Russian vids, pix toon up for holidays

Animators release local fave 'Neznaika,' Baum's 'Emerald City'

MOSCOW — Russia’s commercial animators are releasing an unexpectedly rich choice of seasonal fare for the children’s market in the run-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Project of the year was the release of the second part of a local favorite, “Neznaika on the Moon,” which preemed Nov. 28 in Moscow’s Kremlin Palace of Congresses, once the site of meetings of the Soviet Communist Party. This time, however, the audience consisted of 12,000 energetic children, along with their parents, who thronged the venue for two showings of an 80-minute film version of the work.

Created by Moscow’s F.A.F. Entertainment facility, project will likely prove most successful on video. Legal sales for the first part, adapted from a classic Soviet children’s trilogy by writer Nikolai Nosov, have topped the 2 million mark since its release two years ago.

Classic tradition

F.A.F.’s style of drawn animation is in the classic tradition of once-dominant Soyuzmultfilm, with more than a hint of Disney thrown in. Fyodor Khitruk, the patriarch of Soviet animation, served as consultant for the series.

Alongside the follow-up, toonsters and their exclusive vid distributor Extra Video are releasing a three-hour, three-tape package of the whole series, priced at around 300 rubles ($12).

In addition, top figures in territory’s film world, including helmer Nikita Mikhalkov, addressed open letters to law enforcement asking for extra vigilance in prosecuting copyright breakers. Another local sponsor is offering cash rewards for information on piracy-related activity.

Off to see ‘Wizard’

Russia’s other big toon venture provides the local youth market with an original slant on “The Wizard of Oz” — in the form of 26 half-hour mini-films of “Adventures in the Emerald City,” based on works by “Oz” author Frank Baum, timed to mark the centenary of the book’s publication next year.

Videos of the first two episodes, “The Silver Slippers” and “The Secret of the Great Magician,” went on sale Wednesday, with the remaining 24 segs scheduled to appear over the next three years.

Project is the brainchild of St. Petersburg studio CTB Film and producer Sergei Selyanov.

Award-winning animator Konstantin Bronzit is serving as art director for “Emerald City,” with responsibility for giving the series a unified style.

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