From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Company typeJSC
Founded10 June 1936; 87 years ago (1936-06-10)
Headquarters21, bld.1, Akademika Korolyova str., Moscow, Russia,127427
Key people
Yuliana Slashcheva (Chairman)
Boris Mashkovtsev
ProductsAnimated films
Television series
Revenue$2.76 million[1] (2017)
-$8.58 million[1] (2017)
$12,906[1] (2017)
Total assets$15.4 million[1] (2017)
Total equity$168,401[1] (2017)
OwnerFederal Agency for State Property Management
Number of employees
 (February 2020)
DivisionsChristmas Films
External videos
【Creating ‘Mr. Theo, Cat & Dog’ and ‘Orange Moo-Cow’】 on YouTube Channel - English Subtittles
video icon Legendary Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm (@Мультики студии Союзмультфильм).Watch as the convertible creator laptop, ideal for demanding 2D and 3D work thanks to its Wacom® EMR pen and outstanding color accuracy, helps the studio to remain the innovative beacon of creativity known throughout the world. on YouTube

Soyuzmultfilm (Russian: Союзмультфи́льм, IPA: [səˌjʉsmʊlʲtˈfʲilʲm] listen, Unioncartoon) (also known as SMF Animation Studio in English, formerly known as Soyuzdetmultfilm, Unionchildcartoon) is a Russian animation studio based in Moscow. Launched on June 10, 1936 as the animated film production unit of the U.S.S.R.'s motion picture monopoly, GUKF,[2] Soyuzmultfilm has produced more than 1,500 cartoons.[3] Soyuzmultfilm specializes in the creation of animated TV series, feature films and short films. The studio has made animated films in a wide variety of genres and art techniques, including stop motion, hand-drawn, 2D and 3D techniques.[4]

The "Golden Collection" of Soyuzmultfilm, produced from the beginning of the 1950s and to the end of the 1980s, is considered to be the classics of the animation medium and the best works of world-renowned directors, production designers and animators. Among the studio's best-known films are Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), the Cheburashka series (1969–1983), the Well, Just You Wait! series (since 1969), Karlsson-on-the-Roof (1968) and others.[5] Many of the films rank among the classics of world animation, garnered a multitude of international and Russian awards and prizes, and became an integral part of Russian and global culture.[3]

In 2018, the studio released the feature film Hoffmaniada, considered a masterpiece of stop motion puppet animation, based on the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann. The 3D full-length animated historical epic Suvorov is currently in production.[6]

The studio has released 7 series projects since 2017. One of them is a sequel of the well-known Prostokvashino trilogy Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog [ru] based on the aesthetics of the original. Six other series, with new original scripts, are Orange Moo-cow, which is co-produced with Cyber Group Studios, Squared Zebra, Claymotions, The Adventures of Peter & Wolf, Captain Kraken and His Crew, Pirate School.[7] The series Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog and Orange Moo-cow ranked in the top 5 among the cartoons shown on Russian television in 2019, according to Mediascope research company.[8] Several other series are in production and expected to be released in the second half of 2020.

The shorts produced by the studio participate in prestigious festivals and receive international prizes. Among the recent award-winning shorts are: Vivat Musketeers! (2019), Good Heart (2018), Coco's Day (2017), The Sled (2016), Two Trams (2016), Moroshka (2015), Pik Pik Pik (2015) and others.[9]

In addition to the production of animation, the studio launched many educational activities. Soyuzmultfilm conducts advanced training programmes for animators and script-writers.[10] In 2018, it opened a development center for children Soyuzmultclub with animation workshops, interactive programs, regular animation courses for children, the museum.[11] In 2020, the first indoor recreational multimedia park Soyuzmultfilm will be opened at the VDNKH exhibition center.[12] A Technopark, which is to become the largest animation production centre in Russia, is being created on the basis of the studio.[13]  


Early years[edit]

The film studio was founded on 10 June 1936, by order of the Chief Directorate of the Film and Photo Industry (GUKF) of the State Committee on the Arts under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. Two of the animated groups that existed in Moscow at that time were merged into a single film studio under the name Soyuzdetmultfilm, which was changed to Soyuzmultfilm in 1937.[14] The studio was located at Novinsky Boulevard, 22.

