Speakers at the “Breakthrough of Russian Animation” panel held during the Key Buyers Event on Thursday discussed the advantages of teaming with international partners.
“If you want to see your animated series on the global scene, you need to develop your IP with international experts on board,” Ksenia Gordienko, director of the animation department at CTC Media, tells Variety, mentioning “Kid-E-Cats.”
“The idea was developed by Dmitry Vysotsky and Andrey Sikorsky, but we have an international story editor in London, we get input from our global rights distributor APC Kids, based in Paris, and dubbing is done in New York.”
The company is set to follow the same pattern with “Little Tiaras,” about to be showcased at Shanghai Television Festival and swapping felines for princesses.
The key to success is to be everywhere, Victoria Bolotova, head of media international sales at Digital Television Russia, says. “Kids can watch your content, play your games and chat with a teddy bear you have made. It’s a constant interaction,” she says.
Riki Group’s “The Fixies” is already taking note, with the characters chosen as mascots of the Russian Pavilion at Expo 2020 and boasting a collaboration with H&M. New features “Finnick” and “Beardy Bodo” will hopefully follow suit, the latter introducing a man who “knows nothing, but he will teach anything and everything.”
“It shows parents that it’s normal to be imperfect, which will save their children a lot of money in therapy,” says Alina Martyanova, head of international co-production, during the panel. “We all have one common goal: the more Russian projects are known internationally, the more attention we draw to our market.”
While some get into the co-production model faster than before – as suggested by Marie Lida, head of international production at Parovoz Animation Studio, whose recent offerings, “Amazing Café” and “Spaceport,” are aimed at 5-8 year olds and preteens respectively – others believe in hurrying slowly.
“There is almost a competition for who has more minutes of animation ready, which is a trend we don’t follow,” says Vladimir Nikolaev, executive producer at Wizart Animation, soon to deliver “The Warrior Princess” and the fifth part of the “Snow Queen” franchise.
“Our path to Netflix’s top spot with ‘Secret Magic Control Agency’ was long and carefully planned. We release one movie every two years, paying attention to story arcs, characters and the message. We can’t move on until everyone loves it,” he says.
“Back in 2007, when we started the first ‘Snow Queen,’ there were only two other studios operating. Nobody believed we could do a good job. It’s important to entertain the viewer and talk about relevant topics like family, friendship and compassion.”
As well as stories championing kindness and friendship, those featuring gender equality and female protagonists are also in demand, says Valeria Korotina, head of international business development and sales at SMF Studios. But while the company readies “Rockoons,” it also turns to its “golden collection” for inspiration, preparing reboots of popular brands like “Meow Magic” and “Mr. Theo, Cat & Dog.”
“It’s not about nostalgia; it’s about a new take on the characters and stories loved by hundreds of millions of people from the former Soviet Union and some foreign territories as well,” she says, adding that artistic shorts also shouldn’t be undervalued.
“We see them as a way to move forward, to find new talents and to create a new legacy in Russian animation. They are a real treasure.”