Russian animation is quickly becoming one of the countries most successful exports in the field of entertainment. While the countries live action films struggle to sell outside their own country, the animation industry has been turning out franchises such as ‘Kikoriki’, ‘Snow Queen’ or ‘Masha and the Bear’, that gaining impressive sales around the world.
This Wednesday saw a focus on animation at the second-ever Animation Day in Cannes, a day full of talks, panel discussions, animation screenings and networking events. While Russia did not feature at this event, it did find great success in the area.
The first two films of Wizart’s ‘The Snow Queen’ franchise - an adaptation from the Hans Christian Andersen fable that also served as the basis of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ - has sold to 130 countries to date, with a total international box office of $30 million. The third installment, ‘Fire and Ice’, is currently in production and already attracting significant interest from Chinese investors.
The children’s animated series ‘Masha and the Bear’ from Moscow-based Animaccord Studio has been a similar global hit, having generated $225 million in merchandising revenues alone last year.
Dmitry Rudovsky, producer of Russia’s latest hit franchise, ‘Kikoriki: Legend of the Golden Dragon’, believes it is a combination of high-quality animation and easy adaptability that gives Russian cartoons their universal appeal. The animation is dubbed for each regional release in order to remove issues of language barrier, and the creators are careful to avoid obvious cultural references. "The story should be universal and understandable for viewers regardless of their mentality, religion, age or gender," Yuri Moskvin, a producer at Wizart, tells THR.
Russia has long been involved in the animation industry, dating back as far as the Soviet era. Despite experiencing a tough period in the 1990s and early 2000s, the industry has be unperturbed, bouncing back with 10 feature films and 35 animated series currently in production. While the budget for a Russian animated feature is far below that of bigger studios such as Pixar or DreamWorks, they have forged their own niche among both European and wider audiences.
According to Ruben Atoyan, a producer of animated feature ‘Quackerz’, the only real obstacle for Russian animation is recent sanctions slapped on Russia over the Crimean crisis. "[The sanctions mean] European animated films of similar quality have better sales prospects just because they are European rather than Russian," he laments.
"Overall, the quality of Russian animation is on the rise, but we need to admit that we're still running behind high-budget Hollywood products," Vadim Sotskov, general director of KinoAtis, which produces the franchise Belka and Strelka. "On the technology level, it is possible to catch up quite quickly, but Russian companies don't have such a well-established system for content distribution as Hollywood."