Why Russian Prosecutors Questioned an Animation Studio's Deal With Danone

Prostokvashino - Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Soyuzmultfilm

Soyuzmultfilm previously agreed with the global food giant on the use of its character on dairy products.

Iconic Russian cartoon studio Soyuzmultfilm has come under fire this week over a $8.5 million (500 million rubles) licensing and production deal with global food giant Danone, which Russian government prosecutors argue is illegal.

The deal would have needed approval by the government as the studio is controlled by the state, the general prosecutor's office said.

The deal between Soyuzmultfilm and Danone, struck earlier this year, ended long-running litigation between the cartoon studio and the food giant over the use of three characters from the popular 1970s cartoon Troe iz Prostokvashino (Three from Prostokvashino) on dairy products produced by Russian factories owned by Danone.

Apart from an out-of-court settlement, the two parties signed a licensing agreement for the use of the characters and a production agreement, under which Danone was to fund new episodes in a series sequel to the cartoon.

Soyuzmultfilm chair Yuliana Slashcheva was quoted by the RBC news agency as saying that the government had no business getting involved in the Danone agreement as no state money was involved. "Someone is just rocking the boat," she added.

The prosecutors are supposed to clear they stand now.

But regardless of what they say, the Danone contract cannot go ahead at the moment. Another threat to it recently came from author Eduard Uspensky, the original creator of the characters. He sent to Soyuzmultfilm, Danone and the culture ministry letters in which he said he prohibited the use of the characters in the new series.

Soyuzmultfilm tried to settle the matter with him and offered $84,700 (5 million rubles) for the right to use the characters, but he turned it down, saying the fee was too low.