After the end of the Soviet Union, Russian animation industry changed in two main ways. On one hand, State subsidies diminished on another the number of studios increased.
Most of the studios during the 1990s lived on animation for advertisement and on doing commissioned works for big studios from America and elsewhere. Soyuzmultfilm, the former juggernaut of Russian animation studios (at one time employing as many as 700 animators and other staff), was beset by corrupt administrators who sold off all the rights to all the films previously made by the studio without telling shareholders or employees. Georgiy Borodin writes of this time, “artistic work at the studio became psychologically unbearable and impossible.
Despite the hardships, Natalya Lukinykh has estimated that Russian animated films won about twice as many prestigious international awards in the 1990s as Russian live-action films.
As Russia’s economic situation became increasingly stable, so did the market for animation, and during the last three years a number of feature-length animation films from Russian studios have emerged (e.g. Melnitsa Animation Studio’s Little Longnose, 2003, from Wilhelm Hauff’s fairy tale, and Solnechny Dom Studio’s 2006 Prince Vladimir, based on early history of Rus’ – the highest-grossing Russian animated film to date). According to Andrei Dobrunov, head of Solnechny Dom, several Russian studios are currently working on some ten animated feature films.
“Osobennyj” (Special), released July 31, 2006, was Russia’s first CG-animated feature film. About 8 such films are now in production by various studios. Beginning in 2009, animation entered a new crisis as GosKino indefinitely postponed funding for all projects, and for the 2010 budget the state cut animation funding by half.
What’s happening today?
Many animators are struggling but building a new set of skills – independent production and collaboration.
My favorite collaborative project is “Lullabies of the World.” About 20 animations were created to illustrate world lullabies. They are sweet and short, here a few of them.