Zdenek Miler, creator of “Little Mole,” dead at 90

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Zdenek Miler

Zdenek Miler

Czech ani­ma­tor and illus­tra­tor Zdenek Miler, cre­ator of the pop­u­lar car­toon char­ac­ter Krtek (Lit­tle Mole), died Wednes­day. He was 90.

Dur­ing his last months, Miler lived at a nurs­ing home in Nova Ves pod Plesi, south­west of Prague.

There were 52 Krtek car­toons made at Prague’s Kratky Film Praha stu­dio. The first, 1957’s Jak Krtek Ke Kalhotkam Prisel(How the Mole Got his Trousers), won the Sil­ver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

With install­ments released as late as 1992, the series had drawn a wide audi­ence among chil­dren in East­ern Europe and such coun­tries as Ger­many, Aus­tria, China and India.

His car­toons also included the Cvrcek (Cricket) series.

Born in the town of Kladno on Feb­ru­ary 21, 1921, he grad­u­ated from Prague’s Acad­emy of Arts, Archi­tec­ture and Design and illus­trated many children’s books.

He cre­ated the cheer­ful, help­ful Krtek in 1956 after walk­ing in woods near his home town west of Prague and trip­ping over a mole­hill. “So, I said to myself: that’s it. The mole,” he said in a 2006 inter­view with Czech pub­lic radio.

Miler had sought a new crea­ture that nobody else would use. “Walt Dis­ney used for his car­toons almost all ani­mals, but one. That was cho­sen by me,” he recalled.

Instead of speak­ing, the mole uses non­ver­bal excla­ma­tions to show his feel­ings, thus gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity with inter­na­tional movie­go­ers. Over five mil­lion copies of books with Krtek’s adven­tures have been trans­lated into 20 lan­guages and sold worldwide.

There are well also many Lit­tle Mole toys. One stuffed ver­sion of Krtek returned to Earth in July after trav­el­ling to outer space on NASA’s shut­tle Endeav­our. The toy accom­pa­nied Amer­i­can astro­naut Andrew Feustel, whose wife Indira is of Czech origin.

Krtek spent a lot of time float­ing around the inter­na­tional space sta­tion,” Feustel observed dur­ing his visit to Prague. And in a let­ter to Feustel, Miler said that he was honored.

Until his death, all designs based on the Lit­tle Mole required Miler’s per­sonal approval.

He never dis­ap­pointed me. He made me happy all my life,” Miler reflected.

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