Turn kids into collectors with these fun European cartoons and characters

The Peppa Pig World in Hampshire, England. | Photo by alicephoto via 123RF.
The Peppa Pig World in Hampshire, England. | Photo by alicephoto via 123RF.

Turn kids into collectors with these fun European cartoons and characters

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Fridge magnets, coffee mugs, shot glasses, postcards, beer mats and the list goes on and on: Collecting souvenirs from all the places you go is not only fun, it creates a tangible record of the roads you’ve traveled. And with just a little imagination, it’s an activity that can lend itself well to the youngest generation of travelers in your midst.

Next time you country-hop through Europe, why not let the kids get swept into the excitement by starting their own collections of books, posable figures, stuffed toys, T-shirts, or whatever else they may be into these days? Here’s a country-by-country look at some of Europe’s most enduring and beloved fictional characters awaiting discovery.

Belgium: Snowy is an adorable white Wire Fox Terrier who accompanies the title character of The Adventures of Tintin, the beloved comics series first penned in 1929 by Georges Prosper Remi, better known by his pen name, Hergé. Tintin’s faithful companion communicates with the reader by means of speech bubbles, cracks jokes, and warns Tintin of impending doom. The lovable pup has saved his master from many a difficult situation. His weaknesses include bones and whisky.

Czech Republic: Mole, or Krtek as he’s known in Czech, debuted in a film back in 1957 and has been burrowing his way into hearts ever since, particularly those of kids in Central and Eastern Europe, where Disney characters were banned during the Communist era. Creator Zdeněk Miler used his own daughters to voice Mole’s thoughts and feelings in a way kids can relate to. The ever- cheerful, roly-poly black mole with the red nose and gray belly pops up as a plush toy, on bedsheets and countless other children’s accessories.

France: Le Petit Ours Brun is a jeans-clad little brown bear who lives with his mother and father in what resembles a typical French household. His adventures mirror the trials and tribulations young folks face on a daily basis. He appears in cartoons and a series of books penned by author Marie Aubinais. The cartoons feature upbeat music with simple lyrics that make French toddlers everywhere happily sing and dance.

Germany: Tabaluga is a cute and friendly little green dragon. The character came to life in 1983 as the creation of rock star Peter Maffay, the children’s song author Rolf Zuckowski and Maffay’s lyricist Gregor Rottschalk, as part of a conceptual record album. The cute little dragon’s homeland is “Grünland,” his good friend the ice princess Lilli and his nemesis Arktos, an evil snowman. The animated film Tabaluga was released to American audiences in November of 2019.

Great Britain: Peppa Pig is a female piglet drawn slightly askew as if both of her eyes are on the same side of her head. Her sidekicks include her younger brother George, Mummy Pig, Granny Pig, Grandpa Pig and Daddy Pig, and her school classmates include sheep, zebras and elephants. While anyone over the age of three won’t be able to take much more than a few minutes of her cartoons, the youngest set seems to adore her, and you’ll find her image on everything from PJs to lunch boxes.

Italy: PIMPA is a little white dog covered with red polka-dots. She keeps company with her middle-aged owner Armando, Rosita the cat and other animals. The character first created by Tullio F. Altan back in 1975 remains popular to date with the pre-school set. You can find PIMPA in more than 100 books, as well as in cartoons and animated films. Branded merchandise ranges from chocolate egg candy to underpants.

Netherlands: Miffy is a small white bunny, simply drawn with black button eyes and an X for a mouth. She came to life at the hand of illustrator and author Dick Bruna in 1955 and has featured in more than 30 books since then. Uncomplicated, innocent and gentle, she most appeals to the very young set. In her home country, she’s known as “nijntje”, a derivation of the Dutch word “konijntje,” or little bunny. If you venture to Utrecht, you can find both a museum and a statue erected in her honor.

Poland: Reksio is a terrier created by in 1967 by the Polish director Lechosław Marszałek. For over 20 years, this dog that looks like he could be distant cousins with Snoopy got up to various forms of mischief in cartoon form. The episodes were filmed in the city of Bielsko-Biała, where today, you’ll find a statue of the ever-popular pup.

Russia: Masha i Medved, or Masha and the Bear, is a Russian animated series based on folk tale characters. Masha is a strong-willed little blond girl with green eyes and an oversize head, and her friend Medved is a father-like bear who keeps a watchful eye over her and tries to protect her from harm when her antics go too far. The cartoon series launched in 2009 has been broadcast in more than 100 countries, and Masha is quite the YouTube sensation: the episode titled “Recipe for Disaster” is one of the site’s most-viewed videos of all time.

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