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foCuS finlAnd / STATE OF PLAY What do you get when you cross long, cold winters, good education and powerful computers? A group of game and animation gurus, and a growing cultural industry sector. Text: Anna ruohonen Photos: taavetti Alin f Helsinki had its own Walk of Fame, you would find the impressions of reindeer hooves. Finland's brightest movie star ­ you may have heard of him ­ is a young reindeer with dreams of flying. More than a million viewers have watched Niko the reindeer and his friends, a flying squirrel and a weasel, make the trek from Home Valley to Santa's Fell. It all happens in Niko & The Way to the Stars, a movie produced by the Finnish Anima Vitae and its European partners. The animated movie premiered in October 2008 and is the biggest Finnish movie production to date. And not only that. Taking a phone call from the TV industry mega-fair, Mipcom, Anima Vitae CEO Petteri Pasanen elaborates on the distinction: "Niko has made European movie history. The movie was sold to over one hundred countries. That's an outstanding accomplishment for a European animation." Anima Vitae is Finland's largest animation studio. Established in 2000, the studio has created networks with international joint productions. Animation is an international product: It isn't feasible to make an animation for just one market. Pasanen will meet new partners in Cannes. In 2010, Anima Vitae will start i making a daily animation comedy. Really: Animated current events for TV! It's not as crazy as it sounds. The 40-employee company in Finland produced a weekly political satire The Autocrats for seven years, proving that animation can be made quickly. "We have the world's fastest animation production line," Pasanen says. "It was built back when The Autocrats was produced, and now we are developing new content for it." Anima Vitae, as well as Finnish game companies, have their roots in the demo scene phenomenon of the 1990s. The vitality of the phenomenon lives on in Finland and is highlighted once a year in the country's biggest ice arena. The odd phenomenon begs an explanation. from subculture to exports First there was the subculture. It emerged when computer enthusiasts started making programs with the Amiga and Commodore 64 computers of the 1980s. They learned to integrate graphics and music and called their creations `demos'. The young male computer-game players in particular were enthralled with cre16 oF EO aT sTAY S LA a p

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