Panda to join Little Mole in new cartoon series

One's a panda, which for many typifies China, the other is a mole that has delighted fans in the Czech Republic for decades.

Now, thanks to Little Mole's "family" and China Central Television, the two will join forces in a new animated series.

"Little Mole and Panda" is in the final stages of production and is scheduled to air in China from Monday.

Zeng Weijing, CCTV's director of animation, said 52 episodes will be aired weekly on its children's channel at 7 pm.

The show coincides with President Xi Jinping's three-day State visit to the Czech Republic, the first by a Chinese president since diplomatic relations were established 50 years ago.

Officials hope the trip will enhance trade, sports and cultural links between the two nations.

Little Mole was the brainchild of Zdenek Miler, who created the character 60 years ago. The original cartoon series, famous for its simplicity, was a hit throughout Eastern Europe and in France.

CCTV aired the original in the 1980s, rapidly gaining a large following among children. It was repeated in 2011.

Little Mole was a showcase for Czech animation, and it is hoped that the new China-Czech series, in which the mole is joined by a panda, will be equally popular.

Most of the action, apart from the first episode, will take place in China. And unlike the original, the new version will also include dialogue in Chinese.

"We decided to include dialogue to make it more attractive for children today," Zeng said. "The 26 episodes are now finished. Everything, including pre- and post-production work, was done in China. It is now in Prague to have the voice-overs done."

Chen Chao, 33, a porcelain artist in Beijing, recalled being impressed by the unique artistic style of the original Little Mole cartoons when he watched in the 1980s.

"It was like a combination of paper-cutting and collage, and the subject dealt with the impact of humans on animal life, which in today's view relates to environmental protection," he said.

He is curious to see whether there is a change in artistic style, and is looking forward to new stories and metaphors in the updated series.

Lucie Bradacova-Gomezova, a property manager and Czech translator, remembers Little Mole as gentle and adorable.

"I watched him as a small girl on a black-and-white TV when communist Czechoslovakia only had two channels. Now my children love to watch it on DVD. It really still stands the test of time," she said.

Miler died in 2011, and the rights are now owned by his granddaughter, Karolina, who works from her grandfather's old studio in the suburbs of Prague.

She took an active role in the creation of the new animation series, which was agreed with CCTV last year.

"I'm very glad to be a part of "Little Mole and Panda" because I know Chinese people are very familiar with Little Mole and have deep feelings for it," she said.

"I also need such cooperation to carry forward my grandfather's work."

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