Cheburashka is a character in children's literature, from a 1965 story by the Russian writer Eduard Uspensky. He is also the protagonist (voiced by Klara Rumyanova) of the animated film series by Soyuzmultfilm studio, the first episode of which was made in 1969.
According to the story, Cheburashka is a cute little fur animal, unknown to science, who lives in the tropical forest. He accidentally gets into a crate of oranges, eats his fill, and falls asleep. Cheburashka is not a personal name; it is a species name invented by the owner of the puzzle shop where he is found. The salesman takes the animal out and sits him on the table, but his paws are numb after the long time spent in the crate, and he tumbles down and Cheburashka fell from the table onto the chair and then from the chair, where he could not sit, for the same reason, onto the floor. The shop owner, who witnesses the scene, called the mysterious animal a Cheburashka. Words with this root were archaic in Russian; Uspensky gave them a new lease on life. (The 19th-century Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian language of Vladimir Dal gives the meaning of "cheburashka" as another name for the vanka-vstanka tumbling toy.)
Cheburashka has a bear-like body and large round ears and is about the size of a 5-year-old child. In the tale, he hangs around with a friendly crocodile Gena, who wears a hat and a coat, walks on his hind legs and plays an accordion. Gena works in a zoo as a crocodile. Gena's favorite songs are "Birthdays Happen Only Once a Year" and "Blue Wagon".
In the cartoon, Cheburashka and Gena have their adventures made more difficult by a character named Old Lady Shapoklyak, from French Chapeau-Claque, a kind of top hat). Shapoklyak is a mischievous but charming old lady. She is tall and thin, wears a hat and a dark-colored dress, and carries around her as sidekick a rat-like creature — "Lariska" — in her purse to help her play pranks on people. The chorus of her theme song contains her motto, "One won't ever get famous for good deeds".
Cheburashka was chosen as an official mascot for the Russian Olympic Team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. Cheburashka dolls were also seen with members of the Russian team in 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. He is also one of the few Russian animation characters to be a subject of numerous Russian jokes and riddles.
The word "Cheburashka" is also used in a figurative sense to name objects that somehow resemble the creature (such as an An-72 aircraft which, when seen from the front, resembles the character's head) or are just as nice as it is (e.g. it's a jargon name for a small bottle of lemonade - from brand name "Cheburashka").
Cheburashka is now a staple of Russian cartoons, and there are several licensed products on the market, such as children's anecdotal books and stuffed toys.
Cheburashka also became known in some countries outside the former Soviet Union (and of the Soviet Bloc). He became very popular in Japan after an animated film series about him was shown in 15 cinemas all over Japan and was watched by approx. 700,000 Japanese between summer 2001 and spring 2002.
Cheburashka dolls and other collectibles are produced in Russia and Japan and sought after by collectors around the world.