Russian toons go global

They're round, colourful, and completely non-violent – and they are becoming a global success. The Russian cartoon ‘Smeshariki’ is becoming the cartoon of choice for a new generation of children.

The cartoon series ‘GOGOriki’ was launched in the U.S. last autumn. In Germany, they are known as Kikoriki, but these balls of fun were born Smershariki in Russia in 2003, created in a St Petersburg cartoon studio.

Smeshariki DVDs, books and games are all best sellers for kids in Russia. Amazing, considering the fact that this animation success is merely based on a ball.

At home the round-bellied friends are applauded for their success. They've beat off foreign rivals, and the buzz from inside Russia is now surfing the West.

“The name GOGOriki was the idea of our American partners. They believed it to be energetic, and we wanted to leave the ending ‘riki’ as a reminder of its Russian origins. In the European version all the characters have got English names,” said Vladimir Dmitriyev, CEO of Fun Game Media.

Some things have been lost in translation. For example, an episode called ‘Operation Father Frost’ became ‘Operation Santa Claus’.

The cartoon series’ own motto is fun without violence.

“A world without violence is the philosophy of the cartoon. The characters always find solutions without conflict. Such an approach is in great demand these days, as there are very few products that do not feature violence, plus every episode is also educational,” continued Vladimir Dmitriyev.

In 2007 the cartoon's success snowballed, with a turnover of almost $US 100 million, 80% of which comes from merchandise.

Next on the path to world domination for Smeshariki is a 3D movie and a theme park.