like: Kwaki, Skiperich and Omide. Because of this, the entire filming process often stopped.
- The director of animation # 1, as Ion Popescu-Gopo was called in Romania, was a cartoonist and a supporter of animation minimalism (remember his famous cartoon man).
- Lev Milchin is a classic of Soviet animation. Since 1962, he worked at the Soyuzmultfilm studio and created bright colorful full-length characters typical for Soviet multi-poster art (“Flower-seven-flower”, “Pig-piggy bank”, “Geese-swans”, “Steadfast tin soldiers - a whole palette of Russian folk tales).
Due to disagreements in drawing the main characters, the work dragged on for more than two years. But the result exceeded all expectations. Through the joint efforts of animators from different schools, a visual concept was created that was in no way inferior to Walt Disney Pictures. And the scene of the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies amazes today no less than Disney's "Fantasy". The cartoon film turned out to be "wonderful, wonderful", exactly the kind that is sung about in the opening song to it.
Recalling the work on the painting, the composer Evgeny Doga, the author of the music, says that the decisive role for him was played by the melody of two words - Maria and Mirabela. In the consonance of the names of the heroines, he heard music. I don’t know if it would have worked with other words, the composer notes.
In the original version of the film, the songs are performed by Romanian artists, in particular the popular singer Mihai Constantinescu. In 1983, the Melodiya company released a disc with the audio tale “Maria, Mirabela”. Russian narrator's text sounds on it, and all songs are saved in the original language. The film itself, which was intended for Soviet audiences, was dubbed in full. We translated not only the speech of the characters, but also re-dubbed the songs. Poems to music by Evgeny Doga were written by Valentin Berestov and Evgeny Agranovich.
In the cinema, the frog Kwaki both speaks and sings in the voice of the popular actress Maria Vinogradova. She often voiced cartoon characters, for example, the hedgehog in the fog. The opening song, in which the cartoon character sings "wonderfully wonderful", stepped from the screen to the little listeners, it began to be broadcast on radio and television in children's programs, and was included in collections of songs for children. But with the title song "Maria, Mirabela", which formed the basis of the soundtrack for the film, none of the actors could cope with it. The search has begun for professional performers with vocal abilities that make it easy to "jump" an octave up. The test track was recorded by Alexander Gradsky, already famous by that time. However, its performance seemed childish to some of the creators. The dubbed version of the film features a thin and soft tenor by Leonid Serebrennikov.
The song "Maria, Mirabela" was so popular that it acquired an independent stage biography, pop singers of the 80s included it in the repertoire. After some time, Evgeny Doga wrote a lyrical composition on the theme of the film (verses by Andrey Dementyev). It sounded from the stage performed by the popular singer Nadezhda Chepragi and was also called “Maria, Mirabela”.
The tale does not end
"Maria and Mirabela in Transhistory" - this is the name under this name, 7 years after the premiere of the fairy tale, the sequel of Ion Popescu-Gopo was released. This was the director's last creative work; he passed away in 1989, at the age of 66. The audience went to the screening, expecting a meeting with their favorite characters. But they were slightly disappointed. Despite the fact that the film was still about the sisters Maria and Mirabelle, according to the plot, the heroines are other girls - fans of the original 1981 film. And they call themselves that because they like the characters: the kind and gentle Maria and the mobile, desperate Mirabela. It was a completely different story, with other actors (Maria - Ioanna Moraru, Mirabela - Adrian Kuchinska).
This time the girls fantasize not in a dream, but in reality - the events unfold on the other side of the television screen, in the country of Transhistory. Once inside the TV, cartoon characters turn into playable characters performed by "live" actors. For many viewers, the lack of animations on the screen diminished the charm of the film. And in terms of genre, the picture was no longer a poetic fairy tale, but a satirical comedy.
Musical inserts did not become hits, despite the fact that the composer Yevgeny Doga wrote original music in different styles: disco, which was fashionable at that time, and an opera aria, and an old ballad. Most likely, the reason was that the songs were not re-dubbed in the Soviet version of the second film. Only lines and credits were duplicated. Even the title song from the first film "Maria, Mirabela" sounded with a voiceover.
This is not to say that the picture turned out worse. It's just that the new film was completely different, and not only in terms of the plot. A different genre, different shooting technologies, a new cast. And we often want the fairy tale to continue from the place where you fell asleep, listening or reading it before bed. But children grow up, "times change, morals change …".