The creative staff included already well-known masters of hand-drawn animationIvan Ivanov-Vano, Olga Khodataeva, Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg, Vladimir Suteev, Dmitry Babichenko [ru], Alexander Ivanov [ru] and others.[15]

Three-months retraining courses were organized by the studio for all creative artists. The masters taught young animators the basics of professional skills. The studio turned into the main production base of Soviet animation and became a creative centre for animation of the USSR.[14] In the early years, Soyuzmultfilm embraced the cel technique – the so-called Disney's conveyor method, which was convenient for mass production of hand-drawn animation. Contour with a drawing pen and an exposure sheet borrowed from the Disney became essential elements of production. In the late 1930s, the studio began actively using the Eclair method (or rotoscoping), developed by the American animators Fleisher Brothers and Charles Mintz Studio. The reason was the reorientation of the studio to current topics and the need to create not only grotesque, but also heroic characters.[14] From the very beginning, the studio took as a basis for production the principle of division of work into separate specialties (in-betweeners, ink artists, paint artists), which accelerated the process of production and made it cheaper.[15]

For several years Soyuzmultfilm focused mainly on the creation of entertaining shorts for children with animal characters depicted in a Disney manner. One of the first cartoons created at the studio was the black-and-white It's Hot in Africa [ru] (1936) by Dmitry Babichenko [ru]. That was the first experience of the famous children's poet Sergei Mikhalkov in animation as a screenwriter.[15]

Despite the chosen direction, many animators developed their own styles – in particular, Vladimir Suteev (Noisy Swimming [ru] (1937) and Why the Rhinoceros Have Skin in the Folds [ru] (1938).[15]

Since 1937, the studio started to produce colour films. The first experience was Sweet Cake [ru] by Dmitry Babichenko [ru]. Many cartoons of 1938–1945 were made both in colour and black-and-white.[15]

If in 1936–1937 the animation was limited to the children's themes within the genres of fables and fairy tales, then in 1938 it was ordered to direct Soviet cinema to contemporary issues. The studio's repertoire policy was changed, it again began to produce political films in the genres of the Soviet "political fairy tale", political cartoons and agitprop posters. The possibility of portraying a person as a positive Soviet hero in animation was discussed. At that time, the films (Fedor the Hunter [ru] (1938) by Alexander Ivanov [ru], War Chronicles [ru] (1939) by Dmitry Babichenko [ru] were produced.[14]

In the late 1930s – early 1940s, was a shift in priorities from quantity to quality indicators. Animator courses were resumed. Films created between 1939 and 1941 were subsequently included in the "gold fund" of world cinema: Limpopo [ru] (1939) and Barmaley [ru] (1941) by Leonid Amalrik and Vladimir Polkovnikov [ru], Moydodyr [ru] (1939) by Ivan Ivanov-Vano, Uncle Styopa (1939) and Fly-Tsokotuha [ru] (1941) by Vladimir Suteev. These cartoons defined the original "Soviet style" of animation.[15]

War period[edit]

In the first months of the Great Patriotic War, all creative groups switched to producing anti-fascist propaganda posters. Many employees went to the front. In October, the part of the studio was evacuated to Samarkand, where the directors Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and Mstislav Pashchenko [ru] joined the team evacuated from the besieged Leningrad. They formed part of the Central United Film Studios team as a specialised division, independent from its leadership and keeping the brand. In Samarkand the studio worked in the strictest economy of materials and electricity. Scenarios were revised in order to simplify the production, which was extremely slow because of lack of materials and staff.[14][16]

In 1943, Soyuzmultfilm returned to Moscow. In early 1944, the studio organized the first Arts Council. By the end of the 1940s, Korney Chukovsky, Samuil Marshak, Evgeny Schwartz, Sergey Bolotin, Oleg Erberg [ru], Mikhail Volpin, Nikolai Erdman, Valentin Kataev, Yury Olesha, Boris Laskin [ru], Lev Kassil, Vladimir Suteev, Georgy Grebner [ru], Nikolai Klado [ru], Georgy Berezko [ru], Nikolai Abramov [ru] were invited to cooperate with the studio.[14]

Under difficult working conditions, several outstanding films were created:[15]

In 1945, the studio produced its first feature film A Disappeared Diploma by Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg, based on the story with the same name by Nikolai Gogol.[2]

The golden age[edit]

Soon after the end of the war, in 1946, Soyuzmultfilm moved its offices to the building at Kalyaevskaya street (now Dolgorukovskaya Street [ru]), 23A (the former church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in New Sloboda [ru], previously occupied by the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism).[17]

In the post-war years, the studio stopped the direct lifts of American animation techniques, and the original aesthetic "canon" of the children's Soviet cartoon was determined.[3]

The best Soviet cartoons of the second half of the 1940s were distinguished by impressive plasticity and facial expressions, harmony of word and movement. A lot of new names appeared among the directors and artists of the studio: Lev Atamanov, Yevgeny Migunov, Leonid Shvartsman, Alexander Vinokurov [ru] and others. One of the main fundamental components of the Soviet cartoon school was continuity, when beginning animators gained professional experience from prominent artists and directors.[14]

