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Hrafn Academy: the Teaser of the First Ukrainian English-language Young Adult Animation Series has debuted at Cartoon Forum 2021 in Toulouse

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• 04.10.2021

Hrafn Academy, the first English-language series by Animagrad Studio (Ukraine) rides the young adult animation trend by offering its audience distinctive dark humor and appealing to critical thinking akin to Rick and Morty and BoJack Horseman.

The first 12 x 22–26’ season of the series, has been in development at Animagrad Studio for a couple of years now. Early on, the Ukrainian studio has partnered with Icelandic GunHil animation studio (part of Sagafilm), boosting the international potential of the project and positioning it for the global market from the get-go. The story about an obsessed scientist and his multi-talented students has a universal appeal while being true to its two homes: Ukraine and Iceland. 

Earlier in September, Hrafn Academy became the only Ukrainian project selected to be presented at the prestigious international animation event Cartoon Forum 2021 (Toulouse, France). And the first teaser is finally out: link.

“Now is the golden age of YA animation,” says Kateryna Vyshnevska, Head of Development and Co-productions at FILM.UA Group (the mother company of Animagrad Studio), “It’s a global trend that can tell wonderful stories and attract top talent. This train is gathering speed—just look at all the global streamers commissioning YA and adult animation out of the US—and we are confident it will soon arrive in Europe.”

Its forthcoming arrival is evident, in particular, thanks to the success of Hrafn Academy at Cartoon Forum 2021. The influential international animation trade media Kidscreen singled out Hrafn Academy in its coverage of Cartoon Forum 2021. The series engages with the covetable YA audience and stands out from the crowd thanks to its distinct visual style (developed by a young Ukrainian illustrator Myroslava Shevchenko). The event with over thirty years of history annually brings together leading international players and has already given a powerful start to another Ukrainian animation project with international appeal: the pre-school series Brave Bunnies produced by Glowberry (part of FILM.UA Group). Brave Bunnies was also developed with the international market in mind, and first found success in Europe, before being sold back to Ukraine.

For Hrafn Academy, Cartoon Forum became the second prestigious international selection. This July, the series was also presented at the Série Series (Fontainebleau, France), a festival focused on European TV series, where it became the only Ukrainian project in the selection.

An experienced team is working on Hrafn Academy: director Yevheniy Yermak, producers Iryna Kostyuk and Kateryna Vyshnevska, creator and screenwriter Andriy Zlanich, and, of course, animation talents from the Animagrad Studio. The soundtrack was created by Yevhen Volodchenko, a member of the Ukrainian hip-hop band Kurgan & Agregat.

The plot of the series revolves around the outstanding Icelandic biochemist Hrafn Sigurdsson who is terminally ill. As time is running out, his only chance to survive is to discover the cure on his own. The scientist opens an academy for gifted students in Ukraine of all places. Is he looking for talents to pass his knowledge to? Not really. The Academy is a laboratory: Hrafn needs kids with an IQ level to match his own for clinical trials of the experimental treatments he’s developing.

Hrafn Academy is placed firmly in Ukraine: for example, the architectural reference for the animated visualization of the academy building itself was a real boarding house "Tarasova Gora" in Kaniv, built in the 1960s, and Hrafn’s assistant has an unusual name Adalberto Hnatyuk because he is an Argentinian of Ukrainian descent.

Hrafn Academy is full of humor, sometimes quite dark and absurdist, but at the same time it raises important questions: what does it mean to be different? Does knowledge mean anything if it’s not based on the foundation of human values? The series highlights the importance of critical thinking and intelligence in the modern world, where biotechnology, artificial intelligence and space exploration coexist with flat earthers, antivaxxers and fake news. Hrafn Academy ultimately is about making a stand. Each of the characters - as well as each of the viewers - is encouraged to find their own answers to these questions.

Hrafn Academy is in many ways a pioneering project. For Animagrad Studio, which is known for its animated feature films for family audience (i.e. The Stolen Princess: Ruslan and Lyudmila, upcoming projects Mavka. The Forest Song and Roxelana) and kids animation (Eskimo Girl), this is the first venture into an English-language series production and YA and adult animation.

Hrafn Academy is a groundbreaking project for Ukrainian animation in general, with a clear international appeal and a message to deliver. As the demand for adult and YA animation is building, good things are bound to happen to the world of Hrafn Academy. We will keep you posted, but in the meantime, enjoy the teaser!