Мельница
Melnitsa
Мельница
Мельница

Melnitsa Animation Studio

20 years we draw cartoons

We have been producing animation projects for 20 years. Our archives comprise 16 full-length films, 731 episodes of animation series and 7 projects in progress. We boast of 2 Oscar nominations and 450 creators who design the magic our audience sees on the screen. On the anniversary of the foundation of Melnitsa, we have decided to something quite unoriginal – tell you our story from the beginning. However, we will do it not by listing facts but by presenting it from the views of people inseparable from the life of the studio.

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Studio history

The idea
to open
a studio
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1997

One year before the most serious economic crisis and devaluation.

The idea
to open
a studio
Launching
the studio
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1999

The idea to open a studio has been announced. What happened next?

Launching
the studio
The old
office
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1999

It is known that the studio was named after the street where its first office was located. What was that office like?

The old
office
Karlik Nos
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2003

The studio releases the first full-length film.The studio releases its first full-length film.

Karlik Nos
A Letter
from
Maksim
Sveshnikov
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2003

A fateful encounter that became a starting point for the most successful animated TV series in Russia.

A Letter
from
Maksim
Sveshnikov
The first
film of the
Three
Bogatyrs”
series
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2004

It’s not simply a franchise. It’s not just a series of full-length films. Three Bogatyrs is a national asset and the result of hard work by many people.

The first
film of the
Three
Bogatyrs”
series
Moonzy
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2006

“I am born.” This phrase is familiar to 99% of Russian parents. How did the idea come up and who was the author? Why does this TV series contain more than 500 episodes?

Moonzy
The Licensing
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2008

“more than 4,000 various items have been produced for the studio’s cartoons”

The Licensing
The Oscar
nomination
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2009

In 2007, Konstantin Bronzit created the short film “Lavatory-Lovestory.” It was nominated for an Oscar in 2009.

The Oscar
nomination
The
foundation
of 3D
modelling
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2011

The first full-length 3D film will be released by the studio in five years. It is Urfin Jus. However, 2011 is a special year for the studio, as the first episodes of the TV series The Barkers come out.

The
foundation
of 3D
modelling
The Barkers
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2011

The most well-known children’s animated TV series about a family of dogs. How did the story of the YouTube Gold Play Button winner start?

The Barkers
The new
office
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2014

For 15 years, the Melnitsa office was located on the street of that same name. A long-awaited change happened in 2014 when the studio moved to a new location.

The new
office
Three Bogatyrs:
Horse Course
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2015

The release of the most successful franchise episode was followed by incredible financial success, which set a record high in the history of Russian animation.

Three Bogatyrs:
Horse Course
TEFI
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2015

The animated TV series Moonzy became the winner of “TEFI” – Russia’s main TV award

TEFI
“We Can’t
Live without
Cosmos”
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2016

A second Oscar nomination for a Melnitsa director

“We Can’t
Live without
Cosmos”
The Barkers
and Moonzy
get YouTube
Gold Play
Buttons
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2016

Today, the funny family of dogs has more than 4 million subscribers, while Moonzy has surpassed 7 billion views on YouTube.

The Barkers
and Moonzy
get YouTube
Gold Play
Buttons
Glavnie Geroi
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2017

The Barkers received an award from the Carousel TV channel in the category “Main Russian animated series”

Glavnie Geroi
International
sales
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2018

Since August 2018, Moonzy and The Barkers TV series has been available in the USA, Canada and the UK on Amazon Prime, in the Middle East, Turkey and Eastern Europe.

International
sales
Little Tiaras
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2018

In the autumn, the premiere of a new animated TV series was presented on the CTC and CTC Kids channels. Little Tiaras is a result of collaboration between the studio and CTC.

Little Tiaras
Animation
as
vocation
Мельница

Not all events in our list can be assigned a date. However, this doesn’t make some questions and topics less relevant. The studio is 20 years old, and we would like to tell stories that previously remained behind the scenes. The stories of people whose hands have been creating the projects of the Melnitsa studio.

Animation
as
vocation
About
the profession
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What does it mean to be an animator? Pros, cons and subtleties of the profession.

