How many people work on The Golden Apple?

28 people from 6 different countries are involved with the project. However, since we don’t have the funding to have the whole team work full time, most of the time our writers, designers and animators are working for other studios and projects. They join only for specific tasks or for a specific period of time, like it was during the production of the film Legend of the First Kuker Warrior. Currently, only two people work full time for the project, and their daily tasks revolve around developing Studio Zmei and looking for ways for the series to be funded.

How were the donations from the 2015 Kickstarter campaign used?

Thanks to all the incredible people that supported us via Kickstarter, we managed to gather almost 50 000 BGN. Some of this covered taxes and fees on the actual transfer of the money to Bulgaria. Just as promised, the sum was invested in the production of the Legend of the First Kuker Warrior short film and additional development for the pre-production of the pilot episode and The Golden Apple series.
We were also able to present the project at one of the largest media markets – Cartoon Forum, thanks to which we are in negotiations with international distributors. They are showing interest and after a successful production of a quality pilot episode, they will be able to commit to the production and distribution of a whole season.
After the success of the short film Legend of the First Kuker Warrior, we also created an illustrated story book, an activity book and a drawing book. In April 2017, the illustrated book Legend of the First Kuker Warrior received an award for children’s books – “Biserche valshebno”.
The support that we received allowed us to continue working and popularising Bulgarian folklore in a modern and interesting way. The project’s lead animator Stanislav Tsvetkov has returned to Bulgaria and with his help we started Zmei Academy, where, from May 2017, we are training animators for future similar projects.

What is the income from the E-Shop used for?

The E-Shop helps the project exist while all the various funding applications and negotiations are happening – this helps us to invest time in keeping people interested in the project, working on some designs and story development, as well as gathering an audience, which would help us prove that The Golden Apple is a worthwhile investment. We use this time and resources to look for funding options for the whole project, and to develop the potential of Studio Zmei.

Why is all this constant talk about a pilot episode? What makes it so important?

Investing in a whole animated series is a huge commitment and big companies want to first see what is the level of quality the team can deliver. This is what the pilot episode is about – it demonstrates whether the team is capable of producing such a massive body of work with good quality, so the potential partners can decide whether they can trust them and invest in the production or distribution of a whole season. Since there has not been a commercial animated series with a similar theme and stylistic made in Bulgaria, it is absolutely necessary that we have a pilot episode before we can continue negotiations.

How much time and resources would it take to create the pilot episode?

At the different stages of this production, there will be between 45 and 60 people involved – writers, designers, animators, technical assistants, coordinators, voice over actors, composers, musicians. The production of these 24 screen minutes will take about 8 months.

Why does it take so much time and resources to create an animated series?

The largest expense when creating animated films is human labour. Every minute of animation has 60 seconds, every second – 25 different frames. This means that for every minute of screen time, 1500 drawings need to be made, where characters and background designs are developed separately.
Before all of this, we need to create a whole new world: We need to figure out what the trees, towns, characters, clouds will look like, how they will move, how they will speak. After that, the ideas need to be cleaned up, then rough drawings and final designs need to be made. Only then can the scenes be animated, special effects added and the animation finalised.
All of this needs to be planned and coordinated by producers, assistants, writers, art directors, storyboard artists – to make sure the whole team is working on the same designs and is following the same idea. So behind every minute of animation on screen, there are thousands of drawings and hours of work. Of course, in this process, software helps us a lot and makes it easier to automate a big part of the tasks, but there is no way for it to do all the initial and intermediate development of the elements.
For example, just to figure out what Vulkan Zmei will look like, it took about 30 pages of drawings, with each page containing at least 6-7 variations. After this we need to decide how he will move, speak, laugh, run, etc., which means more drawings and animation tests.

When will there be a whole season?

We are still looking for the funding to create a whole, pilot episode. This will help us keep the creative control over the series here and develop Studio Zmei. After we make the initial pilot, and if we secure funding for a whole season, the production will take between 1,5 and 2 years.
We have had offers to sell the rights to the series to a foreign studio and The Golden Apple to be made outside of Bulgaria, but with a limited involvement in decision making about the story, the design and the general style of the project. We do not want to sell our idea – we want to make it here, in Bulgaria. Our wish is to create the opportunity for Bulgarian writers, designers and animators to work in their own country. Our goal is for The Golden Apple to be the first project from a whole group of similar products which will present and popularise the positive aspects of our culture.