The most striking works of Soyuzmultfilm in the late 1940s were the animated films The Flower of Seven Colors [ru] (1948) by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, Fedya Zaitsev [ru] (1948) by the Brumberg sisters, Little Gray Neck [ru] (1948) by Leonid Amalrik and Vladimir Polkovnikov [ru].[18]

In 1947, Soyuzmultfilm received the first international award – The Song of Joy [ru] (1946) by Mstislav Pashchenko [ru] was awarded the bronze medal at the Venice Film Festival for the Best Animated Film.[3]

In 1951, the film The Humpbacked Horse (1947) by Ivan Ivanov-Vano received the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.[14]

In the first half of the 1950s, the studio released popular films, many of which were based on the use of the Eclair method:[14]

In 1953, the studio began the production of puppet films. One of the first stop motion animated films were At the Dacha [ru] (1954) by Grigory Lomidze [ru][3] and Two Greedy Bear Cubs (1954) by Vladimir Degtyarev [ru].[14] The first major success of the puppet production was the directorial debut of Yevgeny Migunov The Pencil and the Blot – Merry Hunters [ru] (1954),[16] in which several technological innovations of making and shooting puppets were applied. Many employees of the State Central Puppet Theater [ru] under the direction of Sergey Obraztsov joined the staff of the studio's puppet association.[14]

In 1956, having changed several addresses, the three-dimensional puppet film workshop received a permanent area in Spasopeskovsky Lane [ru] (the building of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior on the Sands [ru]).[19]

In 1959, the well-known motion picture The Cloud in Love [ru] by Roman Kachanov and Anatoly Karanovich [ru] was released, combining stop motion, traditional and cutout animation, and won a number of prestigious awards at international festivals, including the prize of the International Film Press Federation (FIPRESCI).[20]

In the middle 1950s, the studio began to abandon the naturalistic representation of hand-drawn films, prioritizing more conventional forms.[21] The volume of filmmaking increased (at the peak of production by the beginning of the 1970s, the studio released more than 30 films a year), including annual production of feature films.[14]

In 1957, Lev Atamanov put into practice the technique of assigning individual animators to specific characters[14] (e.g. the role of Ole Lukøje was completely "played" by Fyodor Khitruk in the film The Snow Queen[22]).

Among the most famous feature films of the studio of the second half of the 1950s:[23]

The studio also created cartoons for an adult audience:

Familiar Pictures was shot entirely in an innovative for that time conventional manner.[14]

Aesthetic switch[edit]

On the cusp of the 1960s, a crucial moment in the history of Russian animation occurred. The so-called "aesthetic switch" began with a whole galaxy of films:

Since the 1960s, the range of stylistic, genre and technological searches and solutions had been continuously expanded and developed. The old production system prevented art from moving forward,[14] and Fyodor Khitruk introduced a "team method" of working, in which animators were involved in film production from the very beginning.[24]

In the 1960s, Soyuzmultfilm was also actively developing puppet animation. Colour, decoration, texture of the material were applied in a new way. Semi-dimensional, bas-relief, including paper dolls began to be used. A new breakthrough in children's puppet animation began[14] with the famous films A Little Frog Is looking for His Father (1964) and The Mitten (1967) by Roman Kachanov, Who Said Meow? [ru] (1962) and The Little Goat Who Counted to Ten [ru] (1968) by Vladimir Degtyaryov [ru].[18]  

During these years, many new animators joined the studio's puppet division: Mikhail Kamenetsky [ru] and Ivan Ufimtsev [ru] (Whose cones are in the wood? [ru] (1965)), Vadim Kurchevsky [ru] (My Green Crocodile [ru] (1966), The Legend about Grig [ru] (1967), Frantishek [ru] (1967)), Nikolay Serebryakov (I Am Waiting for a Nestling [ru] (1966), Happiness Is Not in the Hat (1968), Ball of Wool [ru] (1968)).[18]

In the 1960s, the production of satirical cartoons increased. Animation began to raise acute social and philosophical topics. Especially famous[14] were

The most famous works of the Soyuzmultfilm of the 1960s:

and sports animation films Snowy Roads [ru] (1963), Puck! Puck! (1964), A Return Match [ru] (1968) and Meteor in the Ring [ru] (1970) by Boris Dyozhkin.[18]

In 1968, Yuri Norstein and Arkady Tyurin [ru] made a directorial debut with an unscheduled film The 25th, the First Day [ru].[25]

In 1969, the animated anthology series Happy Merry-Go-Round was founded. The first release was produced under the direction of Roman Kachanov by the beginning directors Anatoly Petrov, Gennady Sokolsky, Leonid Nosyrev, Valery Ugarov [ru] and Galina Barinova [ru], the world-recognised masters of animation today.[14] The famous to this day Antoshka [ru] and the first artistic presentation of Well, Just You Wait!, which was soon turned into a popular series of its own, were released exactly in the first run of Happy Merry-Go-Round. Experimental technologies, audacious concepts and innovation solutions were often used in the production of the shorts.