About
the profession
What's next?
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For a person, 20 years is a certain landmark associated with adulthood. What does that age mean for an animation studio? And what are the future plans?

What's next?

Thank you

1997

It all started in St. Petersburg. I should mention that there was no such a thing as animation in St. Petersburg (Leningrad then). Since the Soviet times, the major studios were located in Moscow, Yerevan, Kiev and other cities. In Leningrad there was only a studio that specialized in applied animation. Sasha Boyarsky, who owned a recording studio back then, was doing some technical work for an English animated TV series about a bear – it was cheaper to find a specialist in Russia than in England. Afterwards he said, “It would be a shame to leave this all behind. Shall we make start making cartoons?” I immediately responded, “Yes!”

We were only in charge of sound. Dubbed “Santa Barbara.” The actors sat with felt boots on their feet and kept a heater on. There was no electricity, and ice covered the floor. Then we made friends with two animators who drew various arrows and squares for popular science films. They came to visit us and we were recording sound for them.

1999

I agreed right away, though I had never thought before that I would be involved in the animation business since it’s not my specialization. Yet, I have always liked animation. As a child, I loved two things more than anything else in the world – lemonade and cartoons. So it all comes from my childhood. Some time afterwards it became clear that we needed a studio separate from CTB and Midi Cinema. Our decision to produce full-length films and animated TV series meant that we would need to establish an industrial studio. We created the studio and named it “Melnitsa” (“The Mill”) since it is located on Melnichnaya Street in St. Petersburg. Now, as you know, we are based in a new building on Bolshevikov Avenue. Since then, Alexander Boyarsky and I have been managing the film production process as producers. It turned out that apart from being a good producer, Alexander is a talented scriptwriter. He simply took it upon himself and decided to write a script for the film Karlik Nos. We were very fortunate to have Konstantin Bronzit on our team, whose works were already acknowledged by the international animation community. He has won numerous independent film contests in Annecy, Zagreb, Tokyo, etc. Metaphorically speaking, it is a sport of the highest achievements, and he is a true Olympic champion!

1999

When I started working, Tatiana Dmitrievna was there, the chief production officer. She asked me, “Why did you come here? What the hell are you doing here?” – she tried to dissuade me from working there. Then she asked, “What was your salary before?” I told her. Then she said, “Oh dear… You won’t be able to earn that kind of money here. Keep on working at your company.” She didn’t want me to stay. But some time later I achieved that same salary and even higher. Though, of course, the beginning was tough.

It was an awesome place. You would arrive there and be immersed in an atmosphere of inspiration and creativity. The floor on the ground level was covered with growing grass, and you could decorate the walls of your office space with anything you wanted. The walls in the hallways were painted, and there was even a huge mural depicting a sunset taking the whole expanse of one wall. It was the kind of place where you could do a front flip, run, jump and draw on the walls. The moment that made me realize that I enjoy being an animator also happened in this office. I was working on a scene where Urfin Jus had to jump backwards onto a table. I couldn’t quite figure out how to make this look realistic, so I kept working and working. Then my colleague Sasha Limina, who is a senior animator now, passed by my table and said to me, “Lesha, it doesn’t look right, that’s not how people jump on a table. Let me show you” – and she started jumping backwards onto the table. Just then, our boss (who was then head of lighting) walked by and said, “Goodness, Sasha, what are you doing?” – “Just helping my colleague.” He said, “No way, that’s not how it’s done.” And he started jumping. I ended up observing two people jumping on the table! It was great!

Oh, it was lovely there. Glezin told me once that the heating system broke on New Year’s Eve and the water on the floor froze. The hallway looked like an ice-skating rink – you could really skate there. Stains have remained on the walls ever since. But we were not embarrassed, we didn’t have to deal with those stains – we just scurried from one office room to another. There were smaller rooms then and fewer people working at the office. You could go out and walk towards the park, the Neva River or the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Sometimes we would invite our colleagues for a walk after work. The most convenient suggestion was to walk towards Vosstaniya (the Uprising Square metro station) – and from there everyone could go their own way. Sometimes we walked much longer. Even around the older parts of St. Petersburg, even without talking – just studying the old buildings and forgotten lanes. That time was very romantic.

