Russians Love CG Cartoons, Especially DreamWorks

Megamind

Megamind opens in US theaters today, but the film already premiered in Russia last week. The DreamWorks feature posted a healthy $6.9 million opening in Russia and was the country’s number one film at the box office. Earlier DreamWorks features also fared well this year–How to Train Your Dragon launched with $7.3 million and Shrek Forever After with $19.7 million.

Russians are apparently hungry for CG animation of any kind, and notably, they’re getting to see the big Hollywood releases before their American debuts. Open Season 3, which won’t appear in the US until next year, opened theatrically in Russia two weeks ago, and it too was the number one film at the box office, taking in $2.3 million. I swear, it’s like some bizarro universe where every animated film does well. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opened at number one with $3.4 million, Despicable Me at number two with $3.3 million, and Alpha and Omega also at number two with $1.6 million. In fact, just about the only computer animated feature the Russians haven’t liked this year is Toy Story 3, which opened with $2.3 million and finished its box office run with a weak $6.6 million–or less than the opening weekend of Megamind.

In case you’re curious, here’s the Russian poster for Open Season 3:

Open Season 3

(Box office data from Box Office Mojo)


  • Rooniman

    It’s clear to us that Russia has never seen an old animated cartoon.

    • DonaldC

      Russia made some really beautiful animated films back in the 40′s to mid 60′s.

      • Was my face red

        There have a long and rich animation history. ‘Us’ should open their eyes a little before they open their mouths.

      • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

        The share that Russian-made films currently get in the Russian cinema market varies from 10-15% from year to year, while American films get 50-60% typically (with the remainder belonging mostly to the UK and Germany). The proportion of domestic-versus-international ANIMATED cinema is even more lopsided. For the few successful domestic animated features, the general rule is that they must be American in tone and style while having some sickeningly patriotic plot. Those that try to go down a different path, or look to Soviet cartoons for inspiration, fail miserably at the box office.

        The United States is the symbol of success, while their own empire failed; the public realizes this and embraces the culture of the victors in the hopes that some of the successful habits will rub off. But in the process, some old things of worth are forgotten along with the ones that deserve to be.

  • http://mymedicatedlife.blogspot.com/ Bitter Animator

    It’s possible Toy Story 3 didn’t feature enough eyebrow abuse for the Russian market. Megamind seems to excel in that department.

  • Mark McD

    And as the ads in today’s papers showed me, the “Dreamworks expression” now scrunches up ALL the characters faces, except for the fat comedy relief guy.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    Now, if only they would comission their own studios for work, so the Russian consumer audience could actually purchase tickets to watch domestically produced content…

  • Ryoku

    They must not get much animation over there, or perhaps our CGI films are some kind of psychological warfare?

    Meh, just more of our companies showing a lack of patriotism.

    • GhaleonQ

      Check Animatsiya In English. Sadly, the country with the best animation output in the world (arguably) hasn’t supported its artists since 2000. All of the famous studios have gone bankrupt or are in stasis.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It’s truly sad what happened there. And no doubt relying on import entertainment isn’t helping things better.

  • Scarabim

    Eccch at that Megamind poster. That is some DAMN ugly character design.

  • Sat

    The Open Season 3 bit is very, very strange. Are they the test audience? Do they change a few things before the North American premiere?

    Also, there goes my fantasy interpretation of Russia where everybody grew up on Soyuzmultfilm’s slow and lyrical art films and would probably think of American CG as junk food or something. I’m not bashing CG here, but it’s somewhat sad! How does Russian animated films are doing there anyway?

  • Liam O Grady

    Open Season 3 drew a huge Russian crowd because they put a large bear on the poster.

  • Gene

    That Open Season poster is pretty cool, too bad it was animated in India and stole jobs from hardworking American artists!!

    • Trevor

      Not true at all. It was 100% done in the USA

    • timmyelliot

      Open Season is Sony. Wouldn’t that make it a case of Americans stealing jobs from hardworking Japanese artists?

      • Kyle

        Actually its Imageworks which I think has always been American. Just run by the Japanese.

    • Anonymous

      It was actually made at Reel FX in Dallas, TX. The same studio that did the new 3D Looney Tunes shorts in fact!

  • Tee

    It might be that the Russian tastes run to more broad humor. I’m certain that’s the case. Toy Story 3 is more subtle and Pixar is more invested in telling stories that resonate with the audience than the usual animated films released by Dreamworks (Dragon being a shining exception).

  • D. Follower

    I finally figured out that DreamWorks’ trademark itself, the eyebrowsmirk, is actually just one more thing ripped off from Pixar. It’s part of Buzz Lightyear’s standard expression when he’s in conceited “doesn’t know he’s a toy” mode.

  • Dave

    My goodness you all sound like complete tools.

    • Sat

      Damn! I lost at writing on the internet.

  • Dewey McGuire

    Regarding the failure of TOY STORY 3 to win over Russian movie-goers, is it possible that their political history might make Russian audiences uncomfortable with the story of a cruel toy taking over and running his domain like a gulag?

  • Josh

    How is it that none of the character designers noticed that the Tina Fey character’s forehead is just as ridiculously large as the Will Ferrell character? Doesn’t that undercut the, um, comedic impact?

  • Greg Ehrbar

    Will they get Edvard Khil to dub the voices in Russian? Maybe that’s why they’re so popular.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXsGmLEFZXQ

    (Warning: this little tune stays locked in your head forever.)

  • http://www.virgiliovasconcelos.com Virgilio

    In Soviet Russia, cartoons watch you.

  • Shawn’s Bro

    There was an “Open Season 2″???

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    I’ll take Open Season 3 in Russian over Toy Story 3 in English any day of the week.

    • Liesje

      Here, here!

