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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.


Provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Having one's child be left in an open field and find his own way to where his life would lead. 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.
  • An Aesop: Towards the end, obviously. So much that the film really wanted to get the message across with everybody in the scene turning to say it to (what seemed to be) the viewer.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The grandfather's tools, inexplicably enough.
  • Badass Mustache: The grandfather, complete with twirling the ends of it occasionally whenever he's in deep thought.
  • 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.
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  • Chekhov's Skill: The scientist takes the robot to the grandfather's apartment and asks him to fix the robot girl after being broekn, 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 and originally on the way to open the lock to the Land of Happiness after making the key—comes back. He's able to fix the little robot.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Land of Happiness, as discovered by the grandfather. The 'saccharine' part being literal to the fact that the land is sticky with candy and the river runs milk. While it's not an outright terrible place, the concept of having children stripped off of any sort of work experience and ambition is appropriate enough that it fills in the 'crap' part.
  • Definite Article Title: What the title becomes, when translated to English. In Russian, it's simply called Klyuch.
  • 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. First, since the fairies have sped up his growth (saying he will grow by "hours, not days"), his parents have already got to let him go, with his red ball of string to lead him to the land of happiness. Later, when the boy reaches the doors and discovered that it's locked (courtesy of his grandfather's plan), a fairy tells him to go to the Kingdom of Quick Feats and Easy Victories, where he can obtain a key that can open any lock. You can see where it goes from there as he does manage to get it after going through three obstacles in which he barely had to try to conquer, and when he finally got the key and used it on the lock, it snaps in half, leaving the boy upset and crying. Then a fairy (which is actually the robot girl in disguise) appears to him and tells him that the only way to open it is to use a key he made himself, and first going to the master craftsman who made the lock. Doing as told, he meets his grandfather who has to show him the ropes in using the tools and making the key. It's implied that he had to go through many slip ups and time had passed before successfully making the key himself. Unfortunately, this reminded him to try and open the lock now and leaves the grandfather. Whether the key actually opened the lock or not was never found out since he came back to him shortly afterwards.
  • 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. Especially not the Land of Happiness where the boy was to go to, not after the things he had just seen back there... 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).
  • The Hedonist: The grandfather tries hard to avert this from happening to his grandson. Especially now when he discovered what the Land of Happiness looks like and what becomes of anybody who goes there. The inhabitants actually count as this since the children in there really do nothing at all. And since they grow up so fast, they simply reach their old age without having gone through life's struggles.
  • 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.
  • 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 many of the named characters in this movie, which this work page simply didn't mention for convenience's sake.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The four-headed dragon that the boy encounters is actually Zmey Gorynych.
  • 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, when the mother comments on a painting of a swan in a lake a fairy magically created as wall decor that it is 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 got drunk and loses the rhyming, as after he was told off by the robot girl, he simply told her to leave him alone, and it was none of her business.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The poetic robot develops a mind of its own and runs away to show his talent to the world, as the scientist told his friend when he noticed that he has gone. He was later brought back by a man after he was seen drunk in a bar with another writer. How he got "drunk" at all by just oiling his neck because he's a robot and is probably not allowed to drink liquids is anyone's guess.
  • 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 grandfather manages to reach the "door" to the Land of Happiness after the scientist manages to create an exact replica of the red ball. The many fairies in charge of the land lead him to a tour in which he sees children in school but not exactly going to them since it's a 'holiday' (and the school merely exists just for them to point out that there are no holidays if there are no schools to justify it), eventually leading to their graduation ball, and lastly after falling in love, are set to sit in rocking chairs at their old age with only cats to company them for the rest of their life. Naturally, the grandfather is horrified and runs away with the fairies telling him "[he] can't run away from happiness". This prompts him more to stop his grandson from going there as he was right all along with his fears.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: During the fairies' and the parents' dance celebration, the husband is briefly seen doing this, a variety of it at least. What's amazing is it actually appears in a Russian film, meaning that it's possibly played seriously rather than for show than most examples. Apparently, every Russian man can do this.
  • Tin-Can Robot: The scientist's robots all look like this.
  • Tragic Dream: The poetic robot's plight. He tried to show his talent to the world, but people supposedly dissed him because he was just a machine, based on his rhythmic recap. He was so down, he was later seen in a bar, getting drunk with another poet.
  • Widget: From the short block of text above that summarizes the film, the fairies alone might be the first clue how oddly fantastical the movie will get. But one might've never expected the robots, the questionably idyllic lands and the kingdom guarded by a four-headed dragon.


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