2003

Karlik Nos was our first full-length film. It came out well, and we love it. The film had good sales abroad. During our work on this project, we realized that animation is not a simple business, but it is a fun and enjoyable business.

I think that I suggested the idea to make this film, as I have liked this tale since my childhood. For some reason Selyanov supported the suggestion.

Melnitsa became the first studio to make films with private financing. It was after the collapse of the USSR. The film was introduced by Mikhail Manis. He was a friend of Balabanov. When he found out that we were in the process of making this film, he made the suggestion of selling it abroad. He called all the studios, and everyone told him, “Mikhail, there is no chance.” Except for one. And that was Warner Brothers. They became an international distributor of the project. The film was sold to more than 25 countries and received more than 35 awards at local and inernational festivals.

2003

We were pondering ideas for cartoons about Russian fairytale heroes when Boyarsky received a brazen letter from Maksim Sveshnikov, a chap from Dnepropetrovsk. He wrote that he was a 20-year-old freelance scriptwriter. We asked him to show us some of his works, and he sent us a script about three bogatyrs. It was about 20 pages long and didn’t include dialogue. But we liked the plot and, most importantly, the feel of it. When Sveshnikov arrived in Moscow, it turned out that he was not 20 but 17 years old. Later, he confessed that he had written this script overnight after he received the reply from Boyarsky. He had not actually had any writing experience before that.

2003

The original author is Sarra Anson. This young woman came to the studio once – this kind of person always comes out of nowhere. Unexpected bursts of creativity happen when an exceptionally talented person turns up. I don’t even remember if she called or gave advance notice, but this very lovely and impressive woman came and told us that she had a script. It wasn’t entitled “Moonzy” then. There was another name. In fact, we invented the name “Moonzy” later. The script struck us as nice and charming, and there was clearly something about it that drew us in since we started working on it immediately. The original story was altered, well, quite noticeably. However, I remember that characters have remained from the beginning, for instance, Woopsie and Poopsie. Also, this grasshopper, Skip. The characters were practically all there, but we changed their story. Later, Darina Shmidt joined us. She created the image of the main character – Moonzy. Well, you should understand how a character image is worked on at an animation studio. We give a task to all of the animators and they start drawing. Then we lay these drawings everywhere, on the tables and floor, and we walk around and seek the one. That’s how animated characters are born. So, it’s a collective effort. Darina was an exception – she invented this creature with big ears right away. But then we developed it a lot, seeking the right details. Anton Zlatopolsky and Sergey Selyanov were also involved. We worked together to keep moving it forward and finally achieved what we wanted.

