Nadezhda Ustinova RBTH

How Russian animation 'Masha and the Bear' won the hearts of the world

Series about a little girl and her furry friend transcends borders
"Antartica is probably the only place we don't air," says Dmitry Loveiko, managing director of Animaccord Animation Studio. "Even viewers in North Africa know us."

This claim from the co-producer of the popular TV series can be trusted: The episode Masha + Kasha (Masha and the Porridge) was viewed 1.5 billion times on YouTube, and branded merchandise based on the series can be found in toy stores around the world.
Source: Alexandra Mudrats / TASS
Single focus
Animaccord studio was established in 2008 specifically for the Masha and the Bear project.
According to Loveiko, "it was not clear whether the project would be successful or not," but the creators already had eight scripts and the entire series project. Fortunately, investors were willing to wait for the projected five years before reaching break-even.
"For licensing activities and development of the brand, it was better to have the entire production of Masha under our control," says Loveiko.
Initially, the creators did not plan that this would be a full production cycle studio; two Russian animation studios offered to take on all the technical aspects of the production. However, six months after the launch, the authors realized that, though good, this was not the best basis for producing the series.

Source: Alexandra Mudrats / TASS, AP
Therefore, they decided to set up their own studio. The economic crisis of 2008 even helped – many studios closed, and Masha and the Bear was able to recruit a highly professional team.

"We understood that there were a lot of animated series, especially in the West and in Asia," Loveiko says. "It is an essential format for modern niche children's television channels."

at the studio work on several episodes at the same time
is the time it takes to make one episode
In order not to look like anyone else in the market, the creators decided that the cartoon's trademark should be high quality, highly detailed 3D animation. They benchmarked the series against the quality of hit 3D animated movies such as those produced by Pixar and DreamWorks.
Masha's character
Masha was based on a real person
"The idea for the series came from the fact that we wanted to show the relationship of adults and children not in didactic, but in a comic form so that all the spectators could understand the feelings experienced by the characters," says the project's director, Denis Chervyatsov.

Masha was based on a real person, he says. In the 1990s, the project's artistic director, Oleg Kuzovkin, was on holiday when he saw a little girl on the beach.

The child was so ingenuous and open that she could easily walk up to a stranger and play chess with him or pick up his flippers and go swimming. However, after a few days, the vacationers began to hide from the girl – she was too active and intrusive.

The creators take storylines for episodes from their personal life. "Most of us have children," says Chervyatsov. "Even the animators copy the behavior of their own or friends' children, just like the scriptwriters do."
International success
The creators attribute the series' popularity in 22 countries to its universal image.
"I think that in any country, children under the age of five are not much different," Chervyatsov says, with a laugh. The fact that the show has no long dialogues also contributes to its success. With an emphasis on action rather than dialogue, the cartoons are closer to the format of a silent film, where everything is clear without words, Chervyatsov added.

In addition to audience recognition, Animaccord has won professional respect.

In 2015, Masha and the Bear won the Kidscreen Awards - the cartoon world's Oscars - for best animation.
Kidscreen magazine named the studio one of the year's most successful production companies, alongside such masters as Cartoon Network Studios and DreamWorks Animation Television.
Maria Tereshchenko, program director at Moscow's Big Cartoon Festival, attributes the success of the animation to the fact that its creators, in addition to the picture quality, were able to reflect latest trends in childcare and upbringing.

"Previously, classic animated clowning was connected with violence shown through humor," Tereshchenko says. "But now that is considered harmful to the psychological development of children. Masha and the Bear has been able to find the precise point in clowning where there is no violence. Children today are allowed more freedom and fewer restrictions that in the past. Therefore, small irrepressible Masha has appeared at a time when today's children can recognize themselves in her."
have already broadcast Masha and the Bear, and the series official YouTube channel is among the top 10 most subscribed in the world
billion views
have been recorded on YouTube for the video Маша+Каша(Masha and the Porridge). This episode is now the 17th most watched YouTube video of all time, and has the most views of any non-musical or Russian-language video.
is the monthly income that Animaccord Animation Studio earns from advertising on YouTube
Next up
Today, the world of Masha and the Bear has expanded to include two spin-offs.
In 2012, Masha's Tales was launched, where Masha introduces the viewer to the world of Russian folk fairy tales.
2014 saw the second spin-off, Masha's Spooky Stories, where she tells "scary" stories, which prove to be funny and instructive.
The creators of the show hope to further expand the project's universe. Together with their partners, Animaccord is creating a network of Masha and the Bear interactive educational museums, publishing magazines and releasing educational computer games.

The producers do not immediately foresee Masha and the Bear moving beyond the small screen to a feature length movie, which would be a hugely costly project.

"I hope, in a year or two, we will become a fully-fledged international brand, and then, if there is a partner with the experience of successful production of 3D feature films, we'll consider cooperation," Loveiko says.
According to researcher Social Blade's estimates, Masha and the Bear earns Animaccord about $1.5 million a month from advertising on YouTube. Another large portion of the project's revenues comes from licensed merchandising, such as food products, stationery, toys and other products.
The studio has concluded contracts for animation-related products with Danone, Burger King and German toy manufacturer Simba Dickie. The studio estimates that turnover could reach $300 million this year - meaning a $15 million profit for the company itself.

"Masha is made with love and by a great team of professionals," Loveiko says. "We work on the principle that the next episode must be better than the previous one."
Text by Nadezhda Ustinova.
Design and layout by Ekaterina Chipurenko.
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