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Disney Looks to Reanimate Russian Cartoon Sector

Published: May 2, 2006 (Issue # 1166)


MOSCOW Walt Disney Studios and other foreign moviemakers are looking to breathe new life into Russias deflated cartoon industry. Their interest has been piqued by booming box-office receipts, a rise in new and renovated movie theaters and, more generally, economic growth, which has created more leisure time for the countrys nascent middle class.

Last year, box-office receipts throughout the former Soviet Union were about $350 million, according to industry estimates. That figure is likely to jump to $415 million this year.

While those numbers pale in comparison to the United States the Motion Picture Association of America reports that Americans spent $9 billion at the box office in 2005 they represent a new beginning for Russia.

Shortly after the Soviet collapse, the states animation studio, Soyuzmultfilm, more or less dissolved. Technically, Soyuzmultfilm still exists, but for all intents and purposes, it has been long dead.

Andrei Dobrunov, head of the animation studio Solnechny Dom, recalled that under the Soviets, Soyuzmultfilm had as many as 400 animators and other staff on its rolls.

Today, said Akop Kirakosyan, Soyuzmultfilms director, the studio employs no full-time animators. Nowadays, everybody is a freelancer, he said.

Dobrunov said it had been his dream since the late 1990s to make a movie about early Slavic history. But at the time, he said, finding the seed money and the people to make his movie a reality was an uphill battle.

He started Solnechny Dom in 1999 without much capital or many animators. Over the next few years, he cobbled together $5 million from a private investor whom he declined to name and 120 artists.

Persuading people was colossal work, he said. I had to recruit people and went to Europe to meet our artists. Not everybody believed wed get the financing.

Eventually, Dobrunov was able to piece together a staff from the United States, Britain and Hungary.

Six years later, after much blood, sweat and tears, he completed his first animated film: Prince Vladimir.

The film has been a colossal success for a Russian-made animated production, reeling in more than $5 million since it was released in late February.

Today, Prince Vladimir is the most successful Russian-made animated film ever. In box-office receipts, it trails only Madagascar, the 2005 DreamWorks production that garnered $8 million throughout the former Soviet Union.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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