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Animaccord, the Russian company behind one of the world’s top five children’s shows, animation series “Masha and the Bear,” has revealed plans to expand into longer-form content, including a feature film, as well as podcasts, tech-driven content and custom-made content for social media platforms.

More than a decade after its launch, the show “just keeps giving and giving,” Animaccord CEO, Claus Tomming, told Variety. The time was right to boost its universal appeal still further, he said, and “expand the storytelling.” He added that all successful franchises at some point “face the challenge of renewing and evolving in terms of your audience,” and that the development of so many new media platforms offered an opportunity for the brand.

Having previously only created seven-minute episodes of the show, Animaccord will produce four stand-alone themed specials in 4K with running times of 22 minutes. “Masha and the Bear: Masha’s Christmas,” set to be released by the end of this year, will introduce 12 new characters, including one called January, seen here for the first time (below). The second special is dedicated to the topic of ecology. The focus of the other two will be announced at a later date.

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Courtesy of Animaccord

Animaccord has also confirmed that it is in development with the first-ever “Masha and the Bear” animated feature film, which will be released by 2025. It is seeking to partner with a global film distributor on the project, Tomming said.

The longer formats will allow the company to introduce new characters and new types of storytelling. They would require “a different complexity of storytelling,” he said, compared with the seven-minute episodes, which “can be built around a fairly narrow situation, and are very much gag driven.” It would allow the characters to explore beyond the traditional forest setting, and go, for example, into a city environment for the first time.

The longer formats would be aimed at a family audience, embracing a broader age range than the pre-schoolers of the original series, and appealing to “the tweens and teens of kids who grew up with Masha when they were younger.” The show has always enjoyed a high level of co-viewing, Tomming said, with parents “recognizing ourselves and our everyday lives [in the show] with the crazy situations that our kids sometimes put us in.”

The company will also start a direct-to-consumer digital business and launch its first tech-driven content, including interactive, gaming and creative play formats to “drive interaction with our audience,” Tomming said.

Animaccord is also going shorter, with plans to release “Masha and the Bear” content of one or two minutes on social media platforms such as TikTok to promote the show. “You need to be much more platform specific,” he added. “You need to adapt to the platform on which you want to tell your story.”

The new formats would, however, stay true to the “core values” and “core DNA” of the brand, as established by its creator, Oleg Kuzovkov, centering on the relationship between Masha, a smart yet mischievous young girl, and the Bear, who – although often exasperated – is devoted to her. The show is “a mirror of the world of the child and how they perceive the world around them and the world of the adult,” Tomming said. “The bear sees things from a different perspective, and the comedy comes from those two perspectives of the world clashing.” Kuzovkov’s inspiration for Masha was a young girl he met. He marvelled at her “boundless imagination,” and the havoc that ensued from that. “So a vacuum cleaner, obviously, is a spaceship,” Tomming said, and a bed is trampoline.

The short-form series for pre-schoolers has a huge following worldwide. It is one of the top five most in-demand children’s shows globally, according to Parrot Analytics, along with such IP as “Peppa Pig,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Paw Patrol.”

The franchise holds the Guinness World Record as the most watched animated video on YouTube for the episode “Recipe for Disaster,” which has recorded almost 4.5 billion views.

Animaccord manages one of the largest children’s multinational content networks on YouTube, with 144 million followers. At the end of last year, “Masha and the Bear’s” English YouTube channel had doubled the number of its subscribers compared with the same period in 2019 from 10 million to 20 million, and now has almost 25 million subscribers.