×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Russian Animation Boosts Bottom Lines

Russian animation work, even during the Cold War, found its way to European TV screens, where characters were dubbed but fairy tale-inspired toons had deep appeal to non-Russian kids. These days, despite impressive digital wizardry and a multitude of new platforms, character and story are still the special sauce that make toons from the East succeed abroad, say producers.

Competition will be lively at Cannes for hot new titles with growing interest in new Russian animation work — just one indicator is Netflix’s buy of the series “Leo and Tig” and “Be-Be Bears” from Moscow-based Parovoz last fall as part of its strategy to beef up children’s programming. The two seasons of shorts, about animal adventurers, have done well with kids worldwide.

Buyers are also mindful of last year’s “Snow Queen: Fire & Ice” success. The wintry adventure from leading toon company Wizart broke records after its release in April last year. The film became the highest-grossing Russian film in the Chinese market ever, says Wizart’s Anna Pokorskaya.

“Now we’re waiting for the release of the fourth installment in China,” she adds, and she anticipates interest from U.S. distributors.

Wizart is also premiering “Hansel & Gretel” at the Cannes Market, Pokorskaya says, “and we’d like to shine a light on a second installment of ‘Fantastic Return to Oz’ by Russia’s largest animation studio, Melnitsa, which follows up on a 2017 edition of the animated tribute to the Depression-era U.S. classic.” Wizart is in talks for deal with an unidentified U.S. distributor.

Wizart and Melnitsa earned nearly $7 million in world sales their first time around after Wizart organized theatrical releases in China, Korea, Latin America, Germany and the U.K., among other territories.

In the new version, Dorothy and her dog Toto go back to Magic Land to take on the evil Urfin Jus, who is trying to take over Emerald City.

U.S. streaming platforms are driven by audience numbers showing that viewership for youth-oriented shows is far higher outside the U.S. than within it, and Russians have been quick to adapt to international openings. Russian content creators have built global audiences — sometimes reaching 100 countries for such series as Oleg Kuzovkov’s “Masha and the Bear,” a YouTube sensation based on traditional folk tales produced by Moscow’s Animaccord Animation Studio, now in its third season.

Dmitry Pleshkov of Russia’s Licensing Brands says business is brisk for his company as well. Their previous animated 3D feature, “Two Tails,” scored $3.4 million at the international box office, “a very good result for an independent, relatively small-budget, production.”

Their new film, the 3D feature “The Big Trip,” now out on Russian screens and just released theatrically in Turkey, set records for a non-franchise animated pic, Pleshkov says.

“If the story is good, fun and entertaining, and the quality is on a high level as well,” he posits, “you’ll have success. Everywhere. If any of these components are missing — you are in trouble.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Godzilla

    Criterion Collection President Peter Becker on Storytelling, Bergman vs Godzilla, B-movies

    LYON, France  —  The Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) kicked off on Tuesday in Lyon, France, with a keynote address by Criterion Collection President Peter Becker. The exec discussed the company’s storied history and evolution over the decades into a leading publisher of classic and contemporary films from around the world in high-quality [...]

  • Manuel Chiche

    Boutique Distributor Manuel Chiche Offers A State of The Industry

    LYON, France  — Manuel Chiche is riding high. Since June, his boutique distribution outlet The Jokers set admission records with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” selling nearly 1.7 million tickets in France and still going strong as the film heads into its 19th week in theaters. Indeed, “Parasite” is now the second most successful Palme d’Or winner of [...]

  • Toni

    Italy’s L'Immagine Ritrovata Expected to Take Over France’s Eclair Cinema

    LYON, France  —  Leading Italian restoration company L’Immagine Ritrovata’s acquisition of renowned film lab Eclair Cinéma, announced last month, is expected to be approved by the French Commercial Court of Nanterre at the end of November or beginning of December, according to a source familiar with the deal. L’Immagine Ritrovata’s French subsidiary, L’Image Retrouvée, last [...]

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama “So Long, My Son” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an unprecedented haul that makes the Wang Xiaoshuai-directed film a clear favorite. A drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one-child policy, “So Long, My Son” had its premiere in February [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content