The first part of the film was released in 1986 and the second in 1988, after which the two parts were always displayed together. The film attained a cult classic status practically immediately after release, even though it went directly to TV and never had a theatrical release.
The film won the following awards: Grand Prize in Minsk, 1987; Grand Prize in Kiev, 1989; 1st Prize on International Cinema Festival of Television films in Czechoslovakia.
Valery Chiglyayev as Captain Flint
Valery Bessarab as Jim Hawkins
Armen Dzhigarkhanyan as John Silver
Viktor Andriyenko as Captain Smollett and Billy Bones
Evgeny Paperny as Dr. Livesey
Boris Vozniak as Squire Trelawney
Yuri Yakovlev as Ben Gunn
Geogry Kishko as Blind Pew
Instrumental ensemble VIA (ВИА) "Festival"
Treasure Island was a product of collaboration of the two very well known people in the USSR: David Cherkassky, a director, who, at the time of inception, produced a number of very popular cartoons, and Radna Sakhaltuev, a cartooninst, who had (at that point in time) a long and fruitful history of collaboration with David Cherkassky, as well as a history of being a cartoonist for a number of satirical magazines in Kiev, where he became well known for his distinctive style. Their previous collaboration yielded some very fruitful results, including the cartoons about the Adventures of Captain Vrungel (a Russian tall tales of the sea kind of book) and Doctor Aybolit (a more children-centric cartoon). This allowed the duo to build up a reputation that allowed some extra freedom during their future work, and this credit was fully exploited during Treasure Island adaptation, which was very liberal as far as Soviet cartoons went.
A distinctive feature of the cartoon was the inclusion of live action "musical pauses" - songs, that were acted out by live actors, that explained, for example, why it is a bad idea to drink alcohol or smoke or why Jim Hawkins defeats all the pirates he meets (because he do sport exercises every day).
While the subject matter was taken almost literally at times (the cartoon often quotes the original novel line-by-line), the approach towards screen adaptation was very light-hearted, as pirates were quite a distant reality for Soviet Union. The pirates play obviously goofy roles, and the whole approach to violence is very cartoonish. The movie drew controversy in 2012 as Russia implemented a new law prohibiting showing movies that have scenes of alcohol consumption and smoking to minors. The film uses scenes of rum drinking and smoking among pirates excessively; but, at the same time, it stressed that because the bad guys had bad habits of drinking and smoking and good guys didn't have those the good guys won against all odds, as they were healthier. A public outcry over the fate of such loved childhood classics as Treasure Island resulted in an adoption of a special case that allowed the show of "movies that have significant historical and cultural value", including Treasure Island, to be exempt from the law. The cartoon parodied a number of pre-1970es US cartoons, as well as a few Russian movies.
While the movie was shot in USSR, because the home base for the animation studio behind the film was Kiev, it features practically no actors of Soviet-wide fame in the voice cast; however, all the people involved in voicing the parts of the cartoon were quite famous in Kiev as theater actors, even though this recognition didn't necessarily translate to Soviet-wide fame.
In order to make the novel more fit for the screen, a number of relatively minor changes and simplifications were made to the story. First and foremost, all the fights are simplified to the point of cartoon violence, even though the participants comment the outcomes with the lines lifted straight from the novel, regardless of how much they actually resemble the action on screen.
Secondly, the characters became a lot more simplified. Jim Hawkins was turned into a "very, very good boy" with a knowledge of karate; Doctor Livesey turned into a hopeless optimist that managed to satirize each and every person he came across; Squire Trelawney became a cartoon of a not-so-competent, but a very ambitious local executive; and Captain Smollett turned into a cartoonish portrayal of a loyal, yet a bit too straightforward for his own good, army officer. While a number of additional omissions in the plots were made, these simplifications actually allowed the screening to keep relatively close to the letter and spirit of the classic Russian translation of the book, thus making this adaptation a rather faithful one, even though the fight scenes (predictably) have practically nothing to do with the text of the novel. When the movie was translated back into English, some of the accuracy was predictably lost.
While this adaptation features a number of deliberately silly scenes (i.e. where Billy Bones has a stroke in the novel, he is literally stricken by a wooden beam in the movie after sneezing), it manages to keep relatively close to the letter of the book.
The movie took a full advantage of the fact that Russian (or Soviet, for that matter) attitude towards assigning ratings to movies is quite different from the approach of North America: while Russian/Soviet school of censorship was a lot less tolerant towards swearing and sexually suggestive material, it was far more liberal when it came to violence, thus allowing a number of American M-rated movies to be reclassified as PG-13 equivalent once the curses were replaced with more neutral language and sex scenes cut out. Therefore, as far as cartoons go, this adaptation of Treasure Island is rather gory, while allowing to follow the script pretty closely.
On 16 march 2006 the Russian DVD by Krupny Plan (Region 0) contains the original Russian edit of the film with restored image and a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix (as well as with the original mono sound). This version contains no bonus material, no subtitles and is Russian only.
On 2005 an export version of the Russian edit of the film by RUSCICO (Region 0) is available under the title Treasure Island. This version contains Russian (5.1 and 1.0), English and French (5.1 with one voice voiceover translation) soundtracks as well as several subtitle languages (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish). The picture was not restored for this edition. As a bonus feature, there are text infos about David Cherkassky.
The US direct-to-video cut from 1992 was published in USA under the title Return to Treasure Island on DVD (Region 1). The picture was not restored. However, the English audio has been remastered in 5.1. This edit of the film does not contain any Russian audio. VHS edition distributed by Video Treasures.