2005. I’m in my last year at the university and working my second year at Melnitsa. From the beginning, I was working under the guidance of Konstantin Bronzit and therefore taking part mainly in his projects. I was a storyboarder and animator for “The House that Jack Built,” and also a production designer, senior animator and composer for the short film “Kot I Lisa.” At that time, the main directors were busy with other projects, and Alexander Boyarsky suggested that I try my hand as the director and animator of an animated TV series for children. That is an incredible stroke of luck for a 20-year-old student. But it was also a very tough job and a new experience for me and and for the studio. The team was new and some of us had little experience. For instance, it was the first time that Maxim Koshevarov composed music for a cartoon. This project also turned out to be a professional debut for Sarra Anson, the original author and scriptwriter of Moonzy. Sarra invented a dragon who was born on the moon and then fell to Earth. Yet, her initial story was very different from what eventually worked out. Her character was called Khrustick and then Eroshka. He ended up in an abandoned mansion inhabited by Cat and Eagle, along with insects. But I suggested that any mention of people should be avoided and that the plot should be developed in the world of insects, so that the series could present its own unique universe. I wanted to give the character a somewhat lunar name. First, I suggested Lunatik but it was rejected by the team, as everyone thought it implied a disorder. There is a rumour that someone spelt this name wrong, and so the name Luntik emerged. The team liked that name. Apart from directing, the manager asked me to create images of the characters. Moonzy was supposed to be a nice fluffy creature. Finding a form for the character wasn’t a big deal for me. The only tricky thing was to emphasize Moonzy’s alien origin. I started listing the possible alien features that could be applied to the character. A one-eyed face seemed banal, two tails didn’t seem convincing enough, three legs looked scary… And then there was a solution – four ears that look like bows. It would look sweet and be very recognizable. You could attach these ears to anything and everyone would immediately recall Moonzy. Everything else in the character’s image is minor details. Why does he have a fluffy collar? Because it’s an unusual but also cute feature, like that of a little fluffy animal. Why does he have spots on his face and belly? This is a reference to the belly and cheeks of animals from cartoons. Why is he a pinkish-lilac color? Because there is no creature of this colour on the earth, and the cool hue corresponds to his lunar origin. It was decided that the animation and composing should be done by means of the inverse kinematics method. Only a few people at the studio including me were skilled in this, so we had to teach our colleagues during the creation process. How to make a kinematic chain, which details are necessary for the background and which for the foreground, how to draw rain or leaves trembling in the wind, etc. Sometimes I even drew drops of water. The animation work happened simultaneously with the script work. The author had her own vision, which I sometimes thought should be done differently. As a director, I always had to defend my point of view, which was not easy as I was the youngest in the team and struggled to formulate convincing arguments due to my age. Fortunately, Konstantin Bronzit supported me in those circumstances. We finished the first part of the series by the summer of 2005. It was at the same time that I needed to defend my thesis at the university. With the management’s consent, I presented the animated series Moonzy and Friends as my final project. Who could have known that this work would become so popular and that several generations would be brought up on this cartoon? I’m so happy to have been part of this project.

2004

In 2004, Konstantin Bronzit produced the first film about Bogatyrs – Alyosha Popovich I Tugarin Zmey. Even though it was very positively received by the public, the film didn’t gain commercial success. It is important to understand that back then there were far fewer movie theatres than now. However, we still proceeded with the next film about Dobrynya Nikitich, being convinced that this time it would work out well. Dobrynya Nikitich I Zmey Gorynych (2006) also turned out to be unprofitable. But that did not stop us. And finally, the third film about Ilya Muromets, the strongest of the three legendary heroes, pulled the project through. It was obvious that by that time the audience had gotten the feel for this series. Our persistence was rewarded.

What’s the secret? These films are simply about us, that’s the secret. This is something about us and the country that everyone enjoys watching. We make fun of ourselves and of everything.

One of the key things in our profession is to be able to take on a collective work or even commercial project as something personal, as work on an independent film. Only this approach would guarantee that something might succeed. While working on Alyosha Popovich and Naslednitsa Prestola, I simply couldn’t change my attitude. This approach doesn’t guarantee success, but you should invest your inspiration to your last breath. This is not a leisurely period as some people might think. There is a common stereotype that animators live in a fairytale world with rainbows above and fun all around. No, I always say that it’s a mundane and tough production cycle. There are always things that do not fit but still need to be dealt with.

Here is the story everyone knows. I had to make 27 versions of the animation work for Shamakhanskaya Tsaritsa. The episode was almost accepted, everything but one scene, in which Alyosha was sighing, throwing up his hands and saying, “How come?” That’s it! Actually, the whole scene was quite long. There was a donkey, Moses, hanging on a rope because he had gotten into a trap. Alyosha was supposed to approach it and say, “Oh, Moses, how come?” Sergey Glezin was the director of the film, and he strongly rejected this scene, saying, “This doesn’t look convincing enough. I don’t like it.” I did it again, but he still wasn’t impressed. We took a video with him showing how he imagined it should have been presented. Then we simply copied his motions in drawing. He looked at that and said, “No, that’s not it.” I was astounded – “But this what you showed us!” He watched the video on the camera and replied, “Well, then I was acting badly.” I was so angry that I couldn’t stay at work – I just gave up, crumpled everything up, threw out all the versions and left the office in the middle of the work day. Then, at home, I drew it from scratch. The next day, I showed it to the director and he said, “That’s it!” So tough moments like those do happen.

