The Riki Group, Russia’s leader of multi-platform animation brands, has named Michael Mennies Director of International Development and Production. Based at the newly established U.S. offices in Philadelphia, Pa., Mennies is responsible for the trans-media development of Riki’s rich library of IP’s and sourcing new concepts from in-house and out-of-house creators.
Michael Mennies is one of the animation industry’s leading American experts on the development, production and distribution of Russian animation in post-Soviet Russia where he lived and worked for nearly a decade.
With an extensive background in sound, television and music production in the U.S., Mennies entered the Russian entertainment industry working in both the U.S. and St. Petersburg for The CTB Film Company. Soon after moving to Russia he moved over to CTB’s sister organization, Melnitsa Animation Studio, where he took the role of Director of International Sales and Relations. At Melnitsa, Mennies was responsible for the first international sales of Russian animated features in post-Soviet Russia.
Following his tenure at Melnitsa, Mennies continued on his course of fostering relations between the Russian entertainment community and the international market when he became a partner and Director of International Productions at Aeroplane Productions, a Moscow-based animation production company. He worked with Aeroplane’s creative team to develop The Fixies, a multi-platform animated property now airing on Russia 1, and Boltoonz, an animated UCG Internet/mobile platform.
“One of the most satisfying aspects of my career has been bringing my production experience from the States to Russia to help nurture the development of Russian animation studios for the international market,” said Mennies. “And my years of living and working as a foreigner in Russia have been invaluable for helping outside companies understand what it takes to work with Russia in terms of legal issues, the production pipeline, and interpersonal and cultural aspects as well. To be able to do this for such a strong company as Riki at this particular moment is just fantastic.”
“Russia has a rich history of great animation, and now the country is on the cusp of exploding onto the international scene as both a producer of original content for export, with properties such as our own Kikoriki, and as a first-class distributor and licensor for foreign properties into Russia. With major film studios opening shop in Russia and networks such as Nickelodeon now broadcasting here, it is clear that Russia has become a major entertainment market. When you add in the Russian government’s substantial increase of financial support for animation production, Russia’s entry into Eurimages, our existing co-production treaties, and the fact that we are located in Europe, we are now positioned better than ever to take part in international co-productions.”
Before moving to Russia, Mennies was a Sound Supervisor and Sound Effects Editor at The Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, CA, where he contributed to sound production on over 15 feature and documentary films, including Species, Johnny Mnemonic, Round Eyes in the Middle Kingdom and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This position followed his work as an Addy award-winning commercial producer, videographer and editor at WCSC-TV in Charleston, S.C. He began his entertainment career in theatre and music. As the award-winning keyboard player of the original rock and pop group the Daves he performed more than one thousand concerts throughout the United States and served as the band’s manager.