Anatoly Prokhorov, a key figure in commercial and auteur-driven Russian animation since the 1980s, died from leukemia on Sunday. He was 72.
In recent decades, Prokhorov found global success as the creator of Kikoriki (known as Smeshariki in Russia), a kids’ animated series that proved a hit in its home country and abroad. The show, which was chiefly Flash-animated, inspired three cg features and a range of other spin-offs. Episodes have been broadcast in the U.S. on the network The CW, under the name GoGoRiki.
But Kikoriki is only one part of an unusually rich and varied legacy. As a creator and producer, Prokhorov was equally influential in mainstream and auteur animation; as a critic and public intellectual, he would theorize about the differences between the two.
A physicist by training, Prokhorov entered animation in the twilight years of the Soviet Union. In 1988, he founded its first private animation studio, Pilot, with animator-filmmakers Aleksandr Tatarskiy, Igor Gelashvili, and Igor Kovalyov. The studio produced both commercial and indie animation, serving as a cradle of post-Soviet animation talent: Aleksandr Petrov, Konstantin Bronzit, Ivan Maximov, and Mikhail Aldashin are among the notable filmmakers who worked there.
Prokhorov was a mentor to many of them, and a talented producer and art director in his own right. He co-produced more than 30 animated films including Aleksey Kharitidi’s short Gagarin, which won a prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar in 1996. Pilot also co-produced the series Mike, Lu & Og, which ran on Cartoon Network from 1999 to 2001. Prokhorov later founded the Petersburg Animation Studio, which is behind the Kikoriki franchise.
Speaking to AWN, Kovalyov paid tribute to his old colleague “We met in 1983. We founded Pilot in 1988. We worked together for so many years. I cannot describe how wonderful he was as a human, and as an artist, and how incredibly sad I am.”