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Animation / The Humpbacked Horse

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The Humpbacked Horse (Russian: Конёк-Горбуно́к) is a Soviet animated film created by Soyuzmultfilm studio, adapting a versified fairy tale written by Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov.

Peasant brothers Ivan and his elder siblings decide to investigate who or what has been attacking their fields at night and stealing their grain. The elder two make young Ivan stand guard in a meadow, while they sleep in nearby. Unbeknowst to them, Ivan discovers the culprit: a magic horse named "Queen of the Magic Herd".After riding the mare and giving it a bit of water from a rain cloud, the animal convices Ivan to let it go, in exchange for three gifts: two magnificent steeds he can sell at the market, and a little humpbacked horse (a pony, in the English dubs) that becomes his companion.


The first adaptation was released in 1947.

A remake was released in 1975. This version was dubbed into English as The Magic Pony and released in 1977.

The Humpbacked Horse provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Both versions quite similarly follow the same plot points, but the 1977 version adds a whole subplot about the princess demanding the Tsar finds her missing ring, lost under the sea.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: After Ivan gains the steeds, the next morning he goes to fetch water for them. He is joined on the way back to his stables by the humpbacked horse, which becomes distracted by some little birds.
  • Blatant Lies: After stealing Ivan's feather and presenting it to the Tsar, the stablemaster says that Ivan boasted he could bring the Firebird for the Tsar. After bringing a Firebird (a flock of them appears in both versions), the stablemaster overhears a storyteller reading a book to some children about a fair maiden that is "daughter of the sun" and "sister to the moon". He then informs the Tsar Ivan also boasted he could bring her.
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  • Blush Sticker: In the 1975 version, Ivan, the Tsar and the Princess all have rosy circles on their cheeks. Ivan's brothers also have them, though of a different sort.
  • Cool Horse: In both adaptations, the hero, Ivan, tames the queen of the magic herd, and is given two magnificent steeds and a magic pony that becomes his friend.
  • Dub Name Change: In the English language dub of the 1947 version, Ivan is renamed Timothy, and his brothers Michael and Rupert. In the English dub of the 1975 version, the titular humpbacked horse is named Zip. The same for the Firebird: in the English dub for the 1947 version, the bird is called "The Sparkling Peacock", but retains the original Firebird name in the 1977 dub. The princess is named "Moon Maiden" in the English dub for the 1947 version, and "Maiden Princess" in the 1977 one.
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  • Evil Redhead: The main antagonist of the film is the Tsar's redheaded councillor (soothsayer, in the 1947 dub).
  • Fantastic Light Source: Ivan finds a single feather of the Firebird, able to produce glow, but not warmth. Later, when he brings the bird to the Tsar's court, he asks for the windows to be closed to better show the firebird's powers.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Hero Ivan is depicted as a blond youth in both versions. In the 1975 version, during a scene in the stables, he mutters to himself that, despite the magnificent steeds he's been given by the queen of the herd, he prefers the humpbacked horse as his friend. Later, in the same movie, he tells a giant whale how it can be released from its long punishment, and goes to warn the people that have been living on its back to hurry and flee before the whale dives in the sea to search for the princess's lost ring.
  • Idiot Hero: In the 1977 dub, the narrator says the community took Ivan for a "dumbbell".
  • Leitmotif: In the English language version, the Tsar's stablemaster spies on Ivan feeding the two steeds he sold the Tsar, with a leitmotif in the background. The same musical sequence is repeated later in the movie, as the princess's "I Want" Song.
  • A Light in the Distance: While flying on the humpbacked horse to the marketplace, Ivan sights a light down in the woods and asks his mount to go down to check on it.
  • Lighter and Softer: Although it is implied that the Tsar died while bathing in the boiling milk, the 1977 English dub narrates that he came out of the cauldron "much, much wiser".
  • The Musical: The 1975 version adds musical segments to the story. In order, Intro; "Beautiful Day" (Ivan's song), "Lonely Child" (the princess's song), "A Whale of a Way" (the sailors' song after they escape the whale).
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: In both films, the evil councillor enters the banya to talk to the Tsar about Ivan's (inexistent) second boast: that he could bring him the beautiful princess.
  • Rule of Symbolism / The Power of the Sun / Solar and Lunar: In the 1947 film, the princess, despite being called "Moon Maiden", appears rowing on a boat at dawn. Her headdress evokes sun imagery, as if emulating the rays of the sun. In the 1975 film, she is described as the "daughter of the sun". At the end of both films, while she and Ivan are walking on the snow-covered grass, she tosses her ring on the grass and the ice and snow melt all over.
  • Rule of Three: Ivan and his two elder brothers; the princess's three day deadline to find her ring; the three cauldrons (of boiling oil, boiling milk and cold water) to make one young again.
  • Sapient Steed: The queen of the herd is able to talk. Ivan's humpbacked horse also talks, and advises him during the story.
  • Schmuck Banquet: In both versions, Ivan baits the princess with a tent full of foods and dishes and a musical instrument.
  • Tempting Fate: Ivan finds a stray glowing feather of the mythical Firebird. The humpbacked horse warns him against it, for the troubles that will sure follow them.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Ivan is the youngest of three brothers. He gains a magic horse helper who aids him in getting a princess and a kingdom for himself.