Walt Disney while talking about his company had once said, "It all began with a mouse." This mouse was the foundation of this fifty-billion-dollar company. The power of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney's famous character, turned it into a brand in itself. So was the case of Simpson that drew 1,100 licensed products.
The statistics certainly show a bright future. Some of the success stories from India include Crest Animation’s high-end 3D animation series called “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks” for the US-based Mike Young Productions; jadooWorks’ 3-DCGI TV animation series, one for Wild Brain and the other for a large entertainment company in the US, and Animation Bridge’s 20 episodes of “The Three Amigoes,” an anti-HIV public service series.
Most industry experts believe that we have evolved considerably but there is a long way to go. Vishal Gondal, Director, Indiagames, said, “We are being recognised. US firms like Walt Disney outsource their projects to India not to save costs but to get high quality output from us. For this the US companies are ready to even pay a premium price.” A S Suresh Babu, Managing Director, Kinfra Film and Video Park, agreed to Gondal, stating that Indians have to focus on quality. According to a NASSCOM report total revenues of the animation production services sector in India are estimated by industry sources as between $200 and $300 million in 2004. The sector is estimated to have grown at a rate of over 20 per cent during the year. Industry sources estimate that Indian animation studios bagged contract for around 11 new animation TV series projects in 2004.
What is the success formula for Indian cartoon characters to go global? Kireet Khurana, Creative Director and CEO, 2NZ Animation, said, "The reason why we really do not come up with characters that become global brands is because we try crossover appeals. How can we go for crossover appeals without getting bonafied success in India?"
Some of the characters that really became a brand in itself were "Deewana"— the tiger that SET MAX used during the telecast of cricket matches on its channel and “Chotta Birbal”. Animation experts believed that the tiger used to pop up each time a cricketer scored well or did badly.
Sachin Naik, Business Director, Milestone Interactive, has a different standpoint on whether we require crossover appeals to go global. “When people look for content, they look for content that is authentic to a certain culture. For instance, what made Samurai appealing in other countries were that other countries did not understand the Japanese traditions. Hence, the curiosity and mystique element rose,” he said.
Co-production is what the industry is heading to. Sumeet Gupta, Assistant Director, FICCI, said, “If you look at the business model for any animation studio, the value chain goes like this: you have the BPO model, which is primarily outsourcing. This is the low-end activity in the value chain. The next step is co-production, which is basically an agreement wherein IPR is jointly shared depending on the terms.”
There are, however, certain concerns that are yet to be addressed. The primary concerns of the animation industry include lack of funds, infrastructure and skilled creative talent. Another issue is of buyers focusing on specific issues to outsource animation production. Instead of looking at generic, country-specific advantages of low labour cost, language and communication skills, producers and studios in the US and other western countries are becoming highly specific about which animation studios to contract work to.
However, the delivery record of many studios has failed to meet client expectations. Biren Ghose, CEO, Animation Bridge, said, “The India brand for animation is still a few years away from getting established. I think it will happen when we have a universal track record of consistent performance.” So where does it all take us? Most animation experts are aware of these concerns but are optimistic about the future. Of course every animation guru has his own stroke for making the business model work, but at the end of it all, one can sum it up as “the future must not only be imagined, but be built!”