  • Vzk

    I wonder how well a “Xavier: Renegade Angel” movie would do there…

  • http://www.warrenleonahrdt.com w
    • http://kelseighn.blogspot.com Kelseigh

      Why can’t they set up something along the lines of the NFB (although different enough to suit their needs) and do both?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        You would think it would be that easy, or perhaps the government alone doesn’t have the money to subsidize such a film board like that. It’s a tough call.

      • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

        Here’s an interview that should shed some light on the matter:
        http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/35080.html
        —–
        Quote from director Sergey Merinov:

        Unfortunately, no coherent policy in support of animation exists in our country at all. I have the sense that the new minister of culture is unaware that animation even exists in our country and continues to somehow function. Lately we’ve been hearing from our TV screens that, for example, when the president met with our leaders of culture one of them (I don’t remember who exactly) persistently spent a long time badmouthing “The Little Grey Neck” (for some reason that was the film he picked). He was saying that it hearkens to the past, while American cartoons, no matter how bad they be, promise the future. And the president himself, when he met kids at a boy scout camp, recommended that they watch the newest “Shrek”. I think that he did it with a pure heart, but you know how we like to imbue every little statement with great meaning. Basically speaking, they decided that in these difficult times, animation can safely be sacrificed. At least, that’s my impression. Of course, this is only my guess, but the theory seems to fit current events.

        Many are asking us: why are you whining and asking for state funding? In fact, I think that studios could survive self-sufficiently as well, if there were coherent government policies to support domestic producers: quotas for television, a law for commercials which would allow commercials to run during children’s programming. Currently, by the way, many channels simply do not show animated films, and therefore buy neither them nor children’s programs, simply because they can not insert advertisements into them. Concerning quotas, they exist in many European countries. For example in the UK, channels are required to show, I believe, not less than 50% domestic animation. In France, there is a dedicated channel for domestic animation. But we simply have nowhere to sell – TV, as I said, is not interested in buying our products. And if they do buy them, they put them at 6 am on Sundays. As I understand it, this is done just for the record. One can understand their perspective – it is unprofitable for them to show us because of this advertising law. Or here’s another idea: if the channel shows animation which it funds itself, the channel is allowed some competitive advantages, as is done in many countries.

        And if there will not be a coherent policy, just tell us: “we have no need for domestic animation”. In fact, in many countries, there is no domestic animation, and nobody has died because of this; but it’s not good to keep us in limbo. If it is decided that there will be no support, it means that studios will become purely commercial entities and will make products primarily for a Western audience, as it was in the early and mid-1990s, when there were no state commissions and we all worked for the West.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Interesting to learn that children’s television in Russia is commercial-free. Also pretty sad how it’s just being forgotten like it was nothing.

  • qwerty

    Well, why not? Americans love Japanese cartoons.

  • Flyboy

    virgillo, best post ever

  • droosan

    Not to paint Russia with too broad a brush .. but I wonder whether the studios’ decision to open films earlier there is a tactic to combat video piracy.

    Piracy is GONNA happen in that region (and everywhere else), either way .. but by opening a film there before its domestic release, it might undercut the local pirates’ traditional “supply lines,” to an extent.

    And, if the neighborhood pirate vendor doesn’t have the latest release, but it IS playing at the local cinema — perhaps that can encourage an audience to see it in theaters, instead.

    /just a theory

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I would not be surprised by that thought.

    • Arthur F.

      Yes I was thinking about that as well. If it is in Russian only, then sure, that is an argument. But I can imagine there must be original language playing as well? If so, it is possible to reverse the logic, as it means on the other hand there is now a ridiculously good chance for achieving a great copy to get produced and globally online (there’s the larger issue) before the American/European other markets get a chance to watch. So really not sure if it isn’t more like “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in the end.

    • dbenson

      Not an original strategy — Gilbert & Sullivan staged the first production of “Pirates of Penzance” in America specifically to gain copyright protection (their previous works were widely performed here with zero royalties for G&S).

  • Toonio

    In ex-soviet Russia guilt laden Pixar movies don’t play you.

  • AJ

    Maybe the jokes get rewrote when its dubbed and instead of our predictable comedy beats they get brilliant stand-up skits. I think most people put up with ugly if its funny enough. eh Robert mcKimson.

  • David Mackenzie

    That’s crazy – is it just Dreamworks that favours Russia so much?
    I suppose the early releases there is to combat piracy?

  • Kyle Maloney

    Wasn’t open season 2 a straight to video sequel? how the heck did 3 get a theatrical release?

  • dbenson

    A speculation: Maybe Toy Story 3 is too dependent on the previous films AND on a thorough familiarity with a very specific American universe (suburban life, brand name toys, etc.). It’s probably like an American audience confronting a film about growing up in Moscow that presupposes we know the neighborhoods first hand.

    Other CGI films are usually in outright fantasy settings were the in-jokes either fly by unheeded or are taken at face value as facts of that universe.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      That was what I was thinking. Perhaps a film like Toy Story would seem more alienated by that cultural significance.

    • http://www.webcomicsnation.com/dholvrsn/index.php Doug Holverson

      That’s like my guessing too. They didn’t grow up with and aren’t nostalgic for American Boomer and Xer era toys.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Which is sad but, what are you gonna do? (being the Cold War and all)

  • matt

    Are they the same designers that did the ugly Monsters vs Aliens stuff (the human characters)?

    And with the dark short ‘do, that chock DOES look incredibly Russian…

  • matt

    Ack! CHICK, not chock! Don’t you hate it when you proof your stuff but only catch something when you hit go?

  • http://suspended.tv/blog ralph phillips

    does anyone else hate dreamworks character designs for humans as of late? all scrunch faced and too close to realistic.

  • MATT

    Well. In Open Season 3 there’s a romance between the main bear character Boog and a russian dancing bear.