Founded in 1936, SMF Studio has always been at the forefront of innovation in Russian animation. Celebrating 85 years of business in 2021, Señal News spoke with Yuliana Slashcheva, Chairman of the Board at SMF Studio/Soyuzmultfilm, to describe the evolution of the Russian company in its 85 years of history.
▸ SMF Studio is one of Russia's largest and oldest animation companies, celebrating 85 years this year. How was the evolution of its business during these years?
"It's quite unbelievable that SMF Studio has already been working for more than 85 years and has created over 1.500 animated movies. Since its beginning, the studio has drastically changed. We went through ups and downs and reached our peak in the 1960s and 1970s when the range of styles, techniques, and genres expanded dramatically. Most of the animated films created during that period are considered masterpieces of the animation world and make up our 'Golden Collection'".
▸ How would you define the new era of the company?
"A few years ago, SMF Studio was reborn within our technology park, home to our production company, animation studio, technology center, licensing agency, and educational and recreational park for kids. Thanks to the investment of SBER, SMF was able to finance the reboot of the studio and expand not only our production capacity but also the development and production of new creative projects. We are also actively building strong relationships within the international animation market to distribute our content and work with new partners in co-productions. For example, we created the 'Cyber Soyuz Group' pre-school animation brand alongside Cyber Group Studios, and released two new series, 'Orange Moo Cow' and 'Squared Zebra'".
▸ What kind of animation shows are you producing right now?
"We can produce animation in such a wide variety of techniques, including stop-motion, clay, and hand-drawn animation along with digital 2D and CGI. Our studio used to develop most of those older techniques, and it's important to preserve and take them further. We are also experimenting with new technologies such as the Unreal Engine developed by Epic Games. We want to create content that is not only entertaining but can also educate the youngest audiences. We have titles suitable for all platforms, and we continue to expand our international reach, with broadcasting and streaming deals in over 50 countries".
▸ What is SMF Studio's approach for the international buyers attending Mipcom?
"We will be presenting 'Coolics' (WIP title), an adventure-comedy series about a team of young cadets in the Space Academy. Moreover, 'Meowgic' is an upper pre-school comedy series about a girl and her pet cat who can grant her two wishes a day. Another highlight is 'Rockoons,' a music-driven pre-school show featuring a group of raccoons. We will also launch the comedy 'The Adventures of Peter and Wolf' and the animated detective show 'The Secrets of Honey Hills'. Sola Media acquired this last show for international distribution, and 'Loodleville' was selected as a finalist for the MIPJR Project Pitch".
▸ What are the most substantial territories for SMF Studio's shows? Where do you want to reinforce its presence?
"Many of SMF Studio's 'Golden Collection' are hits for the Russian and global audiences. 'The Snow Queen,' 'The Little Magic Horse,' 'Once Upon a Time There Was a Dog,' 'The Mystery of the Third Planet,' and 'Cheburashka' are known worldwide. Those shows have been translated into many languages. However, the majority of our fans come from former Soviet Union countries. Our goal is that our remastered collection of these classics could find new global viewers. We are currently creating shows not only for our local market. We are not only creating shows for our local market, but we are producing global-appealing content for a broader audience".
▸ What would be the main business goals for 2022?
"We are working to grow the company in all of our areas. First, developing new shows, integrating new technologies, growing our education and training programs, building our licensing program, and expanding our content distribution to more countries. We are also actively seeking out co-productions where we could join, including, at least, one show with a strong CGI production studio to enhance our CGI technical abilities and build a solid pipeline for international co-productions".
By Romina Rodríguez