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Annecy Festival 2023: despite the war, animation remains strong in Ukraine

This article is available in: French

Just like they did back in 2022, the Annecy Festival decided to highlight Ukrainian animation in 2023. Which is why, in addition to a dedicated booth, they organized a pitching event as well as a networking event last week at Annecy. Despite what some people might think, Ukrainian animation is strong and alive. An animated feature even managed to break a few records, as we’ll see later on in this article.

To give you a glimpse of what the country has in store for the future, here are 5 animated series showcased during the pitching session (titled Animation in Ukraine Now!).

Mavka: a sequel and a series!

The animated feature Mavka, also known as Le Royaume de Naya in France, was a huge success: 14 million dollars at the box-office. This is the most successful Ukranian movie ever, as well as the most successful animated feature in Ukraine (Mavka managed to beat blockbusters like Frozen 2). The movie was also a success abroad (over 500.000 tickets sold in France, for example).

Mavka - the series

Of course, Animagrad and their parent company Film.UA don’t want to stop there. Their goal has always been to create a strong IP in order to, hopefully, launch several projects. A sequel is planned, and a dance show has been launched. At Annecy, the team pitched us an animated series titled Mavka: The Series. The team plans to use 3D animation and the show will feature an additional female character alongside Mavka, as well as a new antagonist that can freeze animals. Humans won’t be featured in this series directly, but we will see their impact on nature.
Ukrainian folklore, nature, strong female characters: the core elements of the IP are still here.

French studio TeamTO is co-developping this project. The team is looking for investors, co-financing as well as co-production.

Ukraine - pitchs
Iryna Kostyuk & Anna Eliseeva (producers, Film.UA Group)

School for Little Monsters: a very peculiar school

Yarki Studio also pitched an animated series. It follows a boy in a school full of monsters:

The boy Matthew is forced to move with his mother to a small town. He is terribly disappointed and bored. But everything changes when Matt discovers that all the inhabitants of this town are real monsters from legends who only pretend to be people.

Monsters in the series symbolize feelings, emotions, fears that many children feel, explains the team. They also add that they were inspired by Ukrainian myths, which were reinterpreted and modernized. Furthermore, the idea of a boy forced to move doesn’t come from nowhere: many children have been forced to move due to the war with Russia, and they have to get used to a new city, a new school, to find new friends.
The overall budget is about 3 million euros, and the production of the first season should end at the beginning of May 2026.

School for Little Monsters
Ukraine - pitchs
Producer Yana Palamarenko & director Roman Kepkalo

Darling Zhu

Director Anatoliy Lavrenishyn pitched a completely different animated series, Darling Zhu, aimed at a very young audience (preschool).

Where does the rain hide? Why do insects need horns? How do flowers sprout? Who walks in the garden at night? Little Zhu lives in the garden and learns something new and interesting about it every day.

The main character was already at the center of a mobile app realeased several years ago, and a book was published more recently. The series would focus on adventure and ecology, with a wide range of characters: Zhu, a gardener, dwarves living underground, fairies. The planned overall budget is 1,1 million euros.

Darling Zhu
Ukraine - pitchs
Anatoliy Lavrenishyn

Illogical Adult World: a coming-of-age series focused on friendship and inclusivity

Olena Holubeva, Sofi Rozumenko, and Iryna Harkavets then took the stage. The two procuders and the director told us about Illogical Adult World, an upcoming 2D animated series (12×11 minutes) aimed at teenagers and young adults. The series will deal with various topics such as coming-of-age, friendship, inclusivity, self-identity and self-confidence.

In this world everyone wears masks according to their character, interest, profession. Alex, who has ASD, is discovering himself and trying to understand others. Communication is difficult even without masks, but in this world it is even more absurd.

Autism spectrum disorder will be featured in the series. The team plans to rely on specialists in order to make sure the series portray ASD in a realistic and sensitive manner. Alex will be surrounded by surprising characters such as Casey, a teenager in a fish costume. The goal of the series is to highlight that it’s ok to be afraid of becoming an adult, but also to show that Alex is treated with respect by the other teenagers.
The budget is about 2,5 million euros, and the team is looking for co-producers, screenwriters, storyboarders, animators, background artists.

Illogical Adult World
Ukraine - pitchs
Left to right: producers Olena Holubeva & Sofi Rozumenko, director Iryna Harkavets

Yoyo: dystopia, street art and Ukrainian culture

The last pitch of this session was Yoyo. The first season is already available on Youtube. The series is animated in 2D by Phalanstery Films and directed by Mishel & Nickol Feldman (two street artists who have been working in Ukraine, Barcelona, Berlin and Brussels). Nadiia Ovdun, production manager, told us about the world of a series: a blend of retrofuturism, street culture references and Kyiv landmarks.

Year 2213. Human brains are replaced with technology. Yoyo is the last person free from AI. In the 1st season YoYo travels through time to understand the world. He falls in love and breaks the law. In the 2nd season Yoyo tries to free humanity.

Season 2 will begin with an introduction to the world of Yoyo. This will allow distribution partners to skip season 1 and to release season 2 directly in some territories, if needed.

Yoyo
Season 1, Episode 1
Ukraine - pitchs
Nadiia Ovdun

The show will go on

Nature, emotions, diversity, Ukrainian culture, AI: these pitches rely on a wide range of ideas. They also prove that the Ukrainian animation industry is alive and kicking.

The Ukrainian booth showcased various companies, as well as a catalogue of Ukrainian animated shorts, series, features (completed, in production or in development), studios and artists.

In other words, we will definitely have opportunities to talk about Ukrainian animation in the coming months and years.

Ukraine - pitchs
Ukrainian pitching session – Annecy Festival 2023

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