Russian Properties Reach Out

The global expansion of children’s animation properties originating in Russia continues in 2020, with a growing number of distribution, consumer product, and licensing representation deals announced since January. There has been a particular flurry of activity in April and especially May:

  • 0+ Media signed Maurizio Distefano Licensing as its rep for Leo and Tig in Italy and Italian-speaking regions, last month. Plans for the property, produced by Parovoz Animation Studio, include toys, publishing, apparel, accessories, and back-to-school products. The series airs on Rai YoYo in Italy and on Netflix in the U.S.
  • APC Kids signed Cartoonito to distribute a third season of the Kid-E-Cats TV series and Koch Films for home video rights to the first two seasons, both in the Italian market. It also partnered with RTVE to air the first two TV seasons on the children’s channel Clan in Spain. Both deals were announced in May. In January, APC signed Gulli as its broadcaster in France. CTC Media is the property owner.
  • Also in May, Animaccord announced its first licensing deal for Masha and the Bear—the series whose success outside of Russia helped spur much of the current global interest in Russian properties—in China. Guangdong D&G Trading Limited was signed to distribute licensed toys based on Masha, which launched on CCTV in China earlier this year. Other 2020 initiatives have included a global deal with PEZ for candy dispensers and an agreement with Ferrero for Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs and other confectionery products in Latin America, as well as Russia and the CIS. Animaccord also released new episodes to highlight stay-at-home activities and the importance of good hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Kenn Viselman Presents… and its itsy bitsy Entertainment banner, along with Brooklyn Weaver, INK Media, property owner Melnitsa Animation Studio, and others, announced in late April that they would bring Moonzy, known as Luntik in Russia, to the Americas. The deal includes broadcast, merchandising, and promotional rights. With 8.8 billion views globally, the show is billed as one of the top-watched preschool series ever on streaming platforms. Season 1 of the Americanized version will include 108 five-minute episodes and three holiday mini-movies. In January, Moonzy and his Friends debuted in China on CCTV.
  • Da Vinci Media announced in April that it had acquired non-exclusive TV and VOD rights (free and pay) to Pincode, one of the TV series in the Riki family of properties, produced by Riki Group. It is a STEM-themed spin-off of Kikoriki (known as Smeshariki in Russia and some other territories). The deal includes Russia and CIS as well as Poland, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Greece, and Turkey. In February, Edutainment Licensing became the distribution partner for PinCode in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand; it also holds rights for school and library digital platforms worldwide. FUN Union of Hong Kong is the master agent for distribution and licensing outside of Russia.
  • Riki Group acquired Aeroplane Productions in February, bringing The Fixies into its portfolio. The Fixies is another Russian property that has been expanding internationally; one of its latest deals, also in February, was with broadcaster EBS for the launch of the series on EBS1 and EBS2 in South Korea.

These developments follow on the heels of several other broadcast, consumer product, and licensing representation deals in 2018 and 2019 that involve Russian properties expanding beyond the borders of their country of origin, a few of which are outlined here. All of the properties listed above have ranked in the top tier of commercially successful IP in Russia, both in ratings and in sales of licensed products, for some time.

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