An open-plan office in the north of Moscow: creative chaos reigns supreme.

There are colorful beanbags around, a guitar and a balancing board, self-painted pictures and fairy lights hang on the walls.

There is nothing to indicate that one of Russia's greatest export successes is being created at these desks in an inconspicuous two-story building: the computer-animated television series “Masha and the Bear” has been produced here by the private studio Animaccord for years.

Katharina Wagner

Business correspondent for Russia and the CIS based in Moscow.

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Only director Alexander Goncharov is sitting behind two screens in the office that day.

It was full here before the pandemic, he says regretfully.

Since last spring, almost all of the more than 100 scriptwriters, animation designers and technicians working on the series have been working from home - in Russia, the corona situation has never been properly brought under control after a lockdown in the spring of last year.

Goncharov also only came to the studio for the interview.

He's working on new episodes, putting the scenes that the animation designers sent him into the correct order: Mascha is currently fighting with a fire extinguisher that accidentally goes off.

Four billion YouTube views

The structure of the almost 7-minute long episodes is almost always the same: Mascha visits her friend, a cozy, former circus bear, in his house in the forest, organizes all sorts of nonsense without malicious intent and brings him to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the most successful episode, "Das Mascha-Speziale", which made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the most watched cartoon on YouTube in 2019 and has been viewed more than 4 billion times to date, the bear wants to calmly practice his skills in checkers to enhance. Meanwhile, Mascha cooks pink porridge - so much that she first fills all the vessels that can be found with it, then feeds the animals of the forest until their bellies expand like balloons, and finally the saucepan explodes.

In the “clown couple” of child and animal, the relationships between parents and children could be portrayed much better than between a child and an adult, says the series producer, Dmitrij Lowejko, in an interview with the FAZ Recognize bears, the children in Mascha, who are “hyperactive and self-centered”, a “normal child with good and bad qualities”.

Lowejko sees this basic constellation as one of the reasons for the worldwide success of the series, which has been translated into 43 languages ​​and regularly ranks first in the ratings of the most popular children's television programs alongside “Peppa Pig” and “Paw Patrol”. But also the detailed 3-D technology, which makes the bear's fur look cuddly soft and the samovar shine golden, and the musicality, which is based on the tradition of Soviet cartoons, play a role, according to Lowejko.

That the series is also successful in Russia is in some ways surprising.

Because the wild, cheeky and cheeky Masha, who doesn't listen to the bear, gets dirty and puts herself in danger, is far from the ideal of the good, conformist child, as it is in large parts of Russian society and especially for girls applies before.

Attempts to interpret ideas of equality or feminism into the series, however, Lowejko rejects: It is about political rights, and one has nothing to do with politics.

The studio is independent and has never received “a cent of government support”.

Earned $ 317 million in merchandise

Animaccord responded similarly to an absurd debate in 2018 when an article in the British newspaper The Times accused the series of being part of Russian propaganda.

A political scientist was quoted who described Masha as "Putinese": Like the Russian President, she boxed constantly above her fighting weight.

Back then, the Kremlin liked to take advantage of the drop off, claiming that the British press was concerned because the bear was so sweet and could make British children no longer hate Russia.

Keywords: alexander goncharov, export successes, production, series, russian, dmitrij lowejko, bear, cartoon series, cartoon, masha and the bear, world, episode, mascha, fire extinguisher, one