Mavka: The independent cartoon that conquered Cartoon Business with its success story
In the midst of a year of great darkness in our country, finally a vibrant celebration of Ukrainian culture has illuminated the entire world with its resilient spirit. Powered by the Animagrad studio (part of the FILM.UA group), Mavka. Song of the Woods became one of the most successful independent animated films of the year. Mavka is the first Ukrainian animated feature film to be so massively distributed globally, screening in cinemas in 148 countries in an ongoing rollout that recently took it to Norway, Turkey, Latin America and Slovenia with over 30 audio releases localized, and earned more than $20 million at the worldwide box office. The IP has also spawned a vast “Mavka Universe” with a range of licenses and consumer products. The film's producer Iryna Kostyuk and Tetiana Ruban, CEO of the licensing agency Nerd (also part of the FILM.UA Group) traveled to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to discuss Mavka with the participants of Cartoon Business 2023. International animation professionals in attendance were the first to see a multilingual trailer celebrating the film's success and learn what the future holds for the fascinating nature spirit.
Mavka was a true epic, with the film having to deal with the challenges of COVID and then, in the final stage of production, a full-scale Russian invasion. The team had to finish the film literally from bomb shelters and under occupation. However, Mavka was delivered on schedule and as stipulated in international agreements, and viewers were able to enjoy it in the spring of 2023, first in Ukraine and then in 148 countries around the world.
Locally, the film marks a milestone in Ukrainian cinema. The release literally “saved” the local industry during these difficult times and broke all national records, becoming the highest-grossing Ukrainian film of all time and the best local animation release ever (beating all major studio releases). Mavka. Song of the Forest is the #3 highest grossing ever at the Ukrainian box office surpassed only by franchise hits Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) and Avatar: Way of Water (2022). The animated film has been in theaters for 39 weeks and has already been released on a digital platform.
Internationally, Mavka has garnered positive reviews and impressive box office performance. In France, it took first place among newcomers of the week, ranked second at the beginning of the year and is among the top five highest-grossing films of the main week. In Italy it is the fifth highest-grossing animated film of 2023, remaining in the top three for five weeks. Portugal also had an outstanding outing, securing first place in the Best Independent Animated Opening of 2023 and second in the Best Animated Opening of 2023.
Mavka was called in 32 languages – following the example of the Ukrainian version, the film was dubbed by local entertainment stars and thought leaders. Exceptionally, all international commitments for the film included both localized and Ukrainian versions, so that millions of Ukrainian refugees around the world could watch the film. One of the key promotional activities for Mavka Universe in Ukraine was a sweeping licensing campaign, involving dozens of domestic brands. Some collaborations were implemented in the production and post-production stages, allowing the Mavka brand to stay in the spotlight for a long time.
In short, Mavka represented not only the success of a Ukrainian animated film, but also the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian spirit that emerged despite adversity. And this is just the beginning of a fascinating universe full of potential, ready to win the hearts of an international audience.