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Animation / The Little Mole

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Series creator Zdeněk Miler and some of his characters (Ježeček, Krtek, Zajíček)
The Little Mole (Czech: Krtek or Krteček) is a cartoon mole created by Zdeněk Miler. Originally meant as a one-time cartoon to show how cloth is made, Miler began making more episodes with Krtek because of his popularity. The Little Mole is mostly silent, speaking in simple words (such as his trademark "Ahoj!") and giggles, which were originally provided by Miler's daughters. The lack of dialogue and his universally appealing cuteness made him popular throughout the Eastern Bloc and beyond, especially Germany and Japan.

The episodes themselves vary in length because they were produced sporadically from 1956-2002. They usually consist of the Little Mole helping another animal or even a non-living thing, or exploring an unusual place (for a mole), like the inside of a car.

Tropes seen in The Little Mole cartoons :

  • Art Evolution: While Krtek himself has changed very little (except for the difference between the original fabric-making film and the following ones), some of the details in his cartoons have evolved over time, thanks to improvements in animation technology and the creators gradually standardising the appearance of supporting characters and the art style used to showcase Krtek's home forest. Notably, some Early Installment Weirdness in the early, 1950s and 1960s cartoons includes different-looking designs for supporting characters, like Little Hare, who has a decidedly different design.
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  • Book Dumb: Krtek is an intelligent and resourceful fellow, but he's not exactly a scholar. During the course of many of his cartoons, his friend the Owl (a professor-like character) tries to teach him new knowledge, usually more scientific or advanced in tone. By the end of a cartoon, Krtek always learns something new and interesting. This trope is basically done on purpose, to make inquisitive child viewers identify and emphathize with the equally curious Krtek while he's learning new stuff about the world around him.
  • Catchphrase: Krtek has a mostly non-verbal one whenever he's outright astonished by something. It consists of him doing a surprised Eye Take and near-whispering and humbled "Jééé..." (i.e. "Yaaaay..." or "Ooooh..."). Another catchphrase he uses frequently is his cute "Ahoj !" ("Hi!").
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  • Cool Old Guy: Heavily implied with the Owl, the only main character whose name lacks the diminutive treatment given to the other, more youthful-looking members of the main cast. The Owl serves as the Badass Bookworm mentor and Mr. Exposition to the others. Well, except that "Sova" is female in Czech.
  • The Cutie: Pretty much all of the main characters are big-eyed, round-lined, cute cartoon forest critters, Krtek included. Even the more serious and adult-natured Owl wears a pair of oversized, goofy reading glasses.
  • Darker and Edgier: "Krtek and the Little Frog", the final episode, which involves Krtek and Little Mouse in a car crash when Little Frog carelessly runs into the street. Even the happy parts of the cartoon are disliked by some for their introduction of brash modern elements (e.g. a disco) to Krtek's forest.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": A mole named Little Mole. The rest of the cast are named after their species too.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first short, which is about making trousers, Krtek speaks fluently. This in stark contrast with the rest of the cartoons where he doesn't speak apart from a word or two.
  • Edutainment Show: While the shorts and more feature-lenghth cartoons starring Krtek and his friends have a lot of goofy antics, they also try to teach kids basic lessons about the surrounding world, whether its basic facts about nature, or about modern society and technology.
  • Eye Take: Krtek displays a cuter form of it anytime he's astonished, coupling the look on his face with an awed whisper.
  • Facial Dialogue: Much of the mutual communication between characters takes this form.
  • Five-Man Band: Of friends, rather than adventurers.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The main cast in general, but Krtek's friendly and inoffensive demeanor - even to some less honest fellow animals that are trying to dupe him - really takes the cake.
  • Funny Animal: The main cast.
  • Ghibli Hills: The calm forest clearing which the main characters inhabit.
  • Mole Miner: A standard opening has him dig out of the ground with his shovel.
  • Near-Death Experience: Krtek has one in "Krtek and the Little Frog". Shortly after being thrown out of the car, his soul rises above his body; Little Mouse and Little Frog grab the soul and physically return it to his body.
  • No Antagonist: Outside of natural forces and everyday obstacles, almost none of the cartoons feature any villains in the classic sense. One of the few that broke with this tradition contained some martens threatening the main cast, while another one has a fox doing the same. Also, in an early short, Krtek is tricked by a greedy magpie to give her a bright gem that he had found (he eventually outwits her).
  • No Name Given / Only Known by Their Nickname: The main character is simply "Krtek" (a diminutive of krt ("mole"), i.e. "The Little Mole"). His friends also carry flatly-descriptive names, although they too are often rendered as diminutives.
  • Non-Action Guy: Krtek is cunning and resourceful when he needs to be, but he never uses violence.
  • Owl Be Damned: Completely averted by the Owl (Sova), who is a Reasonable Authority Figure, and is occassionally a bit goofy-looking.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: The Owl is instead this, in a Badass Bookworm and Mr. Exposition sort of way.
  • Scarecrow Solution: In one of the shorts, Krtek and the other animals paint themselves to bright colors to scare away a fox that antagonizes them.
  • Shrinking Violet: Krtek displays this on occassion, but he's not usually shy.
  • Speaking Simlish: Somewhat. The characters occassionally subvert the trope by saying brief sentences or asking very brief questions in Czech, but otherwise mostly express themselves only via onomatopoeia and body language.
  • True Companions: Krtek the Little Mole and his animal pals from the forest, particularly the Little Hare, the Little Hedgehog, the Little Mouse and the old Owl.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Averted with Krtek's most consistent skill set and hobby - expert gardening. Many times, he uses his knowledge of plants and gardening for MacGyvering a neat solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem or obstacle.
  • Wild Goose Chase: In one of the longer Krtek films, his friend the Mouse gets ill, and starts suffering from a major fever. Krtek, desperate to help, receives advice from the old Owl, to search for a plant known in Latin as Matricaria Chamomilla. Krtek, certain that the plant, must be some rare exotic species, sets out to tour almost the entire world, during the course of the film, asking virtually anyone who seems knowledgeable, about whether a particular plant, is his sought after "Chamomilla?" He is ultimately unsuccessful and returns home, disappointed and sobbing. The Old Owl realises what went wrong, comforts him, and points at a plain looking flower on the meadow, translating its Latin name with the Czech term. If you know Latin, you'll realise that Matricaria chamomilla is the common wild chamomile. Naturally, Krtek is overjoyed (if a bit embarassed) by this discovery, and goes to use the flower in brewing some tea for Mouse.


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