2008

Karina Chahoyan and I came to sell the licenses of the Melnitsa studio in 2008, and for the first three years the department of licensing, marketing and PR consisted of two people. Licensing is the use of characters in the production of goods and services. So that time was a paradise for the seller of licenses. Russian animation was only in its infancy, so the market trained on two examples - Moonzy or Smeshariki. There were, of course, Western licenses, but in Russia, manufacturers have always preferred our animation. During this time, over 4,000 different products were made under the studio’s licenses. The characters were on the products of Ferrero, Procter & Gamble, Nurofen and so on. Ten years later, I am happy that I ended up in this sanctuary, the center of youth and psychological health))

2009

The first step, the most exciting and perhaps the most difficult, is when the jury board is picking up works from the long list in order to present a shortlist. Sometimes a shortlist is confused with nominees, but these are completely different things. So, I remember that my film “Lavatory-Lovestory” was picked up for the shortlist. Then there is another voting step, during which they choose those coveted nominations from the shortlist. This is an unshakeable status. After the shortlist is announced, you need to have patience for one and half months before they finally introduce the nominees. I have a friend Ron Diamond who is an American producer. We had an agreement: the announcement of nominees always took place very early in the morning, when the press would gather and the global event would be covered – a separate festive ceremony. When it is early morning for them, it is 4:00-5:00 pm for us. So he assured me that if the film was nominated, he would immediately call me. So, I’m sitting at work, doing something, and suddenly I see that Ron is calling me. I see his Los Angeles number. And I immediately realize what he is going to say. I answer. “Well, Ron, hello.” – “You are nominated.” That floored me. I went to the manager right after that call and shared the happy news. For the ceremony, I had a tuxedo but didn’t have proper shoes. So, Jan Pinkava (a director who was awarded an Oscar twice) lent me his shoes. He claimed that these shoes would bring me luck but they didn’t! I sent them back to him with a short note – “Take back your damned shoes. They are useless as shit. Throw them away.” And that was our funny story.

2011

Back in 2013, there were two options for animation projects in St. Petersburg – the “St. Petersburg” studio (Smeshariki episodes) and Melnitsa. At that time Smeshariki was not available in 3D, though. Only Melnitsa produced animated films and TV series. Some specialists had been working here for 15 and 20 years. They had tough times when 3D technology arrived. They were told, “Alright, guys, you are wonderful 2D animators, and here is a program. You could master it within two weeks, couldn’t you?” So people educated themselves. This is a studio of self-taught professionals.

I hadn’t been working in 3D. But when we started working on Moonzy, 3D specialists would come and request, “Please make some flat drawings of Moonzy depicting him from different angles.” IT specialists are not like artists, and they don’t understand the nitty-gritty of our work, but they did their job. Now they help us with 3D models, as it is hard to make everything from scratch. We are happy to have such helpmates.

2011

Actually, we wanted to create a TV series about cats, but then Anton Zlatopolsky said, “No, cats are out of fashion. Let’s focus on dogs.” For some reason, he likes dogs more than cats. We had a brainstorming meeting – that was when all the artists suggested their ideas. I think we managed everything quickly. The images were done quickly. Somehow it all came together well. It took a bit longer to find proper voices for the characters. Some directors like the idea of characters dubbed by voices of children, while others prefer for adults to mimic children. We couldn’t find genius children, so adult actors were hired.

2014

The producers provided me with perfect work conditions – here I can work on any film at any time. What else could I wish for?

This change felt easy for me because I had gone on vacation, and by the time I came back, the office had moved. One neat story – the people working on the third floor kept flowers there. At some point they realized that it was too dark for the plants. During the summer they were brought out onto the terrace, and it looked like a real garden! People can come here, drink tea, look at the view. By the way, what makes the new office much better than the old is that we have a special reference room. Before that, everyone had to play a scene himself or with the help of colleagues in order to recall the motion specifics.

