What a “MAVKA. Forest song” will sound like?
How many times have you seen the adaptations of famous stories, again and again, understanding that the origin of the story is rooted in popular western culture?
When I raised this question for the first time, there were quite big debates inside our team. Many have rationally said that Eastern culture, maybe in a bit orientalist shades well presented in the Disney movies as well. Mulan, Kung Fu Panda, Aladdin. The list can be prolonged.
But my point was that popular imagination is not that familiar with many great stories originating from other parts of the world. For example, Eastern Europe is full of marvelous subjects, characters, lines, and myths.
There are so many more stories to tell the world, and it is hard to find a better medium than animation for that.
However, for the studios outside the circle of big ones, it is impossible to get enough publicity and overcome well-known giants.
Considering that, more unexpected and surprising was the level of success of the Ukrainian animated movie called “Mavka. The Forest Song”. Even though the movie is not a creation of Pixar or Disney, or Netflix, it was internationally acclaimed. And continue to be.
“Mavka. The Forest Song” is an animated feature about a magical spirit who’s responsible for protecting the forest from the outside world. It traces a lot of themes we are dealing with these days, especially ecological issues.
The greatest challenge for the main character is when she falls in love with a human.
Admit, such a description of the story is fine, but it doesn’t promise anything big. And that’s okay. Because to really feel what kind of experience you’ll get, you just have to watch a trailer.
It has impressed too many people.
Already the rights were pre-sold in more than 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Many platforms want to show the release of Mavka.
“Our stories are our weapon. So, we have to be strong. One of the tools for us to be strong is to make a huge effort now to not only end production but also to distribute the rights in as many countries as possible, so that we can be heard all over the world. Also for this purpose we are trying to involve the talents of international stars, in particular those who have publicly declared their support for Ukraine, to be the vocal cast of our wonderful characters in the international version of the film.”
The film’s producer Iryna Kostyuk
The most interesting thing about the success of the cartoon is that it wasn’t released yet.
How about that!
The origins of the story
The play, as Lesja Ukrajinka wrote in a letter to her mother in 1912, was inspired by her
childhood memories of Mavka, one of many mythic creatures native to Polissja. And… yeah, we can hear modern moods that coincide with some of the author’s musings.
Eco consciousness manifested itself in the fact that Polissja, Ukraine’s forest area was experiencing a great forest slash. The trees most prominent in the drama, willows and birches, are typical of Polissja’s swamps. Humans and other creatures work together to defend the ancient oak, the second most common tree in the region, and one of the factory’s author’s trees.
The oak is chosen for good reason: sacred to the Slavs, it traditionally symbolizes light, life, and eternal being; oak leaves are often incorporated into folk textile ornamentation to signify good health and long life, serving as an amulet to protect its bearer from misfortune.
What is interesting concerning the first question I posed here and once in our office? It’s how many great stories and places are not presented in the animated culture created by the big famous studios.
A new trailer vs an old trailer
The main thing that was quite strange for many people and early fans of the animated movie is the replacement of the trailer that got over 50 million views.
“Our teaser is more about ambiance than plot, Its objective is to immerse the audience in the unusual forest world of Mavka, to let the viewers meet the protagonist, to show her magic connection with nature and demonstrate Mavka’s Willow.”
The film’s producer Iryna Kostyuk
Four years after releasing the first trailer, the studio changed the way animation looked and gave people a completely different story in terms of visuals.
The new trailer strikes a pretty different tone from the old one. Here we can see a more nuanced ecological message. Mavka has gotten a different look, and become the “guardian of nature”. The romantic storyline became extended, too.
Scholars have commented on the role of nature and humanity in Lesja Ukrajinka’s Forest Song, written in 1911. The acclaimed fairy-drama has been compared to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
It seems that ecological issues become a serious part of this new version of the cartoon.
Also, traditional culture and clothing details are going to be present to a bigger extent.
The producers promise that throughout the cartoon, Mavka will change her outfit “more often than in most animated films.”
“Over the course of the film, Mavka changes her outfits quite a few times. Each new image — is a brilliant work of artists and animators. We made a great effort to show the beauty of Ukrainian garments since that is part of our national heritage too. Today, this idea became an even more significant mission of ours,”
says film producer Egor Olesov.
Generally speaking, the new trailer shows a keen eye for detail: especially in the case of environment and clothes. The artists create fantasy locations based on the native landscapes of Ukrainian forests and mountains.