Which television channel will broadcast the series?

The Bulgarian National Televison has committed to be our co-producer for the pilot episode, so after its successful completion, the episode will be broadcast there. We also have a separate contract with an international distributor, so most probably the pilot will be available outside of Bulgaria, too.

How many seasons are you planning to produce, how many episodes will there be and how long will they be?

We are planning to produce at least two seasons of 12 episodes, each with a duration of 24 minutes.

What language will the series be in? Will there be more than one language version?

Right from the beginning, from the very first notes about The Golden Apple, the idea has always been that the project should be made to appeal not only to Bulgarian, but also to international audiences. We are developing the series both in English and Bulgarian, and sometimes the English version is the first one we write, because a big part of our team is international and this makes it easier for them to start working straight away.
The series will be dubbed in both Bulgarian and English, with the option for additional languages. Our goal is to create a series that shows the positive aspects of our culture and is watched all over the world.

Is the similarity with Samurai Jack intended?

This is somewhat intentional. The style of the series was inspired and partially based on the style of Eyvind Earle (1916-2000). He was the lead background artist for Disney’s film Sleeping Beauty and a lot of animation productions have been influenced by him – including Samurai Jack and The Golden Apple.
Gradually, with each episode of The Golden Apple, the visual style will be changed and will include more and more traditional Balkan and Bulgarian elements.

Do you intend to create other similar projects?

Apart from the two seasons of The Golden Apple series, we have ideas for at least one feature length animated film that takes place in the same universe. We also intend to develop comic books and a computer game.

Are you thinking about adapting other stories and telling traditional Bulgarian tales in a similar way?

It is important to stress that The Golden Apple series is not an adaptation and is not telling the story of The Three Brothers and The Golden Apple that we know from the traditional Bulgarian tales. The story in The Golden Apple takes place in a world that was inspired by the Bulgarian tales, legends and folklore, but we are not telling a specific traditional story.
The idea behind The Golden Apple project is to take different elements and to tell stories in a new way. The visual style and the logic in this universe are inspired by the legends, but the stories that we tell are different.

Where will the series be broadcast and will it be available to watch outside of Bulgaria? Will it be available online?

We are considering different options, including television and online distribution. No matter how exactly the series will be distributed, the episodes will be available outside of Bulgaria and will be uploaded online.

Do you already know who will do the voice over for the characters? Will there be an audition?

Apart from the actors that we currently work with – Momchil Stepanov for Vlad’s voice and Jivko Jouranov for Bran, it has already been decided that the voice of the Samodiva nymph Tina-Pakostina will be Militsa Gladnishka. Even though other popular names have demonstrated interest to do the voice over for characters in The Golden Apple series, when the moment comes to choose actors, there will be auditions.

Will there be traditional Bulgarian music in the series

Yes. The music for The Golden Apple will be a combination of traditional and adapted modern elements. Traditional Bulgarian music has been used in film for years and we are not an exception. The music treatment of the series is one of its main focuses and we will dedicate special resources to that. We plan to keep and further develop the style of the music for the series’ trailer and the Legend of the First Kuker Warrior short film. We also plan to continue working with the amazingly talented Bulgarian film composer George Strezov.

What software do you use for the animation and what do you use for the background designs?

For background and character development we use Adobe Photoshop. We animate using Toon Boom, and the compositing happens in Adobe After Effects.

How can I help The Golden Apple team?

If you can and want to help us, even if it is only for 1 hour per week, you can join our network of volunteers. Tell us about yourself and how you could join the project by filling out our online form:

Is there another way to help the project, if I am not able to join as a volunteer?

The main ways that you can support us are:

  • Through the Donate button on our website
  • By making a purchase through our E-Shop. Every purchase helps us continue working on The Golden Apple and developing Studio Zmei.
  • By telling your friends and family and sharing information about the project – especially our Facebook page.
    The more followers we attract, the easier it will be to convince the right investors this project has potential, there is viewer interest, and it has gathered an audience; that people want to watch such a series and when it is made, the production will be successful.

This is where we would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone that has helped us so far and keeps supporting us. It is a great honour for us to receive such a positive reaction and widespread support – with donations and purchases from our E-Shop, as well as with comments, questions, ideas and online sharing. In order to make this project a reality, we count on you too – share, comment, tell everyone that you know about The Golden Apple! This motivates us too and helps us work even harder, with more dedication and inspiration.