The Remaking of Soyuzmultfilm
How Russia's most famous animation studio has changed.
Welcome! In today’s issue of the Animation Obsessive newsletter, we’re tackling a complicated and often messy story — the modern history of Russia’s Soyuzmultfilm.
Founded in the Soviet era, Soyuzmultfilm played host to some of the 20th century’s best and brightest animation artists — from Yuri Norstein to the Brumberg sisters. After the USSR collapsed, the studio entered a nightmarish, decades-long crisis that it barely survived.
Recently, though, Soyuzmultfilm has emerged from the ashes as a functioning, prolific company. Yet something is different. The studio, which now calls itself SMF in Western markets, still supports auteur animation — but it focuses on mass production. And its old anti-establishment spirit has begun to fade.
Below, we explore Soyuzmultfilm’s transition from zombie studio to profitable business — its causes, its effects and artists’ views about it inside Russia. Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s an especially pressing story to tell.