Ukraine’s first full-length 3D animation, Mykyta Kozhumiaka, which has been translated to English as Nicky Tanner and The Dragon Spell, is getting a warm reception abroad. The cartoon successfully premiered at home and is now being screened internationally, with the first countries being Poland and Türkiye.
They are two out of 60 countries where the 3D cartoon is planned to be shown. Over the first weekend, over 70,000 viewers watched the film and the box offices sales amounted to $273,000.
To compare, in Ukraine, where the film premiered in October 2016, the box office sales for the first weekend were $184,000 and rose to $441,000 over the whole rental period, and over 200,000 local viewers watched the cartoon in theaters.
Still, the box office sales are a far fetch from the $4.26 mn of the movie’s total budget. But if sales in the remaining 58 countries go as well as in Türkiye and Poland, the film’s creators have the chance to actually make money with the film – a big change for Ukraine’s once-glorious animation legacy gone awry after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Now, the film industry is showing the first green shoots of recovery. New animation studios are part of the success. The Dragon Spell is the first project of the Panama Grand Prix Animation Studio, which was founded in Kyiv in 2011 with an ambitious goal to create three-dimensional animation films.
Animagrad, another animation studio, has some more promising cartoons in the making. The studio appeared in 2012 thanks to investments of the FILM.UA company and set to work right away, producing many new animated movies viewed in Ukraine. It employs 2D and 3D animators, most of whom are self-taught, as there is no specialized education in these advanced types of animation in Ukraine. At the same time, the studio’s managers value Ukraine’s traditional animation heritage which is well known and loved in ex-USSR countries, hoping that a fusion of old and new will occur at the new creative hotspot.
The Dragon Spell is based on the stories of Ukrainian writer Anton Siyanika and tells about a small boy who must embark on a fantastic quest to save both the world of humans and the world of magic from a witch possessed by a dragon’s ghost. Together with Eddie, the wanna-be wizard, and Rocky, the feral wild child, he’ll have to prove what it takes to be a real hero. The animation has its own facebook page.
However, the prototype of the fim, “Nicky the Tanner,” has been around much longer than Siyanika’s stories. He goes back to the folklore of the Kyivan Rus, and the oldest prototype of the story can be found in the Laurentian Chronicle. In some sources he is called Kyrylo the Tanner, Nikita (Mykyta) the Tanner (Kozhumiaka), or Elijah the Tailor.
Slavorum.org writes (Ukrainian transliteration is ours):
The fairly tale of Mykyta tells that a dragon Zmiy Horynych used to take beautiful girls prisoners. One day he even kidnapped the daughter of the Kyivan tsar (kniaz). To find out the dragon’s weakness, the woman pretended to love him, so Horynych told her there’s only one person in the world that is stronger than he: a tanner from Kyiv, Mykyta. The princess told these news to her pigeon, who alerted her father, the tsar. The tsar decided to go meet Mykyta in person, and went down to the leather tanner’s house. It took the tsar a while to persuade Mykyta into fighting. Mykyta refused the wealth and power that the tsar offered him, but agreed after the tsar got hundreds of children in front of him and they begged him to save them, because they would be eaten by Horynych in a few years too.
Mykyta then went to Horynych’s lair, and, after a long earth-shattering fight, had him heavily beaten with his heavy wooden club. Frightened, the dragon offered Mykyta to become allies and rule the world together. Mykyta demanded that they plow the border of their halves of the world, then used the dragon instead of a plowing horse. After they plowed the furrow across the whole world, Nikita demanded that they plow further to divide the sea as well. The foolish Horynych obeyed and drowned in the ocean.
Here is the Kyrylo the Tanner from Kyivan Rus fables: