Animation: Global partnerships, fresh perspective the way forward

MUMBAI: The Indian film animation space has seen a lot of activity and interest from players in recent times. Companies like Percept Picture Company, Shemaroo Entertainment, DQ Entertainment, Pritish Nandy Communications, Adlabs, to name a few will all have their animation films releasing in the next couple of years.

With the sector attracting companies increasingly as the backdrop, the first day at FICCI FRAMES had the top brass of the Indian animation industry discussing where Indian animation was headed. Moderated by Graphiti CEO Munjal Shroff, an eminent panel shed some light on the intricacies of the world that is animation.

The father of Indian animation and Graphiti chairman Ram Mohan held firm on the view that mythology was the way to go for Indian animation. What with Japan creating their animated version of the Ramayana, every other country seems to be catching up on the numerous original characters Indian culture has to offer. Other Japanese anime movies have borrowed heavily from Italian and other European folklore.

In effect, the conclusion was that Indian animators need to use the vast sources of material available, like comic books, graphic novels etc, from all over the world to create interesting animation content. Mohan said, "Indian animators need to look beyond themselves for content, but the narrative style needs to be their own."

However, to create original content that is appealing on a national and global level is a daunting task. Animation magazine CEO and president Jean Thoren identified a few key questions that an animator or creator should ask himself before pitching his character as the next biggest thing. It is important for the IP creator to be sure that his character is different from the rest, easily identifiable globally, has a few traits and quirks, unique to him, humorous at some level and can hold the attention span of at least the creator himself.

From another international perspective, Joanna Ferrone, creator of the well-known and loved character Fido said, "Content needs conviction; children need content." She elaborated that any character that was created with some original thought, an added twist and had spontaneity would work, provided you had the conviction to pitch it.

The basic concern, as she put it, was that there is a lot of shoddy content that the pre-school children — animation’s biggest audience — were being put through. In collaboration with Graphiti, Ferrone is all set to change that with fresh and fun content for the tiny tots of India.

While i-Rock CEO Siddharth Jain said that mythology was definitely not the only thing to look at in Indian Animation, Paprikaas CEO Domlur was more concerned with R&D investments.

The main concerns that the animation industry in India is facing today are:

– Trade is not so upbeat about mythology being the only fare available.

– The quality of animation is not upto the international standards and does not match up to the gloss of live action movies.

– We’re yet not proficient enough to the do the animation movie business yet and a little hand-holding from the west might just do the trick.

– Animation still not looked up on as a career, considered more of a hobby.

On the other hand, the things that are working in the favour of the Indian animation are:

– Market opportunities like more screens, wider audiences, lack of any concrete IPs now therefore scope for new creations and increase in revenue sources like retail, TV, home video etc.

– A lot of outsourcing work happens in India. Training therefore happens by imported talent which can help the Indian animators to learn more and then capitalise on their new skill sets.

– A huge, rich source of ideas, characters and stories from the history, mythology and culture of India.

Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devrajan, on the other hand, believes that the influx of Indian content is making waves world over. With properties like Devi, The Sadhu, Snake-Woman and Ramayan 3392 A.D, he is confident that the Indian super-heroes are here to stay.

Many of the Virgin Comics properties are on their way to be transformed into motion pictures like The Game Keeper (Warner Bros) and Virulents (John Moore, FOX). Virgin Comics has also signed on Sachin Tendulkar and Priyanka Chopra to run some character-based comics on them. Comic books are the best storyboards a movie can get, after all. With their ‘Shakti’ line of comics and a dedicated team of Indian conceptualizes and content writers, Virgin Comics is all set to capitalize on the Indian animation content boom.

The way ahead for Indian animation is global partnerships and a new perspective towards animation. With media financing being difficult, especially in case of animation, equity or even distribution and/ or production tie-ups will help India to do far better. With the stress being on creating world-class animation, infrastructure and pipeline systems need to be in place and India is not equipped to do it all on its own, yet.

Although, there is a huge talent pool, it needs to be channeled in the right direction. Animation studios need to work closely with banners like Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions, which have interesting properties, to convert them into animated wonders.

The genre of animation + live action is also only just being explored with Toonpur Ka Superhero starring Ajay Devgan and Kajol.

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