'Masha and the Bear' Rises to the Top

The preschool property continues to lay the foundation for success with new consumer products and the introduction of live shows and events.

Animaccord Studio's preschool property "Masha and the Bear" is entering its 10th year with a number of partnerships and distribution deals that have cemented the series' reputation as a global powerhouse. As a result of an informed media strategy, the animated series has established a strong global presence that has opened the door for a host of licensed consumer products and live events.

First released in 2009, "Masha and the Bear" found its audience through YouTube. To date, the series boasts more than 30 billion views worldwide, and the episode "Recipe for Disaster" was ranked No. 7 on the top 10 most watched YouTube videos of all time, according to YouTube statistics.

"Because of the international success of 'Masha and the Bear,' Animaccord decided to release local cartoon channels," says Dmitry Loveyko, general director, Animaccord. "Now the platform hosts 13 official 'Masha and the Bear' YouTube channels in English, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Hebrew and Chinese languages."

The series' success online and on television led to a number of distribution deals around the world.

In 2017, Animaccord, in collaboration with The Ink Group, signed a deal that brought the show's first and second seasons to Clan TV in Spain. Viacom18 Media, one of India's fastest growing entertainment networks, introduced the first and second season of "Masha and the Bear," as well as the spin-offs "Masha's Spooky Stories" and "Masha's Tales," to the territory last May.

The potential for the show further led Animaccord to partner with Nick Jr. to release the first season on its network in November 2017. In Canada, Treehouse released the series' third season in November, while Turner Broadcasting System signed a deal for the show's third season to launch on Cartoon Network Latin America. Rai Yo-Yo also picked up the property's third season in Italy.

This year, Animaccord, in partnership with The Ink Group, has inked deals with Universal Kids and Tiny Pop to bring "Masha and the Bear" to free TV channels in the U.S. and U.K., respectively.

"Oleg Kuzovkov created a new, unique and amusing duo of a child and adult," says Loveyko, who also credited the show's success to its hyperreal CGI animation and popular music. "The content contains minimum dialogue, where only Masha speaks–like 'Tom and Jerry'–which is understandable for every age category and language.

"The songs that are used in the cartoon gain almost the same popularity as the series itself," continues Loveyko. "Today, kids sing the songs from 'Masha and the Bear' everywhere–in kindergartens, primary schools, children's musical groups, etc., and we can say that some of the separate videos from the series with the songs have gained more than 100 million views each."

The brand's robust media presence has created a large demand for licensed consumer products, says Animaccord. As of today, Animaccord boasts a portfolio that includes partners like Spin Master, Ferrero, Danone, Simba Dickie Group, Ravensburger, Egmont, Little Brown and Company and more.

A variety of new products are expected to hit the market this year including an exclusive collection of licensed Kinder Surprise Maxi Eggs by Ferrero in Europe and Kinder Surprise Eggs in Mexico, Central America, Europe and CIS.

"The [brand's] spin-off properties are also universal and suitable for the various product categories," says Anastasia Anisimova, product development manager, Animaccord. "There will be books of different formats such as activity books, exercise books, colorings and more. I believe we can expect educational games and toys in the spin-off designs, as well."

According to Vladimir Valiev, deputy head of licensing, Animaccord, the company "made and defined a particular focus on partnerships with leading (national) free TV channels" while designing the brand's licensing strategy. Through this strategy, the company has been able to distribute its content to a larger audience, evaluate the brand's performance and consumer tendencies through market research, collaborate with global players for consumer products and secure distribution channels with top retailers. The company has also been able to support brand loyalty by managing multiple business-to-consumer activities with costumed characters and the like.

In Mexico, Walmart arranged a retail promotion with branded "Masha" displays in 250 stores; while in France, toy store JouéClub hosted a series of meet-and-greet events with giveaways and a chance to win tickets to Los Production's "Masha and the Bear Live" show. In the U.K., The Entertainer created a branded window display in more than 70 stores, which was further supported with brand displays, meet-and-greet events, costumed characters and a competition with prizes. And in Germany, Muller ran a summer campaign that included meet-and-greets and giveaways at 30 select stores. Toys 'R' Us Germany also launched a promotional campaign last fall that saw meet-and-greets, costumed characters, sweepstakes with giveaways and point-of-sale displays in 10 stores. The country's largest online store, Mytoys.de, also launched the official "Masha and the Bear" shop-in-shop in December.

In 2017, the animated program took a step outside of its traditional format in the form of live shows and live events that further developed the series' storylines and introduced new characters and branding opportunities. Last summer, Exim Entertainment brought the live show "Rescue at the Circus!" to Latin America, where it will be performed through 2019. Tycoon Guru also debuted the "Masha and the Bear" live show to audiences in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in July. In the EMEA region, Los Production opened the holiday season with a live show that ranked No. 2 at the box office, behind Disney's "Ice Show," and in Italy, EMA Eventi brought a live show based on the spin-off series "Masha's Tales" to the territory.

"Masha and the Bear's" aggressive licensing, marketing, distribution and event campaigns have positioned the property for success in North America. New to the region, Animaccord currently has a distribution deal with Netflix and Universal Kids, and hopes to bring its live events to national stages within the year.

"I believe that the American audience is specific because people in the U.S. are given the whole and diverse world of both locally produced American animation as well as international ones," says Loveyko. "However, we can also take a great advantage of that. I have previously mentioned that 'Masha and the Bear' is a universal show–it is not tied to a local topic. On the contrary, it reflects the basic repeatable situations that are the same for all nations."

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