MAVKA. THE FOREST SONG is the first Ukrainian animated feature film to be released worldwide on such a large scale: the film was shown on big screens in 148 countries (the release is still ongoing, with recent launches in Norway, Turkey, across Latin America, and Slovenia), and the total worldwide box-office have reached over $20 million. The movie was dubbed into 32 languages and the IP has grown into a vast UNIVERSE OF MAVKA with a wide range of licensing and consumer product deals. On a special invitation from the hosts of Cartoon Business 2023, an annual industry event for players of the European animation market in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Iryna Kostyuk, the film's producer, and Tetiana Ruban, CEO of the Nerd licensing agency (part of the FILM.UA. Group), shared the animated film’s success story with industry esports. They presented a multilingual international success trailer, and highlighted plans to expand the Mavka Universe.
Exclusively for the attendees of Cartoon Business 2023, Iryna Kostyuk and Tetiana Ruban spoke about some new plans for the development of the Mavka Universe: in addition to creating an animated series in collaboration with the French animation studio TeamTo (the project was selected to be pitched at Cartoon Forum in Toulouse in fall 2023), they are planning to create an animated sequel and a live action feature film for the 12+ audience, depicting the origin of the mythological character — which is filled with mysticism and is quite dark originally. Iryna and Tetiana also provided an in-depth analysis of the animated film’s success.
The idea of implementing a known and already beloved Ukrainian female character from myths and legends (as well as from classic literature) into a form of a Universal language of animation roots back to 2014. At that time, the film’s producers realized that Ukrainians needed some stories of their own, as the demand among Ukrainian young audience for a local animated hero was growing. From that moment on, the process of searching for visual style as well as transforming the originally dramatic plot into a family style storytelling with a happy ending had started, and, ultimately, the multiplatform cross-media brand known as the Mavka Universe was born.
In 2017, the creators launched a first B2B teaser and MAVKA had become the first ever Ukrainian project to be selected to be pitched at the European Animation Forum Cartoon Movie in Bordeaux. That’s how the international MAVKA’s journey had started.
The team had to go through all the challenges of COVID times and then at the final stage of production, a full-scale russian invasion started and the team had to finish the movie literally from out bomb shelters and occupation. Nevertheless, the animated film was delivered on schedule and as it was contracted in the international deals, and cinema-goers were able to enjoy it in the spring of 2023, first in Ukraine and then in 148 countries around the world.
Locally, it is truly a milestone in Ukrainian movie industry and theatrical market. The release literally "rescued" the local industry during these challenging times and broke all the national records becoming the highest grossing Ukrainian film of all times and the best animation release ever (topping all the major studio releases).
MAVKA’s share of the total national box office in the first 10 months of 2023 stands at 9%, while its share of the box office among all Ukrainian releases in 2023 (10 months) is 51%.
MAVKA is a #3 highest grossing release in Ukrainian box office ever just only after SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021) and AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (2022). The animated film has been in theaters for 39 weeks and has already been released on a digital platform.
One of the key promotional activities for the Mavka Universe in Ukraine was a sweeping licensing campaign, in which the team at the Nerd licensing agency, led by its CEO Tetiana Ruban, got dozens of national brands on board. Some collaborations were implemented in the production and post-production stages, enabling the Mavka brand to be in the spotlight for a long time. Now, the Mavka Universe involves more than 30 collaborations, with 350+ SKU in different categories: jewelry, snacks, beauty, clothes, toys, publishing, accessories, home decorations, supplies for children's study and creativity, and more. Before and during its release, Mavka was everywhere: in stores, on billboards and storefronts, in coffee shops and retail space displays, and in shows and entertainment programs (including the dancing MAVKA STAGE SHOW, which toured 20 cities in Ukraine, Mavka’s offline themed Residence in Kyiv, and so on).
Internationally, MAVKA has garnered stellar reviews and impressive box office performances becoming one of the biggest indie films of 2023. In France, it claimed the #1 spot among the week's newcomers, ranked as the #2 start of the year, and is among the top 5 highest-grossing movies of the premier week. In Italy, it stands as the fifth highest-grossing animated film of 2023, spending five weeks in the top 3. Portugal witnessed MAVKA's exceptional release, securing the #1 Best Independent Animated Opening of 2023 and the #2 Best Animated Opening of 2023. Mavka was dubbed into 32languages — following the example of the Ukrainian version, the film was voiced by local stars and opinion leaders. It was also a unique international case where partners released a Ukrainian version of the film along with the local version, so that millions of Ukrainian refugees spread all over the world could watch the long-awaited animated film.