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Russian Animation Proves to Be an International Draw

‘Snow Queen 3’ leads toon caravan into Cannes as territories beckon abroad

Easily leading the new wave of Russian animation successes abroad, the “Snow Queen” series see its third edition this year at Cannes with “Snow Queen 3: Fire and Ice,” which producer Wizart’s Yuri Moskvin contends will continue to build alongside the company’s other hit toon franchise, “Sheep and Wolves.”

The latest “Snow Queen” film was released in France through Universal and KLB in February, and launched April 5 in China across more than 8,000 screens. With the two franchises having earned more than $100 million worldwide, Moskvin says they were “setting a new threshold and a record for independently produced European-American animated feature films released globally without any support from a major multi-national corporation.”

As Russian animation continues to gain wider visibility, Moscow-based studio Licensing Brands is behind two 3D toon feature films in Cannes Market this year with worldwide distribution by Luminescence.

“The Big Trip 3D” is described by Licensing Brands’ Dmitry Pleshkov as “an incredible story” penned by “Madagascar” co-screenwriter Billy Frolick that sees a band of hardy animals embarking on a cross-country trek to sort out a wrong-baby delivery problem. Their mission: To return a panda cub to her mother, with a different breed of bear leading the way back to China to hand over the challenging parcel. An adventurous hare comes along for the ride, signifying just the first of many complications.

“I think the project will be successful and interesting to a worldwide audience,” says Pleshkov, due to the “very high level of animation quality as well as attractive characters and universal, entertaining storyline.”

Additional global appeal is expected from the soundtrack boasting “a lot of international music hits,” he says.

The studio is banking on a further installment and international buyers are circling, says Pleshkov.

Licensing Brands’ other title, “Pinocchio,” reconsiders the classic fairy-tale with the addition of a companion ram named Fredo as their quest to achieve boyhood for the protagonist leads them into a traveling circus run by a hustler called Modjafoco. As Pinocchio’s talents sell out show after show, he is unwittingly providing a distraction for amazed audiences, whose houses are robbed by Basilio the cat and Alice the fox during performances.

Pinocchio, meanwhile, is smitten with the young gymnast Bella, Modjafoco’s stepdaughter, but “has no chance to win her love as he is a puppet, not a human.” There’s always a way with love, however — and Pleshkov believes audiences will fall for the film thanks to innovative animation techniques, which help breathe new life into the classic tale.

Recent gains in global sales for Russian toons have been driven by animation that has “improved significantly and become competitive worldwide,” says Pleshkov. The sector is aiming for a return to a level of success it enjoyed during the Soviet Union days, with the active help and support of the state film support system and cinema fund. The security of the development system allows studios to plan their production cycles years in advance, says Pleshkov, “which is very important in the animation business. As this is a very time-consuming and long process it is necessary to plan for the years ahead.”

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