Animatedly Speaking
Animatedly Speaking
 19 September 2017

Today, animation isn’t just about cartoons. India witnessed its first-ever animation movie in colour, The Banyan Deer, in 1957, and the rest as they say, is history. BrandWagon‘s Meghna Sharma profiles some of the Indian production houses that are working relentlessly to keep the industry alive

P Jayakumar
CEO, Toonz Media Group

The Work: Gaju Bhai (Disney India), Gatu Batu and Pakdam Pakdai (Nickelodeon), Sab Jholmaal Hai (Sony YAY!), Jamillah & Aladdin (CbeeBees), Gummy Bear series (YouTube), Sherazade (Kika Germany), Darwin & Newts (New Zealand on Air)

The Entry

I entered the industry in early 1999 as one of the founding members of Toonz Animation India. Those were the times when animation was an alien concept in the country. We had to create talent, awareness and an industry from nothing. In essence, I would say that Toonz and I grew together.

Claim to Fame

We were the first to create a 2D animated series and feature film in India, first stereoscopic feature film in the country, one of the first studios to have a YouTube funded series and a strong presence in Asia, Europe and the US.

Challenges

While the West celebrates over 75 years of its history, the animation industry in its commercial form is less than 20 years old in India. Budgets are very low which cripple the quality of animation. This makes it difficult for content produced in India to travel overseas since the latter consumes very high quality content. While India has the oldest and the strongest storytelling culture, it is quite difficult to find great talent when it comes to writing for animation. We need high quality training programmes for animation script writing. As viewers, our mindset should also change. We still believe that animation is just for kids. This limits confident angels from investing in the industry on mega projects.

Looking Ahead

The tech-savvy Indian is overwhelmingly consuming digital content. This gives a lot of hope to animation studios which can now create and air their own content. India now has new and strong digital broadcasters who are commissioning and creating newer and edgier content.

This creates a strong competitive market which in turn urges traditional broadcasters to open up for newer content. This chain reaction is quite a positive change that I see in the Indian scenario. Young parents are getting acclimatised to consuming digital content for themselves and for their kids.

Learning from the West

The West doesn’t try to create shows for the world; they try to create great stories which naturally become universal. While in India I see an increasing surge to create the so-called ‘global content’, I feel that we should create great stories and the globe will enjoy it. The best thing about the western population is their attitude towards the medium of animation. While they enjoy animation irrespective of their age, we dismiss animation as something created for kids. This attitude needs to change.

Idols

I believe that I have something to learn from everyone around me. In that way, passion is my idol.

Anish Patel
Founder & CEO, HopMotion Animation
The Work: Chhoti Anandi (Rishtey), Kuku Mey Mey (Amazon Prime US)

The Entry

After writing for live action television and films, I got an opportunity to write for animation. As writers, animation lets us explore themes and styles that could never be possible in live action. HopMotion began in 2013 with a small team of five animators.

Claim to Fame

We produced our first show Chhoti Anandi for Colors which was based on the popular character Anandi from the hit TV show Balika Vadhu back in 2015. It was the first time an already existing live action character from Indian television was spun off into an animated character.

Challenges

I think at this juncture, one of the major challenges with the Indian animation industry is finding the right talent that is trained the right way in animation. We need more universities and academies that give well-rounded training in animation and the visual arts, not just training centres that teach animation software. As a large country, we have the numbers, but not the right training required to excel in animation.

Looking Ahead

I truly believe we are just getting started. For the size of the Indian market, currently we are producing very little original homegrown content. With digital broadcasters gaining ground over traditional television, there is a boom in the demand for engaging video content. I believe Indian animation will continue to grow and we will see more homegrown content not just for kids, but for teens and adults as well.

Learnings from the West

There is a lot to learn from the West in terms of attention to detail and time spent in developing the right content and in pre-production. We need to learn a lot from the East as well, for instance Japan. We can learn how it has overcome challenges unique to itself and has a thriving animation market. Japan created its own style of animation with a focus on its domestic market. Eventually, it has had so many successful IPs that have been popular around the world, such as Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Astro Boy, Dragon Ball Zee, Doraemon, Shin Chan… the list is endless.

