The Mole and the Robot / The Mole and the Rocket / The Mole as a Gardener: lessons in co-operation for little people

Zdenek Miler, “The Mole and the Robot”(1995) / “The Mole and the Rocket” (1966) / “The Mole as a Gardener” (1969)

Let’s turn to a 5-minute charmer in which our friend Krtek acquires a robot to help him do all his hard work. After nearly putting his back out tunnelling and shovelling dirt as moles do, Krtek finds a rare diamond and goes into town to sell it. He returns home with a huge parcel, opens it, reads the instructions and brings out a boxy contraption that converts into a robot when Krtek presses a button on remote control device. The robot does Krtek’s bidding, tunnelling and shovelling you-know-what and Krtek admires its work. As he’s had a long day, Krtek goes to sleep outside his mound. Two mice take advantage of his slumber to program the robot into stealing food and drink for them. Krtek soon finds out what’s been going on behind his back so he orders his robot servant to find a solution to rid him of those pesky rodents.

A little more adventurous is an 8-minute episode in which Krtek comes across a rocket and flies off in the air. The engine sputters and the rocket falls and crashes on a tiny island strewn with shells. After despairing that he will never return home, Krtek is found and befriended by a crab who helps him recover the remains of the rocket and rebuild it. Several other creatures like jellyfish and seahorses also scout about and retrieve bits and pieces. Just as the rocket is rebuilt, a snorkelling boy intrudes on them and attempts to stop Krtek from returning home but our mole has a narrow escape and sails off happily into the sunset.

In “The Mole as a Gardener”, Krtek tussles with a rogue garden hose that turns out to be blocked in its middle. A mouse helps Krtek to redirect the water in the burst hose to the flowers that need it as the weather is hot and the delicate plants are wilting in the heat. Krtek digs a channel to and around the flowers and the mouse directs the water into the channel dug.

In these shorts in which Krtek confronts an aspect of human technology and uses it not just to benefit himself but to help others and along the way acquire new friends, there’s a subtle little message about the value of people working together to achieve common goals and what happens to people if they steal things and use them for selfish purposes. The tone is always cheerful, everyone receives his or her just deserts and any sticky situation Krtek finds himself is resolved through his resourcefulness, quick thinking and hard work. As always in these shorts, there is plenty of detailed (but not too technical) drawing and sketching, the background scenes are lovingly rendered in soft colours, the mood is always bright and the action fast-paced. There’s very little violence, apart from when the mouse reshapes Krtek’s accidentally misshapen head after an unfortunate encounter with a woodwind instrument in the 1969 cartoon.

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