What is the public perception of animation? Regardless of how seriously film scholars take animation, for many people it is just cartoons which children watch. The contrary view is that the appeal of cartoon characters moves well beyond kids to capture the imagination of the adults. It's an escape route to leave the dull and often frustrating world for a while, and rest in a place where all the boys and girls are heavenly good-looking, heroes are endowed with amazing superpowers and the evil are unexceptionally defeated by the good in the end. At least this is an aspect that a channel like Animax hopes to cash on.
Sporting a tagline that invites 'everyone' to join the growing cult of animation lovers, Animax has a library of more than a thousand hours of animation. Rohit Bhandari, Director (South Asia), Animax said, "If you give a 15-20-year old a product that's meant to be viewed by a 5-year old, you naturally get tagged with the line that 'Animation is for kids.' Give him a technologically sophisticated Matrix and it's a different story. What we have in our casket, are slick productions from Japan. Technologically these are far superior to what's out there in the market. The reason we are stressing on the different time blocks is because animation is not just for kids, it can be enjoyed by adults just as much. Its not your average cartoon series that we are talking about (slapstick comedies and all of that). We are looking at animated plots with a definite story line and visual effects.
Meanwhile, how do planners and buyers look at the Animax brand of programming? Or what about mainline youth channels that run animated blocks on them? Would they really sell youth brands or adult products in a channel, which promises animation for 'everyone'?
Hiren Pandit, GM, Mindshare, said, "While I truly believe that adults take to animation just as children do (and I say this on the basis of the universal popularity of series such as Asterix and Tintin). I don't really know whether there are animated characters here, which have made much of a dent in the adult/teen viewership market. As for Animax, is it realistic to imagine that just because a certain kind of programming has worked in the Japanese market, it would make the same kind of dent here? To answer your question specifically, animation is still regarded as a 'kid's thing' in India. We haven't reached a stage where adult/teen viewers are specifically seeking animation, and I don't see it coming for some time."
Pandit added, "Brands feel much the same way about animation as they have felt before. It's still regarded primarily as a kids slot and the ratings emphasise the same. Unless there is a rapid reversal in ratings, and you get scores of other TG's tuning into animation. I don't see the scenario changing."
Meanwhile, Sandip Tarkas, Head, OMD, said that Animax has still to drive home the point that 'Animation is for everyone.' He asserts, "There may be a certain section of adults that genuinely enjoy cartoon characters (more so slapstick) but I don't know if they actually fend for fixed storylines, plots etc in animation. Should they get it, I still have no clue whether they would be hooked on to it. Any kind of an animated series capitalises more on kid's viewership, than on any other kind of TG. Which is why, adult brands don't really get aboard the animation bandwagon even though you have channels that have been launched on the 'animation is for everyone' premise."
As for Animax in particular, Tarkas said, "The channel needs to go a long way in building up the popularity of its characters. Only then, it can really live up to the promise that 'Animation is in fact for everyone.' As for brands, they are still functioning under the premise that animation is largely for kids, since the ratings reflect so."
Meanwhile, Animax still goes on under the premise that India is a youth-oriented market, and 43 per cent of India's 1 billion population is under age 20. The themes that can be found in most anime stories are supposed to transcend language, culture and origin. The channel believes that this variant in animation will slowly resonate with the Indian youth.