Some of us find it difficult now to travel to work. It can take almost two hours to get here. Yet, everyone is happy about the changes. For instance, our rooms are more spacious, even though there are more and more people working with us now. Yes, everything is working well, everything is set up. It used to be chilly in the old office. The elevator is working well. There used to be some problems with the previous one.

The new building was planned with a number of extra work spaces included, anticipating 40% team growth. However, it turned out that there is such a wonderful thing in our country as building permits. It took 3.5 years to obtain ours. The construction was completed a year after that. By that time, it ended up that the final project didn’t include extra working space, so we could barely squeeze all of us in. And this wonderful experience cost us 13 million dollars.

2015

The release of the most successful franchise episode was followed by incredible financial success, which set a record high in the history of Russian animation.

2016

The idea for this film came to me in a dream. There is a very funny shot which might be taken the wrong way if taken out of context, so please, don't misunderstand me. But we don't keep it a secret now. This shot appears in the film just as I saw it in my dream – open space, starry sky, a bed floating somewhere in the distance and two men lying on it. This image caused the creation of the film. I started with their background – who these men are, why they are resting here and what would be the end of this story. So you see, God works in mysterious ways. As Anna Akhmatova once said, “If you only knew from what rubbish poetry grows.” The second time was a bit different. Slow-witted, I wasn’t good with the Internet and didn’t know that everything was announced online. So, I was sitting in my office and waiting. Then I realized they broadcasted everything online and felt slightly thrilled. The films are announced on some sort of basis – there must be some key principle, I thought. Why did they announce one film first and another later? Then I realized they were announcing them in alphabetical order. My film’s title is “We Can’t…” which seemed to be somewhere at the end of the list. One film was announced, a second, third… My film was announced fourth. To be honest, I didn't have doubts. I knew that the chances were higher than the previous time when “Lavatory-Lovestory” was nominated. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t feel nervous, especially when three other films have already been announced. It was all very exciting. I remember the first time I was driven in a crappy old Buick. It all seemed ridiculous and funny. At the Oscars everything is very regulated. Limousines must be parked on one side of the ceremonial hall and old Buicks on the other, kind of like second-class citizens. So this time we ordered a limousine, which was quite impressive.

We wanted to get the Oscar. So we went. Kostya was nominated for the second time. The first time, he travelled alone in hopes of receiving the award for “Lavatory-Lovestory,” but this time we decided to go together. Booked a limousine! Kostya asked for a limousine! He simply said, "I want a limousine!" A huge white limousine. There is a photo where we are all dressed in tuxedos. Well, we are not fools, we wouldn’t buy tuxedos just for one occasion. We simply rented them, as well as shoes and shirts. In three days they make sure it is custom fitted. As for a limousine, I must say it is an extremely inconvenient thing. If you’ve had this experience, you’ll understand – you bend and then sneak along these seats. And this guy (driver) tells us, “Yes, everything is great there! They have vodka!” Well – the Russians have arrived. Vodka, water. It was very hot on that day, 30 degrees Celsius – what vodka are you talking about? Well, off we went in the limousine. And, finally, at the party, it was cold.

2016

YouTube is the most popular video platform, and we did not hesitate to launch channels there with Melnitsa cartoons. Our three channels – Moonzy, The Barkers and Three Bogatyrs – have rapidly gained popularity. Now they have 9 million subscribers and almost 13 billion views in total! In 2012, YouTube came up with a reward system for channels with outstanding numbers of subscribers in order to encourage authors and channel users. ● The Silver Play Button is an award for channels that have one hundred thousand subscribers. ● The Gold Play Button is for channels that have more than a million subscribers. ● The Diamond Play Button is granted to channels with ten million subscribers. ● The Ruby Play Button is currently the highest award, and it requires fifty million subscribers. As soon as the channel reaches the required number of subscribers, its owner receives a notification with a code. The code must be entered into a special application form and sent back to YouTube. They check everything and send the button by mail – it might take a couple of months. By the time we had received our Silver buttons, we had already filled out applications for the Gold. And then there was September 23, 2016. We were invited to the annual festival YouTube VideoPeople in Moscow at the ZIL Cultural Center. They insisted that we attend, and they promised a surprise. There was a crazy number of video bloggers who only said that they would soon be giving YouTube buttons. I realized that something was going to happen... In the end, we were awarded two Gold Play Buttons for our Moonzy and The Barkers channels. It was nice to see the admiration of other bloggers. So, Moonzy and The Barkers had already been awarded buttons, but popular channels like the Ivan Urgant Late Night Show or the Leningrad rock band hadn’t by then. It's funny that by the award ceremony, each of the channels already boasted of almost two million subscribers. The buttons were quite heavy, so I was lucky to have my colleague nearby – a strong guy named Vova. But we still had to call our driver Sergey to take the buttons to the office. A year later, Three Bogatyrs also received its Gold Play Button. Now our goal is not even the Diamond, but the Ruby Play Button, which is given for fifty million subscribers. No one in Russia has such a button yet.

