The story of Krtek (The Little Mole)

The cartoon that features a little mole has big ambitions

Krtek has spent most of his life on screen as a TV star and had participated in a mission to space in 2011. Today, he is almost 60 and holds an important place in the heart of Czechs of all ages. What this story even more impressive, is that he's just a cartoon character.

Inspired by a cartoon in a German town, Wuppertal, Zdeněk Miler created Krtek in 1956. At that time, Disney had no mole characters in any of it's movies, so Zdeněk's character was one of a kind. The first Krtek film was Jak krtek ke kalhotkám přišel (How the mole got his trousers) where Krtek got help from other animals with different skillsets to join efforts and make a pair of pants from scratch.

By 2002 there were a total of 49 episodes. Zdeněk died in November 2011 at the age of 90 but his legacy lives on and a contract for new Krtek episodes was signed by his granddaughter in 2014.

A few months before his death, Zdeněk saw Andrew Feustel take a stuffed Krtek toy on Endeavour's mission STS-134 in June 2011. The creator had to alter the toy, meant to bring the astronaut luck, to meet NASA requirements. Zdeněk got to watch the toy mole undergo tests to prepare for the exciting space journey.

Andrew, an American astronaut, was introduced to Krtek by his wife who has Czech ancestors. Upon announcing his plans for Krtek, Andrew received a card greeting from Zdeněk, who also sent him a book based on the 1965 episode Krtek a raketa (Krtek and the rocket). Even when he wrote that episode, Zdeněk never expected that his Little Mole would actually make it into space.

Krtek gained world-wide fame and today the cartoon is watched almost everywhere. The translation wasn't difficult because with the exception of the first episode, he only talks in interjections (originally dubbed by his daughters). Today, tourists from all across the globe visit the Czech Republic in search for Krtek memorabilia.

The US toy market has big plans for the Little Mole. It was announced on Bloomberg in May 2012 that Apple Inc. would be helping Krtek enter the toy market which is worth $21 billion. The plan involves using modern media to advertise the six-decade-old phenomenon. They are hoping to introduce Krtek toys, movies and books on the American market.

More than just a toy in the Czech Republic, Krtek was a mascot for the 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championship in Prague. He was also used to promote a Athletics Children program run by the Czech Athletics Federation.

Even the Little Mole can't avoid drama. Vadim Petrov, who composed a lot of the music for the original episodes of the cartoon, will not take part in future episodes directed by Zdeněk's granddaughter Zdeňka Milera Karolína. The creator was explicit about not wanting the concluded cartoon to continue and Vadim supports his wishes. The next episodes are supposed to be filmed by Chinese TV CCTV. You can learn more about the Little Mole on the official website.

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