The period from the beginning of the 1970s to the middle 1980s is called the halcyon days of Soyuzmultfilm. At that time, it became the largest animation studio in Europe, that employed more than 500 people and released more than 1000 films.[3]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the most popular cartoons appeared:[18]

Recognized masters of hand-drawn animation continued to work at the studio: Boris Stepantsev (The Nutcracker (1973)), Ivan Ivanov-Vano (The Humpbacked Horse (1975)), Lev Atamanov (The Pony Runs in Round [ru] (1974)), a series of cartoons The Kitten Named Woof [ru] (1976–1982)), Lev Milchin (The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1976)), Fyodor Khitruk (Icarus and the Wise Men [ru] (1976)), Andrei Khrzhanovsky (The House That Jack Built [ru] (1976), I Fly to You Like a Memory (1977), And I Am with You Again (1980), Autumn [ru] (1982)), Vladimir Popov (Bobik Visits Barbos [ru] (1977), the trilogy – Three from Prostokvashino (1978)), Holidays in Prostokvashino [ru] (1980), Winter in Prostokvashino [ru] (1984)), Yefim Gamburg (Robbery, ... Style (1978)).[14][18]

At that period were released:[3]

The cartoons Island [ru] (1973) and I Grant You A Star [ru] (1974) by Fyodor Khitruk were awarded at the Cannes Film Festival short films competition.[26]

The new generation of directors actively produced films, among them:[18]

Anatoly Petrov, using traditional animation materials, invented the technique of photographics and created films in hyperrealism aesthetics (And Mother Will Forgive Me (1975), Polygon (1977).[18]

Over the years many talented Soviet composers performed in the animation: Isaak Dunayevsky, Nikita Bogoslovsky, Alexander Varlamov, Karen Khachaturyan, Alfred Schnittke, Gennady Gladkov, Alexander Zatsepin, Yevgeny Krylatov, Vladimir Shainsky, Alexey Rybnikov, Maksim Dunayevsky, Mikhail Meerovich [ru], Sofia Gubaidulina and others.[14]

Alongside famous composers, musicians and sound engineers, prominent theatre and cinema actors worked at the studio, voicing popular characters: Yevgeny Leonov (Winnie-the-Pooh), Anatoli Papanov (Wolf in the series Well, Just You Wait!), Vasily Livanov (Karlsson-on-the-Roof and Gena the Crocodile), Klara Rumyanova (Lillebror from Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Cheburashka, Hare from Well, Just You Wait!), Maria Vinogradova (Hedgehog from Hedgehog in the Fog, Uncle Fyodor from Three from Prostokvashino). The Bremen Town Musicians are singing with the voices of Oleg Anofriyev and Muslim Magomayev, Faina Ranevskaya even finished the dialogue of the housekeeper Fröken Bock.[14]

Many series characters became cult figures for several generations of viewers (the main heroes from Winnie-the-Pooh, Cheburashka, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Well, Just You Wait!, Three from Prostokvashino).[14]

Masters of the puppet association created popular films:[18]

During that period the films The Master of Clamecy [ru] (1972) and Sadko the Rich [ru] (1975) by Vadim Kurchevsky [ru], Crane’s Feathers [ru] (1977) and Balagan (1981) by Ideya Garanina [ru], The Guess [ru] (1977) and Black and White Cinema (1984) by Stanislav Sokolov, The Memories [ru] (1986) by Vladimir Arbekov [ru] were released.[18]

Yuri Norstein continued directing – he developed a new technological direction ("multiplane cut-out animation") to give his animation a three-dimensional look and introduced a number of innovative techniques[27] together with the cinematographer Aleksandr Zhukovskiy. His films The Fox and the Hare [ru] (1973), The Heron and the Crane (1974), Tale of Tales (1979) received worldwide recognition.[28] The cartoon Hedgehog in the Fog[29] (1975) won more than 35 international and All-Union awards, and in 2003, it was recognized as the best animated film of all time according to a survey of 140 film critics and animators from different countries.[30] By the early 1980s, Soyuzmultfilm's works won a total of more than 150 prizes and diplomas at international and domestic festivals.[3]

The studio significantly expanded its thematic boundaries. The repertoire "grew up", a number of large-scale projects were launched: The Overcoat (begun in 1981, but not completed) by Yuri Norstein, Heracles at Admetus [ru] (1986) by Anatoly Petrov and others.[21]

Soyuzmultfilm released a series of sports themed cartoons dedicated to the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics. The main character of most of the films was the mascot of the Olympics – the bear cub Misha:[31]

