Arts & Culture

Famous international cartoon characters

When you think of the most famous animated characters of all time, it’s difficult to think of any more popular than American cartoons such as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, or Homer Simpson. But there are plenty of other animated superstars who entertain and delight audiences in different countries around the world. Here are just a few of the most famous international cartoon characters.

Wallace and Gromit, United Kingdom

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Wallace is an everyday tinkerer who likes to invent gizmos and gadgets with the help of his dog, and best friend, Gromit. The characters began as a series of sketches in the notebook of film student Nick Park and have since become British icons, beloved by people (including critics) of all ages.

The first Wallace and Gromit stop-motion claymation film was "A Grand Day Out," a half-hour short that aired on TV in 1990. In it, the pair build a rocket in their basement and fly to the moon to stock up on cheese because, "as everyone knows, the moon is made of cheese."

The short — which earned an Academy Award nomination in 1991 — was so popular that it led to three more Oscar-nominated short films, an Oscar-winning feature film (2005's "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"), an online series of animations ("Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions"), and a six-episode BBC One miniseries (2010's "World of Invention"). It also spawned a successful spin-off franchise, Shaun the Sheep.

The Moomins, Finland

The Moomins are a Finnish pop culture phenomenon. Created by author and illustrator Tove Jansson in the 1940s, the adorable little creatures have since become the stars of a huge multimedia franchise, with 14 books and picture books, a comic strip, multiple films and TV series, Moomin shops and cafes, an opera, and even a Moomin theme park based on the characters' home of Moominvalley. They're beloved not only in Finland, where Moomin merch is everywhere, but internationally as well — the Moomin books have been translated into 50 languages, and Japan created many of the Moomin animated series. There was also a Finnish-British series in 2019 that featured the likes of Kate Winslet, Rosamund Pike, and Taron Egerton.

One of the most famous characters in the Moomin series is the Groke. The Groke is a mysterious, ghostlike creature who randomly appears all over Moominvalley. She never does anything explicitly bad, but her presence always sends a chill through the Moomins.

Dogtanian, Spain

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Following the story of Alexandre Dumas' "Three Musketeers," "Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds" revolved around a swashbuckling dog who travels to Paris to achieve his dream of becoming one of the king's famed musketeers. The cartoon was originally produced in Japan but gained immense popularity when it was released in Spain in the 1980s. Recently, there's been renewed interest in the cartoon canine, as Apolo Films announced an upcoming revival in the form of a feature-length movie.

Professor Balthazar, Croatia

In 1967, a team at the Zagreb School of Animated Film in Croatia began working on a new animated cartoon series called "Professor Balthazar." The team was led by Zlatko Grgić — who later became known as Professor Balthazar himself.

The series revolved around the imaginative and creative Professor Balthazar, who solved the problems of the citizens of Balthazar City. What set the series apart from most others at the time was the fact that the Professor didn't solve problems using violence. While other cartoon characters were famous for dropping anvils on their foes' heads, Professor Balthazar was known for building ingenious machines and inventions.

"Professor Balthazar" was a hit in its homeland of Croatia and even became popular in countries including Denmark, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Iran, Australia, and New Zealand.

Tintin, Belgium

Credit: OfficialTintinTV/ YouTube

Tintin, a young reporter who travels the world on a quest for adventure, began as a comic book character in a children's magazine in Belgium in 1929. Many of his humorous adventures at the time revolved around current events. The series was created by a Belgian artist named Georges Rémi, who used the pen name Hergé. Although early Tintin stories were very political and have been criticized for racist stereotypes, Hergé changed the tone of the cartoon once Belgium was invaded by Germany during World War II.

Hergé died in the 1980s, but Tintin remained popular in Belgium and throughout the world well into the 21st century. In 2011, a full-length animated movie called "The Adventures of Tintin" was released to much fanfare. It featured big-name actors including Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg, and was directed by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Featured image credit: Ralf Liebhold/ Shutterstock