The rising producer-driven outfit and animation studio Krutart takes an agile approach to audiovisual storytelling. Focusing on adventurous edutainment with an eye to niche-to-global scaling, the studio has managed to transcend the conventional borders of audiovisual production.
by Martin Kudláč for Czech Film Center, magazine CZECH FILM / Spring 2021
Changing industry norms and emerging standards are prompting producers to adopt more agile operational models to help them deliver diversified multiplatform content. Few European production companies have done so better than the young Czech studio Krutart. Remarkable flexibility has helped the company meet dynamic industry requirements and varied audience demands while propelling it into new markets.
Krutart was born in 2014 and cut its teeth largely in the business of television commercials. In its early years, the company made three side projects that laid the foundations for its strategic shift from live-action production outfit to animation studio in 2017. Ever since that turning point, Krutart has been steadily building its reputation in the animation industry while embracing innovative working models.
The early Krutart carried out three independent creative projects: Going Steady (2015), Škarohlídovi (2016), and The Russian Job (2017), a package that would foreshadow the company’s new vision and future projects. Going Steady, a double bill of two short films on the same topic, written and directed by Klára Sodomková and Martin Jůza respectively, spearheaded the company’s interest in alternative site-specific distribution. The film was released in a variety of small venues around the Czech Republic, providing for a more direct connection with the audience.
Sodomková (now Jůzová), Jůza, and Filip Veselý, their friend and the editor of Going Steady, founded Krutart together and remain at the center of operations, with Jůzová engaged in project development, Veselý occupying the role of art director, and Jůza handling producer’s duties.
The short-lived satirical webseries Škarohlídovi (“grouches”), a Czech response to South Park, was the beginning of Krutart’s venture into animation. But it was The Russian Job that sealed the company’s transformation.
Directed by Petr Horký, the feature-length documentary The Russian Job follows a Swedish crisis manager tasked with reviving one of Russia’s biggest companies, the auto manufacturer Lada. This deadpan docusatire about the clash between the global capitalist economy and a post-Soviet factory vigorously traveled the festival circuit, netted a few prizes, and sold to TV stations as far away as the Middle East and Japan, while enjoying theatrical release in Spain and academic distribution in the U.S.
“The Russian Job was a big experiment that turned into a big triumph,” remembers Jůza, who was learning the ropes of film producing on the fly. The documentary has been the company’s largest international project to date and has opened doors to the world stage.
New Krutart order
On the heels of The Russian Job’s success, Krutart decided to pursue animation production full-time. In its second incarnation as an animation studio, the company rapidly grew its projects, all rendered in a wide variety of colorful and imaginative styles in 2D, 3D, hand-drawn, and digital animation.
Cofounder Martin Jůza, a director by vocation, immersed himself fully in the role of producer. Yet he still harbors directorial aspirations. His feature-length debut, the live-action coming-of-age film The Loved One, is currently on the back burner as the team invests most of their resources and enthusiasm in animation projects. Jůza explains that he enjoys the entrepreneurial aspect of film production and loves to find new ways to turn a subject he’s passionate about into a vital and sustainable project.
Krutart has embodied animation both artistically and strategically, connecting to a strong tradition and legacy of Czech animated works with worldwide renown. More importantly, Jůza is convinced that Czech animation has ample potential on the global market. Recent achievements of domestic animated works on the international stage and rising talents have proven his producer’s instinct and vision. Even the grandson of the Czech surrealist and animation maestro Jan Švankmajer has been among Krutart’s ranks since the company’s beginning.
As Krutart has converted to making animation its core business, the studio has built two verticals form the majority of its projects: education and entertainment. The redrawing of the business plan saw television commercials replaced by interactive audiovisual experiences for art and educational institutions. Interactive installations and site-specific narratives have turned out to be Krutart’s bread and butter. Both enlightening and delighting visitors to museums and galleries with classic and digital animation, site-specific narratives follow the latest trends in motion design as bite-sized pieces of audiovisual storytelling.
Looking ahead to new markets
The crossing of education and entertainment has opened new markets for Krutart. Animated edutainment brought the company into children’s programming, a comparatively underdeveloped corner of the domestic audiovisual industry.
Their first breakthrough project turned out to be the 26-episode series Kosmix (2020), developed for the offshoot of the national public broadcaster specializing in children’s content. The series follows a maintenance robot named Kit and his sidekick, Mr. Battery, as they roam the universe, learning how space works through their adventures.
