Cheburashka is a cute creature that looks like a monkey, but has bear-like features. He doesn’t have an official name or species. He was first created by Eduard Uspensky for his children’s books. Uspensky describes Cheburashka as a monkey-like creature that loves in a tropical forest.
He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. The crate is eventually delivered to a grocery store in an unnamed Russian city. There a store manager finds him. Cheburashka’s paws are numb from the travel so when the manager sits him on the crate, he tumbles down. Not knowing how to name the creature, he calls him Cheburashka which was a play on an old Russian word meaning “tumbled”. This is why in some English translations Cheburashka is named Topple.
Cheburashka is male, has a bear-like body, large round ears, and is about the size of a 5-year-old child. After being turned down by the zoo as an “animal unknown to science,” Cheburashka gets hired as a window display for a discount store. He then meets Crocodile Gena. At the time he is a 50 year old crocodile and works at the zoo as a… crocodile. He gets lonely and bored by returning every evening to his home, so he puts up flyers around town he’s looking for friends.
Amongst the respondents who come to see him is Cheburashka. Since he can’t tell Gena what creature he is, because he doesn’t know, he gets sad, thinking Gena and his new friends will not want him as a friend. Gena says that this is not important and accepts him as his friend as do the rest of the animals.
In the cartoon, Cheburashka and Gena have their adventures made more difficult by a character named “Старуха Шапокляк” (Old Lady Shapoklyak). Even though she is portrayed as a bad character, sometimes she actually helps the animals.
Cheburashka and Gena are hugely popular in Russia even to this day. They are both household names and stuffed animals modeled after them are still being made. The classic cartoon is also being played on TV often. The characters even have monuments that are built in their honor in Russia.
Also, Cheburashka is the official mascot of the Russian Olympic team at three Olympic Games. Currently the rights for the two characters are being owned by a Japan company which is making short 3-minute cartoons and in 2010 did a remake of the original cartoons.
Cheburashka technically has two birthdays. One is when the book was first published which was in 1966. The second one is 20th of August 1969 which is a date chosen during a 2005 charity event by the author Uspensky. Gena’s only birthday is also when the book is published in 1966. The author writes that Gena is 50 years old, so this would make Gena 100 years old this year. So, Happy Birthday to both!