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Animation / The Key

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The Key (Russian: Ключ; Klyuch) is a 1961 Soviet animated film, directed by Lev Atamanov. It was produced at the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow.

The father comes home from the store with presents for his newborn son. Upon arriving, three fairies visit them and gives the family a ball of yarn, which is said that it will lead him to the "door of happiness". His grandfather visits and gives him tools that he could use later in life but the fairies and the parents refuse as they said that his happiness had already been planned. Not liking the idea of having "ready-made happiness" out of fear of his grandson's future, he attempted to throw the present out the window only to be sent back to his apartment as a sheet of paper. He later escapes and decides to seek help.

The film can be watched with subtitles here, which is separated in four parts. In addition, the official channel has uploaded the full film here.

Provides examples of:

  • Animate Inanimate Object: The grandfather's tools, inexplicably enough.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted. When the boy grows too big for his oversized shirt to obscure his bottom, he is drawn with the anatomy to boot.
  • Character Development: The boy pulls an impressive one, having grown out of being a Bratty Half-Pint to a Determinator who kept on trying with making the key he needed. Also worth noting that he looked a bit leaner near the end, and not as chubby as he looked from the first time he's seen.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The scientist takes the robot to the grandfather's apartment and asks him to fix the robot girl after being broken, but the grandfather's eyes are not what they used to be. Just then, the grandchild—who he had recently taught him the basics of handling tools—decides to return instead of continuing his journey to the Land of Happiness. He's able to fix the little robot.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Land of Happiness, as it turns out. The 'saccharine' part being so literal to the fact that the land is sticky with candy and the river runs milk. The concept of being in a perpetual state of rest and relaxation is enough for the grandfather to come up with a plan to save his grandson from a life of mediocrity.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Aside from things turning out fine, this was also the whole point of the story, really. Happiness is not something easily achived or have it already made for you and if it was, there wouldn't be any sense of glory obtaining it since you never worked for it, thus you have no right to earn it.
  • Easy Come, Easy Go: Part of the recurring theme of the movie. When he's advised to go to a place called "the Kingdom of Quick Feats and Easy Victories" to obtain a key after going through obstacles designed for him to win, the key snaps in half when he tried to use it. When he's later advised by to go to his grandfather and make a key for himself, the result is more rewarding because he worked on it despite several trials. It is not shown if the key would have opened the lock since the boy decided to stay with his grandfather.
  • Einstein Hair: The scientist.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The grandfather is portrayed in the first few minutes as a Fantasy-Forbidding Father of sorts, with planning to throw out right away the magic red ball of yarn the fairies gave him, though he was really just concerned for his grandson's outcome because he thinks that no one should be granted ready-made happiness. That and he's actually a Cool Old Guy.
  • Fauxtivational Poster: A brief one is put up (as some sort of gag) with the grandfather, the fairies first trapping him in a rectangle made of lines that eventually turns him into a poster, and the caption "He who doesn't work, doesn't eat" appears, as the background turns red.
  • Floral Theme Naming: The fairies. Introduced respectively as Tulipina (green), Hyacintha (yellow), and Liliana (blue).
  • Formerly Fat: Downplayed. The little boy just has a normal amount of baby fat in the beginning, but once he becomes less of a brat under his grandfather's care, as well as having the value of hard work instilled in him, he's noticeably much leaner.
  • The Hedonist: The inhabitants of the Land of Happiness. The grandfather aims to save his grandson from this fate when it's discovered that his ball of yarn leads to there.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: More than just averted. Hard work is encouraged, while you are expected to not get things right the first time around, because by failing, you'll learn.
  • Henpecked Husband: The husband to a natch. The moment he comes to the door, he's completely ran over by his wife back home, telling him all sorts of things before coming inside, notably wiping his feet. She tells him to tell the fairies to do that as well.
  • Iris Out: Occasionally, every time the film decides to go to the next scene.
  • Missing Child: From having one's child be left in an open field and find his own way to where his life. This is also extreme in the case that he's probably only a toddler yet the boy grew by "the hour", so it can only be guessed how much time had passed. Not much, it seemed.
  • Multiple Head Case: The four-headed dragon that guards the Kingdom of Quick Feats and Easy Victories are constantly at odds with each other on whether or not to let the boy in, so much so that the boy just ends up sneaking pass them during their meeting.
  • No Name Given: We never find out what the boy's name really is, and is only referred to as (in this case) "the boy", son, grandson, child, etc. in contrast to every other character having names.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The four-headed dragon that the boy encounters is actually Zmey Gorynych, albeit with an additional female head, hence having four heads instead of the standard three.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Fairies sent to make sure a child can live a happy life by giving them a present (in this case, a red ball of yarn/string) that would somehow set them for life.
  • Postmodernism: Enforced in-universe. The mother comments on a beautiful painting of a swan that it's no longer trendy. So the fairy turns it into a more abstract piece, with simplified random shapes scattered about and a giant eye added for good measure.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The poetic robot, of course, as it is programmed to do so. Subverted when he gets drunk and loses the rhyming, telling the robot girl who is telling him off to mind her own business.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The poetic robot develops a mind of its own and runs away to show his talent to the world. He is brought back inebriated, for some reason, after drinking too much oil.
  • Robot Buddy: The scientist favors both his poetry composing robot and his little robot kid that he often asks elementary level questions to.
  • Robot Girl: The scientist's little robot, aside from the lack of Tertiary Sexual Characteristics and is unlike most examples, since she still sports the Tin-Can Robot look.
  • Spoiled Brat: The boy grows up to be this because of the parents overindulging him. He gets better.
  • Stepford Suburbia: The Land of Happiness is a too-good-to-be-true place of idyll that consists of endless vacations for children that results in them reaching their old age without life's struggles. The grandfather is naturally spooked and hightails it out of there, and plans to thwart his grandson's plan to enter it.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: During the fairies' and the parents' dance celebration, the husband is briefly seen doing a variety of this dance. What's amazing is it actually appears in a Russian film, meaning that it's probably played seriously instead of just for show. Apparently, every Russian man can do this.
  • Tin-Can Robot: The scientist's robots resemble as such.
  • Tragic Dream: Parodied. The poetry robot is shunned by humans for being too robotic in his prose. To that end, he gets drunk in oil with another failed poet.