By the beginning of the 1980s, viewers became aware of the new names of the directors – Eduard Nazarov (The Princess and the Cannibal [ru] (1977), Once Upon a Dog (1982), Adventure of an Ant [ru] (1983)) and Garri Bardin, experimenting with unconventional textures and materials (Conflict [ru] (1983)).[3] In 2012, the film Once Upon a Dog was recognized as the best Russian film in 100 years at the Open Russian Festival of Animated Film in Suzdal.[32]

Leonid Nosyrev explored the Russian North folklore with a series of films based on the stories by Boris Shergin and Stepan Pisakhov: If you don't like it – don't listen (1977), The Magic Ring [ru] (1979), Arkhangelsk Novels (1986).[14]

The domestic animation became a multigenre form of national cinema – the studio actively produced philosophical parables, extended social metaphors, tragicomedies, satirical short films, poetry films, romantic ballads.[14]

Reformation period[edit]

Among the best films made at the studio in 1984–1990:[18][33]

The short film Fioritures [ru] was awarded the Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.[26]

In the late 1980s, gifted masters of stop motion animation appeared in the studio's team – Natalia Dabizha [ru] (Vanya and the Crocodile [ru] (1984), The Lonely Grand Piano [ru] (1986)), Maria Muat [ru] (The Crow of an Amorous Disposition (1988), Ancient Lyrics (1989)), Sergey Olifirenko [ru] (How Ninochka became a Princess (1990), Mashenka [ru] (1992)).[14]

Throughout its history, Soyuzmultfilm collaborated on a number of various projects with film and animation studios of Europe and Asia. In 1981, the musical feature film Maria, Mirabela, in which Lev Milchin and Victor Dudkin appeared as production designers,[34] was released together with the Romanian studio Casa de Filme 5 and Moldova-Film.[35]  

In 1987, the animated trilogy The Adventures of Lolo the Penguin, directed by Gennady Sokolsky and Kenji Yoshida, was released jointly with the Japan's Lifework Corporation.[36]  

Since 1989, in collaboration with S4C (UK) television channel the series of the anthology Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, based on the plays of William Shakespeare, began. The series was co-directed by several Russian animators – Stanislav Sokolov,[37] Maria Muat [ru], Nikolay Serebryakov,[38] Yefim Gamburg and Natalia Orlova [ru]. The premiere took place in 1992 on BBC2. The show was highly praised by viewers and critics and won three Emmy Awards.[39]

In the second half of the 1980s, the work of the studio was reorganized. In 1988, five creative associations were formed within Soyuzmultfilm: Search (art director Andrei Khrzhanovsky), Comics (art director Vladimir Tarasov), Tradition (art director Anatoly Petrov), Children's film (art director Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin), 3D stop motion (art director Vadim Kurchevsky [ru]), as well as the stand-alone workshop by Yuri Norstein. That lasted until 1990, when the studio's division into Creative Production Association for stop motion and hand-drawn films was returned.[3]

Post-Soviet era[edit]

Moscow Metro train dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Soyuzmultfilm studio

In the early 1990s, new economic realities made it impossible for the government to support the studio any longer, and cartoon production decreased dramatically. Soyuzmultfilm was experiencing several crises at once – production and creativity, a number of talented employees left the studio. The production mechanism became impaired, there was a shortage of animators and workshop personnel, and the creative atmosphere was drying up. The studio lost its leading position in the system of Soviet film studios producing animated films.[16] Production volumes were falling gradually. The USSR State Committee for Cinematography began to reduce the amount of funding for the studio.

In 1989–1999, Soyuzmultfilm was made into a leased enterprise – the staff members leased their own studio from the state in order to continue producing films.[3]

In 1993–1995, the studio lost its puppet division building, which was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church.[40]

In 1990s, Soyuzmultfilm became a production base for independent private studios as well (Christmas Films [ru], Argus International, School-Studio SHAR, Renaissance, Studio 13, Chris, Polinkevich and others).[3] Film production almost completely ceased.[41]

In 1999, pursuant to the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, a new structure was established – the Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) "Soyuzmultfilm Film Studio", which was given the premises, production facilities and film rights.[3]

In 2004, it was decided to establish the FSUE "Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund", which was supposed to manage the film rights and headed by Ernest Rakhimov,[42] and the FSUE Creative Production Association "Soyuzmultfilm Film Studio", headed by Akop Kirakosyan,[43] and which mission was to create new films.[3]

In 2008–2009, the FSUE "Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund" was transformed into the "United State Film Collection".[3]

Gradually there was a technical re-equipment of the studio.[41] Directors Sergey Kositsyn, Natalya Dabizha [ru], Aida Zyablikova [ru], Galina Shakitskaya, Natalya Ryss, Elvira Avakyan [ru] and others collaborated with Soyuzmultfilm.

