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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

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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