Idols

Hayao Miyazaki and Makoto Shinkai.

Soumitra Ranade
Chairman and Co-founder, Paperboat Studio
The Work: Putting together feature film Kabuliwala based on Tagore’s classic story

The Entry

I did my graduation in Fine Arts from JJ School of Arts. After working as a designer for a few years, I realised that my real calling was films. I did my direction specialisation from FTII, Pune. While at the institute, which was during the pre-digital age, most of my film exercises reflected a leaning towards animation and VFX even though there was no technology then. While making Jajantaram Mamantaram, I realised that this was now possible in India and hence started thinking seriously about animation and VFX. I made my first feature film in 1997.

Claim to Fame

Jajantaram Mamantaram. We made this film in 2003, which was much before its time. After that I have made three films in the same genre but none of them could find a theatrical release. India was just not ready for something like that. Perhaps it still isn’t. But I have to do what I have to do. I have also been associated with two other big brands in children’s entertainment — Karadi Tales and Shaktiman.

Challenges

Actually, we don’t really have an animation industry here in India. What we have are a few animation studios. Then we have a handful of animation directors who are all struggling to make their next films. For it to be called an industry, we need producers who believe in animation. We need writers, musicians, artists and designers. We need good colleges that teach animation. We need a huge talent pool. Basically, we need a community that ‘thinks’ animation.

Looking Ahead

If we want a great future in animation, it’s not going to happen on its own. The future has to be devised. I don’t know about the rest of the industry; I can tell you about myself and my studio, Paperboat. I think we have a great future.

Learnings from the West

There is actually a lot to unlearn from the West. This senseless imitating of the West has to stop. We need to first believe in our stories, our audio-visual traditions and our aesthetics. One could say that perhaps we could learn the organisational skills from the West — their production pipelines, their

methods of execution. But then again, I am personally very comfortable with the chaos that prevails here in India.

Idols

Guru Dutt, Goddard and Ozu.

Saurabh Dalmiya
Head of Business Development, Anibrain
The Work: Kingsman — The Golden Circle, Guardians of the Galaxy — 1 & 2, Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent

The Entry

When Anibrain was founded over a decade ago (2006), India was still in the very nascent stage of animation and VFX. Our objective was to create an Asian creative powerhouse that was capable of creating the best work from India using Indian talent.

Claim to Fame

We have worked on over 150 international blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ghost Rider — Spirit of Vengeance and Acantilado Rojo. More importantly, through our institution, The School of Media Design, we have helped build an ecosystem of hundreds of artists who have gone on to work for the biggest projects globally and in the finest of Indian companies.

Challenges

Commitment — this translates into committing to do work whose quality is of international standards and not cutting corners to save money; inadequate investment; nurturing and guidance of new entrants in this field.

Looking Ahead

It is one of the most promising industries for several reasons. You do not have to study for years or pay huge sums of money to get into the industry and yet have the opportunity to make a great living along with creative satisfaction. This gives talented people from lesser privileged backgrounds a fair playing field. Over the years, India has become better at delivering quality output that matches Western sensibilities and expectations. Along with this, the pricing advantage will help the industry to grow rapidly.

Learnings from the West

One of the key things that we can learn from the West is the complete non-negotiation on quality; creating great visuals by not cutting corners, innovating with tools, techniques and approaches to redefine the boundaries of what is possible, great production practices and spot on

time deliveries.

Idols

Framestore. It is a company that has not only won the Oscar for Gravity but also innovates across all formats to create the best images and experiences. More importantly, it is a company that harbours a great culture where people are given the most importance and the focus is on self development.