In 2005, Stanislav Sokolov began the production of the stop motion feature film Hoffmaniada.[44] In 2008, the post of artistic director was introduced at the studio. It was occupied by Natalya Dabizha [ru] (until 2010) and Stanislav Sokolov (in 2011–2013).      

Studio today[edit]

In 2011, Vladimir Putin, at the meeting with animation directors, decided to abolish the "United State Film Collection" and transfer the films to the studio. He also promised to significantly increase funding for domestic animation and children's cinema.[45]

From that moment, with the support of the state represented by the Ministry of Culture, the studio got out of crisis and the revival of Soyuzmultfilm began.[46]

From 2013 to 2016, the artistic director of the studio was Mikhail Aldashin [ru].[46]

At the time, the production was activated, many new films were made, new directors were involved in the process.[46]

In 2015, the Experimental Youth Association was established, under the special programme "Production and Training", which is designed for directors and animators who want to develop and improve their professional skills.[47]

In 2016, the Soyuzmultfilm film studio celebrated its 80th anniversary.[48]

As of today, Soyuzmultfilm received about 90% of the film rights to its collection.[49]

In terms of the number of projects and the volume of created content, Soyuzmultfilm has reached the level of a major film studio and presents its projects again at international film and television markets.[7]

In August 2021, Soyuzmultfilm was facelifted from Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FGUP) to joint stock company with 100% of shares held by Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo) according to the plan of reorganization of FGUPs by the Government of Russia. In a future, 75% of share or even more will be offered for sale and the rest will be held by Rosimushchestvo on behalf of the Government of Russia.[50]

New headquarters[edit]

In 2017, Soyuzmultfilm moved to a new building on Akademika Korolyova Street,[51] with almost 6000 square meters of floor space. There are about 300 employees in the studio today, 250 of them are engaged in the projects production process.[49] Up-and-coming talents work under the guidance of experienced masters of animation.

Top management[edit]

In 2017, by order of the Ministry of Culture a new collegial-advisory body – the board – was established at the studio.[52] Since February, 2017, Yuliana Slashcheva has been managing the Soyuzmultfilm studio as the chairman of the board. Her past experience includes a position of chief executive officer of the leading Russian independent broadcasting holding CTC Media. Yuliana has several significant rewards in the Media Business category – in 2007, she was included in the ranking of the Most Influential Business Women in Russia, prepared by Career magazine [ru], and became the winner of the annual national award Media Manager of Russia 2007 in the nomination "Public Relations", in 2015, Yuliana appeared on the list of The 20 Most Powerful Women in Global TV 2015, prepared by The Hollywood Reporter.

In July, 2017, Boris Mashkovtsev became the director of the Soyuzmultfilm film studio. Before that he was heading Airplane Studio LLC, bringing with him over a decade of experience in animation production. Boris is also a member of the management board of the Russian Animated Films Association. Boris is one of the key experts in the animation industry in Russia, he is a co-author and the chief scholarly editor of A Dictionary of Modern Animation Terminology and co-author of the textbook Producing Animated Films.[53]

Since June, 2019, Julia Osetinskaya became the general producer of the studio. She was the executive producer in Riki Group and the head of Riki Development Fund, where she developed and produced several successful new animated brands and projects of the group.[4]

Art techniques[edit]

The studio today is equipped with the most modern facilities and presents a wide variety of animation techniques: hand-drawn animation, 2D animation, stop motion animation and the most modern 3D animation, using CGI graphics.[7] Despite the digitization, the studio tries to preserve the aesthetics as much as possible.[54]

Recently, Soyuzmultfilm has developed, ready to introduce into production and is already patenting several unique technological solutions.[55]

The studio keeps producing and developing clay and puppet stop motion animation as this is an incredible legacy of Russia, with professional specialists using unique techniques. The initial task, according to the new management, is to develop all existing animation techniques under the studio's roof.[56]

TV series[edit]

Today the studio is actively engaged in the development of series production with a focus on international markets. Soyuzmultfilm actively develops co-production and creates projects with other well-known studios.[57]

Nowadays Soyuzmultfilm has seven released projects. Several other series are in production[49] and expected to be released in the second half of 2020.

