The central Bohemian town of Kolín, some 60 km east of Prague, was the scene of an unusual ceremony on Sunday. Local enthusiasts unveiled a memorial to two cartoon characters – two bears, who allegedly met outside the town, and whose adventures captured the imaginations of several generations of Czechs since their creation in mid 1960s.
The cartoon series ‘Poďte pane, budeme si hrát’, or ‘Hey Mister, Let’s Play’, became a classic with generations of Czechs soon after its creation in the mid 1960s. It stars two teddy bears; one of them naughty and clever, the other naïve but nice. They meet near Kolín, form a younger/older brother relationship, and play all day long.
On Sunday, the two bears and their creators were honoured with a memorial plaque which was unveiled on the outskirts of town where the cartoon stars first met. The idea came from František Martínek a local enthusiast who won the support of the local town hall.
“It started as a joke about seven years ago. I think that we had recently seen the cartoon, or there was a article in the paper about it, or something like that. So my brother and I thought, ‘It would be a great idea to have a monument to the bears on the spot where they met. The idea was revived this year, so we got down to work and now it’s there.”
The first part of the series, entitled ‘Potkali se u Kolína’, or An encounter near Kolín, appeared in 1965, and five more episodes followed. The cartoon uses mostly stop-motion animation in which the bears acquire various shapes depending on the game they are playing.
The series’ director, Břetislav Pojar, says he still does not quite understand the secret of their success.
“It was a lucky coincidence; success depends on many factors. The idea must be interesting, which you can’t tell beforehand. You also have to have great co-workers, which happened in this case. The animator, Boris Masník, was very good; he is deaf-mute but was able to render the cartoon a very distinct character. Also, the voice was important; the outstanding Czech actor, Rudolf Deyl jr, made the bears come alive.”
The cartoon was an instant hit with Czechs but its success at home never crossed the country’s borders. Břetislav Pojar says this was because it would have been extremely difficult to translate the bears’ dialogues into another language; he once heard an eastern German version, which he says was terrible.
About 1,000 people came to the unveiling, many more than the organizers expected, with Břetislav Pojar as the guest of honour. Should you venture to Kolín and want to visit the memorial, all need to do is to follow bear’s tracks from the main square.
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