Once Upon a Dog is a Soviet cartoon directed by Edward Nazarov in 1982. The story takes place in a traditional Ukrainian village. Nazarov researched traditional Ukrainian costumes, villages, and songs extensively. As such, the cartoon is celebrated as one of the most faithful and beautiful depictions of Ukrainian culture in film.
The sun rises over a beautiful Ukrainian village. And we immediately meet our dog. Though he did his job honestly all his life, he is now elderly and is fast becoming useless to his owners.
After he fails to alert them to a robbery, the owners drive him out from the village. And so, the dog makes his way to the forest.
There, he joins up with his former foe – the wolf. Together, they devise a scheme where the wolf abducts the owners’ baby, only for the dog to rescue the baby and return it. The plan works perfectly and the dog is welcomed back home.
Winter comes and the dog finds a way to pay the wolf back for his kindness. He invites the wolf to his owners’ banquet in celebration of their daughter’s wedding. The two canine friends sit under the table together and the wolf eats so much he looks like he is about to burst. Then, while the guests begin a gorgeous rendition of the traditional Ukrainian song, “Oh there in the mountains,” the wolf starts to howl loudly.
Just after the guests grab their various household item-weapons to expel the wolf, the dog chases the wolf out of the house.
Outside the house, the wolf thanks the dog for his kindness and waddles off back to the forest.
The music in Once Upon a Dog has received great acclaim. The folk ensemble “Drevo” from the village of Kryachkovka in the west of Ukraine recorded two sublime peasant songs for the film:
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