The main direction of the studio is the creation of completely new, original images and characters. Six projects have original scripts and heroes.[58] The animated series are intent on not only at entertaining children, but also at education and personal development through visualization in a funny way without strict edification.[59] Most of the series are created with the participation of professional media psychologists.[60]

Together with Channel One Soyuzmultfilm is creating the educational mini-series aimed at the very youngest audience segment Claymotions[61] (2+) (since 2018), made in authentic clay-motion technique and teaching kids through games. The musical comedy Orange Moo-cow (3+) (since 2019), co-produced with Cyber Group Studios,[62] forms important value orientations among children.[57] The adventure comedy for family viewing Squared Zebra (3+) (since 2020) approaches to the topic of tolerance.[63] The adventure story Captain Kraken and His Crew (4+) (since 2017), co-produced with Rocket Fox Animation Studio,[4] shows children how to act in various life situations.[64] The adventure social comedy Pirate School (8+) (since 2018) was the only Russian series project that entered the competition program of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, in 2018,[65] and became a winner at the Open Russian Festival of Animated Film in Suzdal as Best Series, in 2020.[66] The series for a teenage audience The Adventures of Peter & Wolf (12+) (since 2020), in which the real world and the magical world collide, is full of funny adventures and many unexpected events.[67] The series develops ability to think out of the box and find a way out of any situation with the help of knowledge and ingenuity.

At the same time, Soyuzmultfilm preserves the continuity of the classic legacy and keeps the atmosphere of the original cartoons with a focus on modern audience. One of the most popular series – the adventure family sitcom Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog [ru] (6+) (since 2018) which is a sequel of the famous Russian trilogy Prostokvashino based on the book by Eduard Uspensky. It is produced in the traditional technique of complex hand-drawn animation, where each scene is sketched manually, but today it is made with a stylus on the touchpad so that it looks modern.[7] The mission of Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog [ru] is to develop kids’ imagination and sense of humor, using exciting and entertaining stories with a strong comic element in them, and to encourage independence and nurture critical thinking of children.[68] The premiere of the series became the record breaker for the number of views on the air of the Carousel Russian television channel[69] and collected more than 1 million views in just 2,5 hours on social networks.[70]

The series Orange Moo-cow and Mr. Theo, Cat and Dog [ru] took 2nd and 4th places, respectively, among the animated series shown on Russian TV in 2019, according to the 4-17-year-old audience rating of the most-watched television programme which lasts more than 5 minutes, Mediascope research company indicates.[71]

Feature films[edit]

One of the main directions that the studio is developing today is a production of feature films.[72]

In 2018, the studio released the stop motion puppet animated fantasy Hoffmaniada directed by Stanislav Sokolov, which was being produced for 17 years.[73] The film conceptualized the struggles of an animation studio and its revival through its historic production cycle.

The film is about the life and work of renowned German writer Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. The screenplay incorporates storylines and characters from his tales The Golden Pot, The Sandman, and Klein Zaches genannt Zinnober.[73]

Hoffmaniada premiered on June 11, 2018, at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in official selection Out of Competition.[74] The film released in Russia on 11 October 2018 and later in Japan in 2019.[75][76] The feature received positive reviews from critics who remarked the film is at the same level as contemporary legends of stop motion films succeeding in reviving 19th century Romanticism literature in animation format.[77][78] It won awards at the Golden Eagle Award as Best Animated Film,[79] the Icarus,[80] the Brazil Stop Motion International Film Festival award,[81] and was nominated at the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards as Best Animated Film.[82]

A new animated feature for family viewing Suvorov, co-produced by Gorky Film Studio, is currently in production. It is a historical fiction, which combines several genres: adventure, military historical and biographical.[83] Suvorov is made in CGI graphics and 3D with motion capture technology.[84] This entertaining and educational story promotes traditional values of loyalty, courage and self-realization, filled with the spirit of adventure, subtle humor and romance.[60] 

Animated shorts[edit]

This is the direction that Soyuzmultfilm has been engaged in for the past 20 years, preserving the traditional school of the studio – hand-drawn animation.[72] "Original author animation is a mandatory area for development, it moves the industry forward from an artistic point of view, invents new techniques and stories", says Julia Osetinskaya.[4] "This is our workshop of ideas. Our task now is to continue to develop and maintain this course of production, and to find the most talented directors, artists and animators", made it clear Yuliana Slashcheva. "This comes up with not only producing of high-quality short author films, but also with potential ideas for further use in series and feature films".[6]

As of 2019, the studio produced more than 80 new short animated films,[9] and keeps producing approximately 10–15 short films a year.[85]

The shorts produced by the studio regularly participate in prestigious international festivals. Among the recent award-winning shorts are:

  • Vivat Musketeers! (2019) by Anton Diakov,[86]
  • Good Heart (2018) by Evgenia Zhirkova,[87]
  • I Want to Live in the Zoo (2017) by Evgenia Golubeva,[88] Coco's Day (2017) by Tatyana Moshkova,[89]
  • Trunky (2017) by Ekaterina Filippova,[90]
  • About Our Astronauts (2018) by Galina Golubeva,[91]
  • The Sled (2016) by Olesya Shchukina,[92]
  • Two Trams (2016) by Svetlana Andrianova,[93]
  • Moroshka (2015) by Polina Minchenok,[94]
  • Pik Pik Pik (2015) by Dmitry Visotsky [ru],[95]
  • Mama Heron (2015) by Marina Karpova [ru][96]

and others.

