Rijeka’s urban look, its wide main street, port in the city centre, rich Austro-Hungarian buildings and industrial facilities served as an inspiration to the set designer of the cult cartoon, Balthazar, when creating the Balthazar City. It is exactly the type of setting appropriate for Professor Balthazar and his peculiar way of solving the everyday problems of “the little” man. Although this popular cartoon was created between 1967 and 1971, it is timeless and made its lead actress – animated Rijeka – immortal.
The animated character of Professor Balthazar is one of the most widely recognized movie characters made in Croatia. Its creator and main author is Zlatko Grgić. The idea of a series of stories dedicated to a kind-hearted and silly professor was supported by the Jadran film movie company. Between 1967 and 1971, Grgić made 59 episodes in cooperation with a group of authors. One of the most important amongst them was Zlatko Bourek. He was in charge of the artistic creation of the imaginary city in which Balthazar lived. An unusual professor needed an unusual city. Bourek says that the city was mostly modelled after Rijeka. What are his memories of the days of the creation of the famous Professor?
“I had already stayed in Rijeka on numerous occasions at the time and it kept impressing me as a very clean, “spruced-up” urban centre, with its large and long main street bordered by those big, beautiful, ancient buildings, with the adjoining port and its huge anchored iron ship. All that gives Rijeka a slightly surrealistic appearance that perfectly fitted our idea of the Balthazar City.”
Bourek remembers that many workers lived from Rijeka’s industry, working and believing in a better life. “It was perfect for Balthazar – a character in charge of solving the problems of the little men.” Bourek was also inspired by Rijeka’s fish market, full of people and bustling with life. The sea in the port was used as a starting point for the episode about the alpinist who fell in love with the sea.
Even the citizens of Rijeka sometimes feel like they live in an unusual city. Giant port cranes “stretch their necks” over residential buildings. Train compositions thunder in the immediate vicinity of aristocratic palaces. Continental architecture nestles on the seashore.
Balthazar who lives in a city like Rijeka is loved by children from all around the world. Balthazar cartoons were broadcast in: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Iran.