The team of MAVKA. THE FOREST SONG animated film and Kateryna Kukhar unveil secrets of creative collab

• 11.03.2021

Animagrad studio (FILM.UA Group) presented the MAVKA. THE FOREST SONG (2022) animated backstage video with the prima ballerina of the National Opera and People's Artist of Ukraine Kateryna Kukhar. She shared her plastics with the main character Mavka. The presented working material made a basis for a sequence in the new teaser trailer where the female lead comes to rescue a herd of Red Book bison. Plus, the video shows exclusive shots of the film’s storyboard.

Kateryna Kukhar plays Mavka in the classic ballet performance of The Forest Song in the National Opera of Ukraine so she knows well the forest nymph character. On the set, the ballerina reproduced Mavka’s movements and emotions following the script, then the project animators re-constructed them in a 3D model of the lead character. This is the first case in the history of Ukrainian animation when a professional ballet dancer took part in the animated film character efforts.

“All actions and emotions of animated characters are initially performed by actors. In professional language, such shots are called video references. Animators use them to make animated characters look natural and effortless on the screen even in the smallest detail. We are still working on Mavka movie but we are ready to demonstrate unique techniques used by our team,” said Andrii Militskyi, head of Animagrad studio production.

Kateryna Kukhar shared her plastics, ballet tenue, facial expressions and gestures. While shooting video references, she not only demonstrated ballet steps but also performed simple acrobatic stunts. One may see the outcome in the animated film’s new teaser trailer presented by Animagrad studio on 25 February 2021 dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Lesya Ukrainka.

“I was happy to hear that FILM.UA would shoot an animated film about my favorite character Mavka of The Forest Song. I adore the fantasy drama by Lesya Ukrainka, this is the diamond of our national code. On the set of video references, I had to combine three images. The first one is a disembodied, ballet Mavka with special grace because the soul of the forest is something intangible that can only be imagined in fantasies. The second on is Mavka is more alive – I had to share my human nature with her. The third one is Mavka for cinema, I had to share with her facial expressions, gestures. In ballet performances the emotions are usually exaggerated so that the audience on the third tier could see them, and when the camera is

very close you need to find a fine line between a pronounced emotion and naturalness,” said Kateryna Kukhar. The start of partnership of Animagrad and Kateryna Kukhar was announced at the international festival Ballet Open Space 2019. The collaboration is not limited only to the preparation of video references for the image of the film’s main character. Along with the famous anchorwomen Masha Yefrosinina and Kateryna Osadcha, the prima ballerina also starred in a social art video for the promo campaign for the Mavka’s Charm pendant. Part of the proceeds from the sale of jewellery is donated to the fund of the Let’s Save the Lynx!, a joint charity campaign of the project team and WWF-Ukraine.

There is a plan for a deeper creative integration of Kateryna Kukhar into the Mavka's Universe and the ballerina's involvement in the promo campaign of the animated film with the scheduled premiere in 2022.