"Peter and the Wolf"

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This is the famous musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev rendered as a Disney cartoon. Each character in the piece is represented by a corresponding instrument: the bird is a flute, the duck is an oboe, the wolf is a French horn, etc.  There is also a narrator that repeatedly addresses the characters-- e.g. shouting "Look out!"--but he does not appear to be able to actually assist them.  If the bleakness of the tundra and the animals' tears that freeze at the end of their noses doesn't depress you, then the Beckettian futility of the narrator's attempts to interact with hand-drawn characters who are personifications of wind instruments probably will.

There are several other scary aspects of this cartoon: Ivan the cat's bloodlust for Sasha the bird for one, and Peter only being armed with a pop-cork rifle against a huge man-eating wolf for another.  But the most disturbing part for me is when Sasha attempts to tell the hunters about the wolf.  The bird draws letters in the snow, and the narrator reads aloud: "W-O-L-F.  Wolf!"

But the letters spell BONK.

Well, actually Волк.  But I didn't know what the Cyrillic alphabet was, so I would rewind the tape again and again, scratching my head about "Bonk."  I knew there words like "knight," which was pronounced "nite" instead of "kuh-nig-uht," but I still couldn't figure out how "Wolf"="Bonk."

Anyway, to get back to the story, poor Sonia the duck appears to have been eaten by the wolf--and in the original composition, he was.  In fact, in the original, "if you listen very carefully, you'd hear the duck quacking inside the wolf's belly, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive," which doesn't seem like it would be particularly reassuring to a child.

Here, we see a single feather left by her footprints, and we watch Sonia's entry into Duck Heaven.  But then we have some Disney ex Machina and it turns out that Sonia was hiding in a hollow tree trunk all the time!  This is a wonderful, wonderful day!

Lesson learned:
Every child needs a rifle.

Peter and the Wolf.  Dir. Clyde Geronimi.  Perf. Sterling Holloway.  Disney, 1946.
Make Mine Music (Disney Gold Classic Collection)
(See it on YouTube here.)


  1. "Disney ex Machina" is one of my favorite phrases ever.

  2. Волк is Russian for wolf :)

  3. The wolf must be rabid since he has red eyes.

  4. I'm glad this article exists, I though for the longest time as a child that the "BONK" part was a super random joke, and I thought it was so fricken funny. I then thought back to it, and googled TODAY and found out about Boлk meaning wolf. That's also how I found this article. Glad someone else had a similar experience.