And here, again, is a question of eco-consciousness: those forests and mountains are home to many rare and disappearing species of animals, as well as plants.
The fan movement around unreleased cartoon
What is extremely interesting is how the animated movie expanded before it was actually released. We already wrote how animation can be a lead generation tool, but here we can see lots of successfully implemented promoting activities.
Let’s see what it was.
Cake and sweets.
Lviv confectionery “MAVKA”, a new licensed partner of the project, has created an original cake of the same name, inspired by the plot and characters of the cartoon “Mavka. Forest song.”
“The Mavka Universe brand is growing in various fields and is expanding the circle of its partners day by day. “Mavka. The Forest Song” is the flagship project of FILM.UA Group, and more companies from different industries want to join it. Given the family target audience of Mavka, we are very responsible in the choice of licensees and, first of all, we cooperate with those who share our values and missions of the project. We are glad that a confectionery from Lviv has become a new participant in the program, which, like the project team, respects Ukrainian traditions and creates magical desserts for family holidays.”
Tetyiana Ruban, head of the licensing agency Nerd Agency (FILM.UA Group).
A thematic collection.
Another thing is how they managed to release the program where people will be able to collect a thematic collection of Mavka: 16 figures in the form of inhabitants of the Forest World.
You can store heroes in a special box-collector with a playing field – it resembles a magical Willow. Also, promotional goods are branded shopping bags, soft toys, temporary tattoo runes and the Rune Rock board game, which is supplemented with the help of the Mavka Silpo AR application. The last one is the most interesting thing for promotion.
An entertaining and educational part of the action “Mavka. World of the Forest” will be the book “Grey Book”, its pages”come to life” in interaction with the AR application. “Grey Book” is a separate fantasy world of reading and playing that contains coloring pages, stickers and other educational interesting things. The producer of the project and the screenwriter wrote an original story for the book, which reveals the secret of Nymph’s acquaintance with her best friend. The plot of Grey Book echoes the plot of the cartoon but does not repeat it.
But that’s not all.
Animagrad, FILM.UA Group has got а new licensing partner — Ukrainian company Belietazh, which owns brands “Anabel Arto” and “Obrana”. This collaboration started a year ago, but designers were forced to finalize the manufacturing process during wartime. Starting from June 26, the limited collection inspired by Mavka’s Universe is available in boutiques across Ukraine and on Anabel Arto’s official website.
MAVKA brand chooses its partners carefully, ensuring their values match the project’s values. This time, favorite animated characters are featured in a sleepwear line for women and girls, including t-shirts, shorts, hoodies, sweaters, and dresses. There are also family sets for moms and daughters. The collection is made of safe and natural eco-materials. Bright prints do not shed and do not get ruined when washed.
Besides, Manymore Films will be releasing the film in theaters across Scandinavia. Feelgood Entertainment has acquired the rights to “Mavka” and is going to a theatrical release in Greece.
Eco issues in the original story and their trace in the movie
Everything we see today on the screens is one way or another reflects what bothers us collectively and personally. But nothing new under the sun, and what is making us worry today is well-forgotten things that make people anxious about the past.
Already in the Prologue of her play, Lesja Ukrajinka says about the “dense and hoary primeval forest in Volhynia”, the heart of which is “dotted with willows and one very old oak”.
Ecocritical studies claim today that with their tools it is easier to understand the urgency with which Mavka intervenes in Lukaš’s attempt to cut the birch.
Here is the thing: between 1856 to 1914, the population of Polissja increased by 180 percent due to natural growth and the migration of people, which has caused the forest clearing.
How the movie will address those issues is still a very curious question.
Hopefully, by the end of the year 2022, we’ll finally see one of the most anticipated animated movies in the last decade. It has received a more Disney-like look, as some say, but it seems to us that the directors, and the creative team just deepened the story and during this time experienced a change in their vision of animation.
In the new trailer, you can see Mavka’s friends, and new faces in the movie: Swampy the Kittyfrog, the grumpy forest noisekeeper Hush, water nymph Ondine, and the main antagonist, Kylina.
So, we definitely see this new step taken by a studio as a way of making the story bigger, focusing on the thoughts the creators wanted to share with the audience.
“We look forward to that moment when audiences around the world, both children and adults, will not only enjoy our film’s beautiful visuals and exciting story, but will also learn the message we have been trying to make work for so many years. The message that says: love and kindness will always win because love is the most precious thing we humans have.”