2018

And The Barkers is a parallel transaction, in which the first two seasons were directly sold to the largest Chinese video platform Tenсent.

2018

The CTC channel proposed a collaboration with them on a new project, Little Tiaras. They showed us a short trailer with girls looking like true “princesses” and then asked us, “What do you think?” There were some initial setup data. And we replied, “We’re in.” The work on this film was very complex technically, as it had a very high quality of animation and image. This is such a contemporary cartoon with the quality characteristics of a full-length film. The work process was hard-going. We were aware of all the tiny details. We have finished the first season, and we are now working on the second one.

I had been interested in drawing cartoons since my childhood. By the way, there are a lot of people here with a similar experience. As a child, I had these notebooks with pages that show you a cartoon when you turn them over. There were a lot of them. Actually, there is a letter (I keep it at work somewhere) – I might have written it during fifth grade – it’s a letter to the future. In that letter I say that I'll be drawing cartoons. When it came time to study somewhere, it turned out that animation wasn’t taught almost anywhere in Russia. In St. Petersburg there was nothing at all. I don’t know, maybe some program existed at the University of Cinema and Television. But I did not find anything. Besides, the Internet wasn’t that well developed. So here we are. In Moscow, they taught it at VGIK, but it was almost impossible to be accepted to study there. Also, I think there is still a lyceum where they teach animation, Lyceum 333, if I'm not mistaken. I am from Tver. I needed to go somewhere to study. At that time I attended an education centre, and my teacher advised me to go to a college and apply for a program in painting on wood. He believed that would guarantee some artistic background. So I finished college and then I entered a university in Novgorod, Veliky Novgorod, and studied design there. But I quit. And that was it. Some time after that I moved to St. Petersburg, where I was making boats and vessels at a factory for four years. Then I saw the ad and came. Here, at the studio, animation training courses are offered sometimes. Now that happens rarely. The last was organized three or four years ago. But previously, courses were conducted each year. They were free of charge. So I was accepted for the training course and then passed the test successfully. That was how I got settled here. That was was in 2008.

Well, if you know how to work a program with a bunch of buttons, they do not frighten and confuse you. You do not need to be able to draw, but you must have a feel for movement — you wouldn't be able to develop that simply through technical skills. At first, I did not succeed, but it was interesting to figure out how it worked. Then I was involved in programming, but the interest quickly faded away. After that I was trying to figure out the modelling, and goodness, how boring that was. Animation is different – you moved something, then, blimey, it's alive! Cool. I felt like it was my thing. I found out that there were physics engines, and I wanted to destroy a wall. I thought that it would be cool if a dude ran through and destroyed a wall. So I created an animated version of him. And I liked the process so much that it became my profession. At first, I studied at home. When things started working for me, for instance, when a character could take three steps and did not look like a log, I wrote to the studio. They gave me a test task. It seemed to work well – I made use of beautiful light, and therefore my character did not look like a log.

“Oxanka, you can draw, can't you? You’ve liked cartoons from your childhood, no doubt. So your place is here, join us.” <...> So I came, tried it and stayed. <...> I had experience in computer games animation. By the way, we did things like that here at one point. I started from the fact that I had studied tracing. But earlier, one person was meant to be both an illustrator and animator.

