New Cartoon Hero Is a Netizen and a Favored Plush ToyA mother bear and her baby bear are having a peaceful picnic in the forest. Suddenly an uninvited guest appears － a little plump rabbit with rather stubby ears. The rabbit happily begins to tuck in to the feast, apparently oblivious to the wrath of the bears. When the angry mother bear finally threatens the rabbit with an ax, the petite rabbit suddenly grabs a glass bottle and smashes it on his own forehead. The bears, astonished, throw in the towel, and offer the rabbit a conciliatory piece of fruit.
This tiny but tough rabbit is called Mashimaro (in an approximation of "Marshmallow"), and this is the storyline of a one-and-half-minute online animation film in which he appears, called "Mashimaro Forest Tale."
It, along with five other short online cartoon, has become such a huge success that if you haven't seen it, or you don't dig it, you're just not with it － that is, if you're 14.
Its creator, Kim Jae-in, 24, a sophomore at Kongju University, is thrilled with the success of his brainchild. He said in an interview with the Joong- Ang Ilbo English Edition, "I never thought that this cartoon would be so popular."
The adventures of Mashimaro, whose nickname is "Yeopgi Tokki" ("Bizarre Rabbit"), have been a smash hit among youth in Korea since the end of last year. More than 10 million people have watched the animation via the Internet.
Following this success online, the bizarre rabbit is spawning the expected spinoffs out on the street. At least 150,000 of the soft toy versions have been snapped up. The soft toys come at affordable prices － 4,000 won ($3), 12,000 won, 18,000 won and 28,000 won － according to their size. Walk around downtown Seoul and you can't miss them.
But, if Mashimaro's creator gets it his way, this is just the beginning. "I'm very soon going to release more items, this time on the stationary market," he enthused.
If you want to find out what all the fuss is about, just surf the Net using the keyword mashimaro, and you will find many Web sites where you can watch the animation films. You don't have to have a good command of Korean to understand and enjoy this rabbit's escapades. After all, the rabbit doesn't speak Korean, either.
New online episodes are also scheduled to appear soon on www.mashimaro.co.kr, which is currently under construction.
by Chun Su-jin