Among the studio's production are new programmes of the legendary compilation of animated shorts for children Happy Merry-Go-Round, first released in 1969. The collection includes unique works in gouache and sand techniques.[4] The production of animated shorts at the studio is supervised by the masters of animation – artistic directors and creative producers Mikhail Aldashin [ru] and Igor Kovalyov. Both of them, in 2019, became the members of the Oscars, selected nominees and chose winners at the ceremony.[97] In 2017, Soyuzmultfilm released the new Bicycle almanac, which was created by students of animation colleges and up-and-coming directors.[72]

New start of the Golden collection[edit]

Soyuzmultfilm is in the process of restoring classic tapes – the cartoons are digitized, color-corrected and given a modern surround sound. The first to be digitized and shown at cinemas are the most popular cartoons among viewers: The Twelve months (1956), The Snow Queen (1957), The Adventures of Buratino (1959), The Nutcracker (1973), The Mystery of the Third Planet (1981), The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1984).[98]  

According to surveys of kids, the heroes of the "Golden collection" are among the most popular and favorite children's characters. The studio decided to create a continuation of these cartoons.[99] "We selected the ten most popular characters from the old collection and are ready to give a new lease of life to them. Our task is to pack the new product with respect to the continuity of the animation traditions, using a modern language and a visual range that is understandable to modern children", Yuliana Slashcheva says.[55] In 2018, Soyuzmultfilm announced about a release of the continuation of the cult cartoons: Well, Just You Wait!, Adventures of Mowgli, Umka, The Bremen Town Musicians, Cheburashka and some others.[100] In 2020, the second re-release of the Golden Collection commenced on 19 December 2020.[101] The High Definition film restoration materials for the films were released. The film stock were renewed with all the film grain and extra flickering dots removed ensuring the stability of the films for the foreseeable future.[102] Distributed by United Network "Cinema Park", the HD version of the classics are screened in many of the major cities in Russia.[103]


Films by Jove controversy[edit]

In 1992,[118] the studio signed a deal with the American company Films by Jove, owned by Russian immigrant actor Oleg Vidov and his American wife Joan Borsten.[119] It was the first international offer that the studio had received. The deal stipulated that Films by Jove would be granted the rights to 547 of the most popular classic studio films for a period of 10 years in all territories except the CIS; as part of the return, Soyuzmultfilm would receive 37% of the net profits. Films by Jove restored many of the films and released many of them on television, video and DVD in the United States and Europe, albeit usually with dubbed voices (in the case of the series "Mikhail Baryshnakov's Stories from my Childhood" having celebrity actors dubbing some characters in the films featured in the series) and changed music.

According to current director Akop Kirakosyan, the original deal seemed promising at the time but turned out to be "deadly" for the studio. The expected payouts never materialized because Films by Jove never posted any net profits; all of the money officially went to things such as new soundtracks, lawsuits and copy protection measures.[120]

Whether either deal was legal was debated in court, with the Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund (see section below) claiming that because the company's lease on its possessions would have expired in 1999 (at which time ownership would have automatically reverted to the government if no new lease were signed), Soyuzmultfilm had no authority to issue rights that lasted beyond that timeframe.[121] Joan Borsten presented a different story.[122] In the end, the Russian courts sided with Soyuzmultfilm and the American courts sided with Films by Jove.

U.S. Federal Court found that the Russian government has twice tried to invalidate Judge Trager's August 2001 summary judgment decision in favor of Films By Jove and transfer the copyrights to a library of 1,500 animated films, which Films by Jove licensed from Soyuzmultfilm Studios in 1992 to a new state-owned company. The judge found evidence of "continued actions being taken by the Russian government and judiciary to influence the outcome of this United States litigation with the purpose of depriving plaintiff Films by Jove of its right to distribute the animated films in the United States and elsewhere outside the former Soviet Union." The voluminous and very thorough decision further noted that, "In the case at bar, expropriation of the property of an American company by an act of a foreign sovereign is unquestionably against the public policy of the United States."[123][124]

On 11 April 2007, Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov announced that he was in the final stages of negotiating a price with Films by Jove to buy back the collection.[125] A source close to Usmanov said that Films by Jove's initial price was $10 million, while Usmanov is willing to pay "several times less", as he considers that the rights already belong to Soyuzmultfilm and that he himself is only buying the physical film prints.[121] In September 2007, the deal was finalized, and Usmanov handed everything over to Russian state children's TV channel Bibigon.[126]

Notable artists[edit]

List of notable films[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]