If there is just an interesting story and plot, then all this could have been exciting for me only when, roughly speaking, I was a young and stupid sophomore in the field of cinema. Today, this is not enough for me. I need a certain point of excitement. I should be moved by something in the story. The adjective “interesting” is generally inappropriate here. In order to make a story exciting, there should be something personal that resonates with you. Only under this condition will I start making a film. It seems to me that one of the greatest misconceptions of a rather large, if not to say overwhelming, number of people on this planet is precisely that art is meant to educate people and change them for the better. In the case of animation, in particular, to nurture children. Animation has never had such obligations. This is not its function at all. Art is no exception here – it's not supposed to educate. It's just not able to do so. We should not assign art with an artificial function that simply cannot be performed. If art could educate… Art has been in existence since the time of ancient Greece. Therefore, it is impossible to comprehend the entire scope of cultural heritage produced by humanity. To watch, read, see or listen. How has humankind changed? Have we stopped hating each other? Have we stopped fighting and doing nasty things? Have we changed our attitude towards the planet that is being poisoned by us constantly? If art had had even a touch of such educating power, life would be different now. Please, don't make assumptions about art – it doesn’t educate. Art has a variety of functions, but some of them have become unnecessary. One of the ancient, early functions of art was to convey the values of a sacred culture to a large number of people, to communicate ethical standards and moral values so they could be clear and well-known. This function has ceased to be topical. Previously, historically, there was no other kind of human activity to transmit these values, and this was assigned to art. That is why it was very religiously oriented. To hell with the educational function of art. Forget about this, guys.

Education is necessary. You need to draw really well. Some courses formally last two or three months, but in fact, you get basic knowledge. After that you study for a whole year. There are still some scenes that you won’t know how to visualize. You’ll need to think carefully and shoot yourself on video or find some other ways. It is good that everything is on the Internet these days. You can look at the references and make a scene based on them.

Within the last two years, animation courses have begun to gain popularity. I don’t know the reason, but their number has increased. However, there will never be a course from which you’ll graduate in half a year and become a professional on demand. You need real production experience. They can teach you enough to get into production, but then you will need a good few years before you become a true professional. Both of my parents studied programming. So they feel satisfied that I have a job and I get paid for it. Yet, there are people who have nothing to do with animation and keep asking, “When will you find a normal job? You could be an accountant, what a great profession!”

My brother's former wife worked in a small studio producing computer games. She told me they were hiring people. I applied and that worked out well. Eventually, that office was closed. Many of my colleagues moved here and then invited me.

We are continuing to produce new series for Moonzy and The Barkers. Also, together with the CTC channel, the studio has completed the first season of the series Little Tiaras and is now working on the second season. A few full-length films are also in process – Urfin Jus 2 and Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf 4. At the same time, we are developing another film about the bogatyrs. There are three more full-length and two serial projects in the development stage.

20 years? No, it's some kind of nonsense. I can’t believe it. Are you kidding me? This is just the beginning.

2017

On April 10, 2017, the “Glavnie Geroi” (“Main Characters”) award was presented, organized by Channel One.World Wide Web and the Carousel TV channel. It was the first time the Glavnie Geroi Award was presented, but it is planned to be an annual award in the field of children’s television content. The prize is awarded on the basis of all-Russia Internet voting in thirteen categories. The Barkers was selected as the main Russian animated TV series.

2015

On June 25, 2015, the TEFI television award was presented. The prize for the best presenter on the morning air went to Anastasia Chernobrovina and Vladislav Zavyalov (Morning of Russia, Russia 1). The category “Best program for children” was won by the animated TV series Moonzy by the Melnitsa studio. Biathlon with Dmitry Guberniev on the Russia 2 channel won among the sports programs. The TEFI Prize has been awarded since 1994. In 2014, the TV Awards Committee was its organizer for the first time, established by leading television companies in Russia. The nominees for TEFI-2015 were announced in mid-June, and the most nominations were for Channel One (22) and Russia 1 (18). The winners were determined by a jury composed of representatives from all channels – the founders of the committee.