Building on a Legacy of Excellence
Russia’s Soyuzmultfilm unveils an ambitious slate of animated projects across different media.
Fans of world animation don’t need any introduction to the legacy of Soyuzmultfilm, the acclaimed Moscow-based studio that has produced over 1,500 cartoons since it opened its doors in 1936. Best known for titles such as Winniethe-Pooh, Gena the Crocodile, The Snow Queen, Mowgli, I Will Get You! and Hedgehog in the Fog, the team at Soyuzmultfilm use a variety of animation techniques, included stop-motion, clay and hand-drawn animation to produce their well-loved projects. Today, the company is active in both feature films, TV series and shorts production and distribution, guided by a view toward the future combined with a commitment to preserving tradition. “The studio is also a multifaceted group of production, educational facilities, a thriving licensing business, an animation technology park, a children’s educational and recreational center, in-house advanced training for animators, and a network of multimedia centers,” says studio’s director Boris Mashkovtsev. “Although the studio was founded almost 85 years ago, the new era of the studio as a modern entity began about three years ago,”adds the studio’s chairwoman of the board Yuliana Slascheva. “The company has made tremendous strides and has become a production leader in the country: We had over 600 minutes of finished product last year. We currently employ over 300 people, 250 of which are engaged in production work.” “Our short films reflect our roster of young and talented animators to experiment and produce more artistic animation,” adds Yuliana Slascheva. “Some of the studio’s outstanding projects won awards at top festivals around the world, including the London Intl. Film Festival and the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival. In 2018, we released the long-awaited feature Hoffmaniada, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Our next feature is the historic epic Suvorov, which will be released in 2020.”
A Diverse Slate of Projects
The artists at Soyuzmultfilm are also developing and producing a wide range of animated series targeting both younger and older family audiences. In recent years, the company has also developed several unique technological solutions, which will be to be patented. “Our specialists have access to the latest, state-of-the-art technological equipment and can work in any technique they would like to,” says Slascheva. “We are glad to be able to give them this opportunity. We also have special equipment for clay animation and a wonderful stop-motion production hall. Russian animation has come a long way, and we’ve preserved unique techniques: For example, Mr. Theo, Cat & Dog is produced via hand-drawn animation, which is highly labor-intensive and expensive to produce. It’s still a colossal manual work that preserves the unique style of Soyuzmultfilm projects that audiences expect to see.” Among the current animated projects of the studio is Orange Moo Cow, an animated preschool show co-produced by France’s Cyber Group Studios, a musical show title Squared Zebra, The Adventures of Peter and Wolf, Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog and Claymotions. Inspired by new collaborations with Cyber Group Studios, Soyuzmultfilm plans to expand co-productions for several projects aimed at preschool and school audiences. Both Slascheva and Mashkovtsev are quite excited about the future of the studio as they work on different avenues to expand the reach and activities of their company. “Soyuzmultfilm is not only an animation studio that produces 600 minutes of content a year, but also a technology park which provides facilities for other studios in CGI, motion capture, stop-motion, cut-out and hand drawn animation,” they add. “The studio works not only as a film production company, but as a structural element of children culture. It includes two museums devoted to the history of animation. It organizes exhibitions, festivals and master-classes through all the country. Children’s Soyuzmultclub is a unique development center for children ages four and older, where they learn different animation techniques. There is also a recording studio that helps showcase children’s talents who wants to sing or to be a cartoon voice actor, for example. The studio is also quite active in preserving puppet and clay animation. We have developed a new production facility, with plans to produce at least one animated short (with puppet and clay animation) each year. “As we can all see, the animation business has grown in more ways than anyone could have predicted,” they conclude. “We’re sure than both Russian and international animation will continue to develop rapidly in the years ahead. The future will certainly bring about many possibilities of the most unexpected collaborations between different industries and countries.”