We recently had the chance to talk to some of the key players at St. Petersburg-based animation studio Melnitsa on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The acclaimed studio, which is best known for the work of two-time Oscar-nominated director Konstantin Bronzit (Lavatory-Lovestory, We Can’t Live without Cosmos) will be attending Annecy next week to spread the word on its upcoming movies and TV series. Here is a condensed version of our interview:
Can you tell us a little bit about Melnitsa and what sets it apart from other Russian animation studios?
Lucy Tsoy (Head of Business Development of CTB Film Co.): Melnitsa is known for the highly recognized specialists on board and the projects that they create. It was founded in 1999 by two friends: the prolific producer Sergey Selyanov, winner of the Producer’s AMPA among his numerous awards, and Alexander Boyarsky who received the 2016 State Award of the Russian Federation for his work for children and youth. From the very start Melnitsa was guided by the permanent art director Konstantin Bronzit — an award-winning animation film director, a two-time Oscar nominee and a member of the American, French and Russian film academies. The first success came along when Little Longnose was released in 2003 and became the first post-Soviet animation film. The team has never lost its passion for high-quality art animation since. The studio has developed an annual animation capacity of 600 minutes, has 9,000 of SKU licensed products, and has received numerous awards including two Oscar nominations and three Gold YouTube buttons. Deutsche Welle called the studio the Walt Disney of Saint Petersburg.
What are some of the projects the studio is working on now?
Tsoy: Melnitsa and CTB Film Company (its parent organization) are currently working on four TV series and seven full-length features. All TV series are gender neutral, the one is aimed at 8-11 year olds. Two projects, My Sweet Monster and The Nutcracker and the Magic Flute, meet the interest of the foreign markets, which is confirmed by pre-sales contracts for over 30 territories including China and South Korea.
My Sweet Monster is scheduled for 2020 and centers on the rebellious princess Barbara who runs away from the royal palace, only to fall into the hands of the monstrous forest bandit Bogey, and then turn his life upside down. The animated adventure of Marie and the Nutcracker, partially based on the fairy tale by Hoffman, is expected by Christmas 2021. A full-length feature devoted to the Barkers in the countryside is scheduled for spring 2021. Originally a TV show, with international recognition expected from deals signed with Tencent for China and Amazon Prime for all English-speaking countries, this feature film is being created to support and extend the brand. Fantastic Return to Oz (which is slated for a Russian premiere in autumn 2019) unveils the adventures of Ellie, who travels to the Emerald City along with her friend Tim to face the villain Urfin Jus once again.
How many people are currently employed at the studio?
Alexander Boyarsky (Director, Melnitsa): The studio – the largest one in Russia – has a full-time staff of over 300 employees. Many specialists are trained at the studio’s school, which gives students a solid, well-rounded education, and the encouragement to help them develop as artists.
What would you say are the studio’s most well-known projects worldwide?
Tsoy: Fantastic Journey to Oz is probably one of the studio’s most internationally acclaimed feature films. The story revolves around a little girl, Ellie, who becomes lost in the Magic Land. To date the film has been acquired for almost 70 territories including France, Germany, South Korea, China, U.K., Hungary, Bulgaria, Australia, Latin America and MENA countries. The film was a top 10 box office hit in the first weekend of its cinematic run in China and South Korea. In autumn 2019 the sequel Fantastic Return to Oz will premiere in Russia. The story has stood the test of time, and has all the ingredients to become a modern animated classic.
Russian audiences are also in love with franchises devoted to Three Heroes and Ivan Tsarevich. New films about the adventures of the Three Heroes and horse Julius are an integral part of the Russian New Year holidays and are consistent leaders of the Russian box office. The TV series Moonzy and The Barkers are also very popular in Russia and have a strong international recognition. Both shows are available on TV and VOD platforms across the world, including Amazon Prime in English-speaking countries, the launch on Pikaboo in former Yugoslavia is scheduled for autumn 2019.Read more ...