Everyday arts & poetry magazine

Meet the Uncensored Creativity: 1A4 Studio

Vadim Nekrasov, composer-in-chief at 1A4 Studio

Vadim Nekrasov, composer-in-chief at 1A4 Studio. Picture credit 1A4 Studio

In the world flooding with information, a talent for telling things shortly and to the point is alone a virtue. Add to this a daring fuck-the-system attitude plus a superb sense of humour, and you get a perfect Portrait of the Animators as Young Men. Their payoff might sound to you quite straight-forward (“Phckn awesome animation until death do us apart”) but it leaves no doubts: there’s a true commitment behind it. Calling themselves 1A4 Studio when dealing with the Western audience, and 420 when back at home, in Russia, these young creatives keep their real faces anonymous:

“It’s because we’re really into blaming religion and authorities, we could never predict which another stupid law will be applied here in Russia, so we’d better hide before shit happens”,

told us Vassily Chagin, 1A4 Studio executive producer, when we caught up with him for a chat about inspiration, “mythological mythology”, and the spread of animation virus…

Vassily Chagin, 1A4 Studio executive producer - Bastart Web Magazine

Vassily Chagin, executive producer at 1A4 Studio. Picture credit 1A4 Studio

P.S. After the interview, Vassily revealed us he has already given 5 of this kind, for foreign press, though none of them ever were published: “There’s a tradition abroad of not publishing our interviews…”

Bastart is happy to break the “spell”. :)


Vassily, tell us about the origins of 1A4 Studio.

Our team has been built 5 years ago around one talented animator, known as Fill. Today we have plenty of animators, less famous still, but we are working under it. We are Russians, though some of us are Jews, Ukrainians, even Brits. We are in our 30s-40s, except the Youth Animation Division that is populated by 20-year-old girls.

Fill, scriptwriter, animator at 1A4 Studio - Bastart Web Magazine

Fill, scriptwriter and animator at 1A4 Studio. Picture credit 1A4 Studio

“Sometimes we hire people from all over the world, we don’t care if they are Americans or Spanish, or Chinese. Every talented person is welcome.”

Our main feature is total home-based activity. Since we do not have any centralized office facility, each member team is located in his homeland area. Fill lives in Ukraine, Sound Department is located in Moscow suburbs, supervising producers are from Moscow city, Commercial Script Division and our main Russian-speaking actors’ team are from Saint Petersburg. There’s even a small mobile animation group roaming somewhere between Thailand and India.

To watch the film in Russian click here

Your Speedrun shorts are made for sheer fun or have a specific purpose?

We have friends at the beverage distributor, Pernod Ricard Rouss, and they asked us to support their 2013 Jameson Movie in 60 seconds campaign. We did a deal for 3 episodes, but that was it. We loved the idea of condensed movie so we decided to continue the series.

How do you select the films to “reanimate” in your style? Your main criteria?

Since most of us were born in the USSR, we were introduced to Hollywood films in 1985 or later, once the VHS tapes started spreading all over the world, including Russia. Back in 1985, a single VHS recorder could be traded for a whole car (a Soviet one, of course) or an apartment. Thanks to Perestroika then, people started screening movies in a sort of small personal movie theatre (they’d sell tickets and stuff). Eventually the whole country started to learn the Hollywood classics, as well as the 1980s hits. So that’s where our film list comes from – right from our Soviet childhood.

To watch the film in Russian click here

Apart from the Speedrun episodes, you’ve also created bunch of films from a series entitled Animirus. What’s in the name?

The Speedrun film scripts are mainly done by Vadim Nekrasov (who also does all the voicing there), and sometimes by Vassily.

Animirus scripts are written completely by Fill.

In Russian it reads, literally, Mythological Mythology (“Мифологическая Мифология”), and refers to ancient primitive languages based on strengthening by repetition (like the modern universal Indonesian Islands language).

In the English version, “Animirus” stands for Animated Virus from RussiaHowever, it looks somewhat a Greek word, so it refers to the original, mythological, name as well.

To watch the film in Russian click here

Do you participate to film festivals? Any awards, recognitions so far?

Yes, we do. Mostly, to Russians independent animation fests. Yes, we have couple of rewards, but usually we don’t even bother to come along to take them and hang them on the walls, as we don’t give a shit. Me personally – I remember I was giving permissions for demonstration purposes to Latvia, Japan, Korea, Great Britain and France, but we don’t care if we even have won something.

A list of things you call inspiration?

Booze, weed, pretty girls, famous standupers, and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. Basically, a regular set of inspiring things common for everyone on the planet.

One last curiosity. How comes that your name in Russia, “420”, becomes “1A4 Studio” abroad?

When we decided to cheer the Western audience, our partners Mondo Media strictly recommended us to remove “420” from the brand name: by a strange coincidence 420 number in the US directly refers to Marijuana subculture. In our case, it was only the date when the studio was founded – April, 20th (2008). Why we decided to get together exactly at 4/20 night – that’s another interesting question which leaves much space for imagination…

So we said like: “Oh you don’t love 420 number? Alright, let’s call this shit 1A4 Studio”. “What’s 1A4?” “Hexidecimal 420”. “Oh that’s pretty clever”, they replied, so here we are – in Russia TO “420” and in the rest of the world, 1A4 Studio. I guess that’s a case of international rebranding, like US-famous toothpaste Crest known here in Russia as Blend-a-med, just to avoid associations with “крест” which means “cross” and mainly refers to a Jesus’ Cross. Nothing personal, just business.

Should you send the world a message of five words, what would it be?

Do not drink and drive.

For more films from the Animirus series as well as Speedrun masterpieces, please check out the 1A4 Studio channel on Youtube
Words and interview by Jurga

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