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Ukraine’s ‘Mavka’ Expands Into Series, Teams up With TeamTO

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Ukrainian phenomenon “Mavka” is expanding its universe.

Following the premiere of feature film “Mavka. The Forest Song,” it is now set to become a 3D animated series as well. Directed by Oleh Malamuzh, it will be produced by Animagrad Studio – part of the Film.UA Group – with France’s TeamTO already on board as co-development partner.

The project, which will be teased at Annecy’s Partners Pitch, will serve as a prequel to the film, explains Film.UA’s Kseniya Baranova.

“It’s set immediately after the battle between humans and Lesh, the forest guardian, which happened while the rest of the forest dwellers were in their deep winter sleep,” she said.

In each of 12 episodes, Mavka and her friends will be facing new challenges, given tasks to help the forest recover after the battle and restore order and harmony.

“Together with Swampy the Kittyfrog, Hush the Noise Keeper and the Nymphs, Mavka will go through unexpected, fun and sometimes perilous adventures in the forest. While attempting to take care of their home, they explore it and uncover a large number of secrets,” added Baranova.

Mavka will also make a new friend, the “frivolous” Tumblewind, who seems to be a magnet for trouble. But the Chuhai monster will often stand in her way.

“We see it as a possible franchise. We already launched a dancing show and we will be planning a sequel as well,” Iryna Kostyuk, who produces alongside Anna Eliseeva, told Variety.

“When we started developing the film eight years ago, it was always supposed to be a big IP. We called it ‘The Mavka Universe,’ thinking about a multiplatform, cross-media project. Even before its release, we have done many licensing and merchandise deals, which is unprecedented in our market.”

Despite the war – which saw animators working out of bomb shelters, said Kostyuk – “Mavka. The Forest Song” became Ukraine’s highest-grossing local film ever and also its highest-grossing animation.

“We topped such Hollywood hits as ‘The Secret Life of Pets,’ ‘Minions’ and both parts of ‘Frozen’,” she enthused.  

So far, “Mavka” has been sold to over 80 countries – “the first Ukrainian film to be that widely released” – including France, Italy, Spain, Australia and Germany, with Poland set to join in the summer. 

“The film has been or will be released everywhere except for China, with talks currently under way for Japan and South Africa. Our partners are amazed at how well it is doing,” added Kostyuk. noting that many countries hosting Ukrainian refugees, are releasing the local version as well. So far, the film has reached 1.2 million admissions in its home country alone.

Mavka. The Forest Song
Courtesy of Animagrad Studio

“Right now, only half of our movie theatres are open. 10 million people are misplaced outside of the country and screenings are interrupted by air raids. Given all these circumstances, it’s an amazing result. Families watch it multiple times – it’s a phenomenon,” said Kostyuk, admitting that while “war influences everything,” and that it’s crucial for the creative industry to keep going.

“Kids don’t care where their film comes from. They don’t care that we had to finish it during the war. They appreciate the story and this character, its humor and visual language. Girls want to be like Mavka now. They even dye their hair green,” she says, calling her a “unique and strong female character.”

But the story, featuring reimagined folk songs, also offers a peek into relatively unknown Ukrainian mythology.

“Disney had princesses from all over the world, but not from Ukraine. With runes on her face, the color of her hair and all these rituals, Mavka is a new heroine. It’s something new for the world to see,” she states.

“Animation does help kids. ‘Mavka’s’ box-office results showed just how much people need beautiful stories,” says Anastasiya Verlinska, director of the Linoleum Animation Festival.

“Together with their family, surrounded by loved ones, they forget about the war for an hour or two. Animation is one of the best art therapy tools, but it’s not only about escaping. It’s about processing and reflecting on the events happening around you. You can learn from it too.”



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