Meet the creator of Lego based — Baba Yaga and Emelya
— I once saw that producer Alexander Rodnyansky speaks warmly about your Lego works on Instagram. It was unexpected.
— We met while working on the film «The Ninth». At some point, they needed an animator: to explain some plot moves, the creators decided to use comic inserts. And I spent about a month in a very busy mode drawing these pieces for the film.
— Well, that is, Lego is a hobby, and your main occupation is an artist?
— Now I’m doing comics with my friend Vitaly Terletsky. In general, it all started with studying to be an animation director at the St. Petersburg Institute of Film and Television. After him, I worked for some time in the animation field: as an animator, and as a background artist, and did some kind of advertising. Everything in bits. True, I don’t have any big author’s tapes, but perhaps you saw our short cartoon with comrade Anton Korolyuk about pirates who end up on the island of dinosaurs. It was designed as an intro for a non-existent video game, and, ironically, people in the comments began to discuss the game in question.
— Such Tarantino: non-existent advertising of non-existent films.
— Yes! Critics of video games immediately spoke out. Then there was work on the children’s animated series «Seals, go ahead!» — quite a long time drawing a storyboard for them. Or maybe I saw the series “Om Nom Stories” — I also had a little hand in it, did the backgrounds. What about Atomic Forest on 2×2? At the very beginning, I also drew for him.
Did you say storyboard? Sounds like something from the old animation era, when absolutely everything was done by hand.
— No, the storyboard is being done now. This is the planning of editing and plans, conditionally a comic book, by which you can understand the overall timing and duration of each scene. For animation, this is very important: if in a movie you can do 20 takes, then here every second is too expensive. And the animators check each frame in advance. Roughly speaking, the storyboard is the same comic book.
Coincidentally, during my studies, the guys from the Bubble studio invited me to work on a small magazine with humorous comics. It was then that the series began to come out, and I began to draw the first issues of Enoch. I was still studying then, and it is not always easy for me to remember the results of my work.
Well, a completely new stage in my life and work was the moment when I was entrusted with writing scripts and I began to make author’s comics. Not so long ago there was a series of four issues «Unclean Force» about mythical characters like the goblin, the giant and the brownie, who are also musicians at the same time.
— And how do author’s comics feel today?
— They’re coming out. And including Bubble has not only a series about [майора] Thunder, they sometimes release completely new episodes in small runs to understand the response of the audience.
There are comics that go beyond the limits of a narrow crowd, recently Olya Lavrentyeva’s graphic novel «Survilo» made a lot of noise. And Vitaly Terletsky with the comic «Sobakistan» got on [литературную] NOSE Award.
— Is there a publishing house in Russia that translates the best works and publishes them in other countries? So that you or other authors could be recognized there?
— As far as I know, no. Most Russian artists dream of getting their hands dirty and getting noticed in the «big two»: Marvel and DC. Somewhere in social networks, for example through Twitter. At least there are such examples. If you are active and speak English, it is quite possible to reach the right people. Especially if you draw in a popular style.
But again, this is a dream come true for artists who love to draw. I don’t want to limit myself to just that. I’m more interested in making up stories. And author’s stories for Western publications — they have enough of their own.
Let’s move on to Lego. Where does this love for the designer come from?
— I think, like many people whose acquaintance with the designer was in the 90s, she is from childhood. Remember: from toys you have a piece of iron with holes and wooden cubes, but somewhere in the store you see Lego, a tool for endless creativity. Although infinite is a strong word, since parents usually bought tiny sets of a dozen parts. And the “Magical Milky Way Chest” (in the 90s, there was a set of a chocolate bar and a small Lego set in one box. — Note. ed.) if you remember.
When I built everything I could from the available cubes, the designer’s directories came into play. Then my Lego game was more virtual: I dreamed that if I had a pirate ship, I would move the cannon here, and here I would hang an ax, and then I would come up with something else. Well, when I finally started to earn money and buy sets on my own, I poured all the details into one box and then spent hours delving into it, collecting something “out of my head”. The last time I had to sleep on the couch, because the whole bed was littered with the designer — it is convenient to design a model on it.
— At what point did you decide to exhibit your work in Lego Ideas (a service where anyone can place a model from real-life Lego bricks. With some luck, it will be released as an official set. — Note. ed.)?
— To be honest, at first I was rather skeptical about Ideas: it seemed to me that only those who had some indecent amount of constructor posted crafts there. You know, like in commercials with professional assemblers who have whole racks of different parts behind their backs. Obviously, I’ve never had one. But I found out that there is a program [BrickLink Studio] for virtual creativity. It has an endless supply of Lego — just what I dreamed of as a child.
— And how did you come to the topic of Russian folk tales?
— I think I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a very cool illustration of a hut on chicken legs. And I realized that this is exactly what you need to do in Ideas. Because for the world community this is at the same time a close topic, because Baba Yaga, in fact, is just a forest witch, and at the same time she is a character from comics: look through Hellboy or Scooby-Doo.
In addition, I personally would like to collect slightly different Lego series than those that are sold now. More of something original, like the Hidden Side line, rather than licensed sets (like Harry Potter Lego. — Note. ed.).
It’s like comics. Of course, you can be creative on some well-known theme, like cowboys or samurai, and most likely many will like it. But I ask myself the question: why would I talk about cowboys if I don’t live in a similar culture? It would be better and more honest to do something about what I grew up with.
“You didn’t make the same Baba Yaga from memory, did you?” Did you look for references somewhere?
— Not only searched, but also reviewed a bunch of options, who draws it how. Baba Yaga has a hundred different images: she can be a terrible shaggy old woman or a cheerful grandmother. I chose something average, closer to the film «Morozko» and Soviet movie fairy tales.
— Several times I saw how people under your work asked where such a constructor can be bought. Maybe you should release them in your own line?
— Some business people wrote to me that they are ready to help organize the printing of such a designer. But ideologically, I do not like Chinese counterparts, they are of the wrong quality, the wrong colors. Yes, and this is just intellectual theft.
And then my models had a visual part, but not an engineering one. I’m not sure if they will be stable or just won’t crumble. To release them as sets, they need to be finalized.
— You also had a kit with a paddy wagon. And here the idea seems to be understandable, but as if too obvious: there is a protest, let’s assemble it from Lego.
— I did not plan to stop at one paddy wagon — the goal was to make a series of sets. The official Lego City sets are super fun and cartoonish, and even the villains look like the Gavs brothers in striped suits. But I liked the idea of City in Russian realities: panels, not the most joyful cars, shops with empty bottles. The first in the series was a skating rink that lays asphalt in winter, and the second was just a paddy wagon, because at that moment rallies began again.
Rather, I wanted to show everyday phenomena that are understandable to us, part of modern Russia. Of course, when I posted these photos, they were taken as a political statement. And they wrote me a bunch of negative comments, although, frankly, I did not want this effect.
— Will you continue it? Or is he busy with something else now?
– Now I am developing the Oleg series in a rather free style “What would happen if Lego was invented in Russia”, that is, I make sets based on the motive of Russian culture, without being tied to a specific topic. I will make fan art for films and continue the theme of fairy tales. That is, I do not calculate any strategies in advance, it all depends on my mood.
Anton KorolyukAlexander RodnyanskyHarry Potter
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