E Suresh
Director, Studio Eeksaurus
The Work: Working on animated feature film Hoodoo with Nishith Takia (Bioscopewala Pictures), Eric Berthier (from France) and Fabrice Ziollowski

The Entry

I studied at the National Institute of Design specialising in Animation Film Design which I took up in my fourth year. I started working immediately after completing the course. Back then, multimedia was the ‘in thing’. After a year at Western Outdoor Interactive (WOI), I got an opportunity to collaborate with Famous Studios to set up a brand new animation division focussed on creating original animated content. I plunged into it and started Famous House of Animation (FHOA) at the age of 25.

Claim to Fame

The animated music video based on the old song Bindu re Bindu; a clay animated ad for Amaron Battery; the first ever animated commercial from India to reach the Cannes Lions (Levi’s Slim); Simpu, the sardar teacher for Channel V; ICICI’s Chintamani series of films; and Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood (Cartoon Network). At Eeksaurus, our films for Rotary won the Annecy Cristal.

Challenges

The missing quest for creating original animated content ails the Indian animation industry. Ninety-five percent of the animation industry in India focusses on being an outsourced animation production partner to an international content creation studio. We hardly have any institutes apart from NID or IDC to teach young talent on becoming the ‘creative head’. We do not have broadcast companies that focus on nurturing ‘good’ original animation content from local talent. I always look positively at the Japanese anime model that has come up through all these years with just the sheer force of enthusiastic talented individuals/visionaries who drove it from the front rather than depending on government aid.

Looking Ahead

The future has to be driven by locally produced original animation content with a robust audience. Bahubali, being a VFX driven film based on South Indian cinema, to have worked with the masses without the usual huge star line-up from Bollywood and becoming the largest grosser of all times in the history of India, is a game changer. If this can be considered a trend setter, then good animation movies may find funding soon.

Learnings from the West

I don’t think we should learn anything apart from the skills of filmmaking from the West. Bollywood cinema was made just for Indians and today the people in the West too love those films because we stuck to creating what our people love. That same model should be applied for animated content as well; indigenous content is what we need more than acquired content.

Idols

Paul Driessen, Kunia Kato, Michael Dudok De Wit, Alexey Alexeev and Hayao Miyazaki.
Ketan Mehta
Founder, Maya Digital Studio
The Work: Motu Patlu (Nickelodeon), ViR — The Robot Boy (Disney Hungama and Disney XD), Kisna (Discovery Kids), Eena Meena Deeka (Disney Hungama), Shiva (Nickelodeon and Sonic), Bure Kaam Ka Bura Natija, Kyun Bhai Chacha, Haan Bhatija (Disney Hungama), Guru Aur Bhole (Sony YAY!), Atchoo (Amazon Prime Video), Tik Tak Tail (Pogo)

The Entry

The technological lacuna in the entertainment business was the reason Deepa (Sahi) and I ventured into this business. Being filmmakers, we both wanted to create our worlds, tell our own stories and owing to a lot of international work in the past, the studio was ready to take up and change the face of Indian animation when the industry was ready for its own IPs; that’s when Motu Patlu was launched. Maya was founded in 1996. We started IP creation in 2010 with Ramayana the Epic and ventured into TV series IP creation in 2012 with Motu Patlu.

Claim to Fame

Within the animation business, we are the only studio that has created a bank of 12 IPs in the past five years and have delivered over 1,000 half hours of animation content. Motu Patlu has been the most popular kids’ show in the country for over two years in a row and now we are venturing in global co-productions as well.

Challenges

The industry has evolved a lot now and we have so many broadcasters and also digital players vying for content. The industry at present is in one of its most successful phases at the moment.

Looking Ahead

We look forward to further growth in local productions and more global associations. Also a 360-degree monetisation cycle with L&M and digital. As a studio, Maya is poised to grow into a global storyteller in the next five years… and we will hopefully make our own Ice Age then.

Learning from the West

Their superior technical expertise.

Idols

As a filmmaker and a creative professional I take inspiration from so many individuals and works of art that it would be unfair to name a few.

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