Written and directed by Klára Jůzová and Vojtěch Dudek for children ages 4 to 8, the first season of Kosmix enjoyed great success and cemented Krutart’s strategic decision. Emmy-winning French company Dandelooo picked up exclusive worldwide distribution rights for the series. What’s more, the second season has already been greenlit and the project has received funding for a stand-alone feature film spin-off expected in 2023.
Kosmix is the perfect project to show off Krutart’s innovative approach and operation model. As a producer-driven outlet, Krutart made the decision to develop a portion of upcoming projects as high-concept IPs in the niche of adventurous animated edutainment.
The new works thus have to be universally understandable, adaptable, and replicable, and must be built as packages with inherent transmedia and multiplatform potential. Kosmix has been turned into a videogame already, and the series release was accompanied by a proliferation of open-source and interactive content across various channels, including social media.
The next large high-concept IP in Krutart’s pipeline is Dinofables (2022). Following the concept devised for Kosmix, the series will reimagine Aesop’s and La Fontaine’s fables with prehistoric reptiles as protagonists. The Serbian and Romanian production companies To Blink Animation and Domestic Film have already joined the project, which was pitched at Cinekid Junior Co-Production Market in 2020. The project generated lots of initial buzz at the market, drawing the attention of international sales agents and potential U.S. partners for VoD release. The Dinofables package so far entails a television series, a featurelength film, and a fulldome short film.
Another ambitious project in the works comes from the mind of Kosmix creator Vojtěch Dudek, the epic adventure series Mathias and the Magical Key (2023/2024). The series will see the eponymous boy live through milestone historic battles in his town. It’s currently in the development stage and will be designed for audiences aged 7 to 11, a push for a slightly different segment compared to Kosmix and Dinofables.
Thanks to Krutart’s novel and agile approach developing cross-platform animated content, the three animated edutainment projects together form the backbone of the company’s niche-toglobal expansion.
Perpetual exploration and innovation
Krutart’s production of audiovisual storytelling tailored to site-specific and multiplatform distribution doesn’t end on the walls of museums and galleries. The company is currently trailblazing audiovisual creation in another alternative space: domestic and foreign planetariums.
The team of animators is working on their first CGI fulldome film, 3–2–1 Start! (2021) directed by Martin Živocký and Filip Veselý, in the 180° format, and the film is being tested through VR technology. A cross-over between science and adventure, 3–2–1 Start! follows the unlikely duo of a science hamster named Elon and a lost space robot on a mission to colonize Mars.
Meanwhile the codirector of 3–2–1 Start! Martin Živocký, is also preparing his auteur project Colours (2022), a short, animated, metaphorical thought piece about the human psyche, to be produced under Krutart’s banner. And Jůza has been on the lookout for the next big talent in animation ever since. He is scouting emerging domestic animators with intention of enlarging Krutart´s pool of collaborators.
He has already discussed a potential animated series for mature viewers with rising talent Dávid Štumpf, half of the creative team behind the internationally successful animated short Sh_t Happens (2019), which joined the Oscars race in the category of Best Short Animation, and is among the top 12 short animation shorts at the César Awards in France.
However, Krutart has not forgotten the direction pioneered by The Russian Job, and is already working on the projects One More Question (2022) and Boxer (2023) to follow in that film’s footsteps. The auteur feature-length docupic One More Question, a minority coproduction with Slovakia and the United Kingdom directed by Mira Erdevički, centers on Eastern European Roma immigrants integrating into British society and their future after the UK’s divorce from the European Union is finalized. And in the time-lapse auteur feature documentary Boxer, Karolína Peroutková follows the growing up and coming-of-age of a local misfit and bully.
Despite its clearly set business plan and ambitions, Krutart embraces an agile approach that welcomes new ventures and challenges. The intersection of animation and transmedia have opened the door to the gaming industry. The team have already designed an interactive audiovisual experience, in which the user plays the role of a politician and statesman, and collaborated on Proof 111, an interactive novel played with eyes closed, the first Czech audiogame. Krutart cofounder and producer Jůza, looking to the future as always, sees the microsegment of gaming and interactive novels as a burgeoning market and one of the next horizons where the company might soon expand.
The Magazine CZECH FILM / Spring 2021 can be found online under the following link: https://www.calameo.com/read/0063064878d6aacf79be2