The year 2004 saw unprecedented action in the kids’ genre, with several players entering the segment. In 2006, the genre seems to have moved to the next level, where Indian programming is finding prominence on these channels. While live action has been the key component of channels like Hungama TV ever its launch, it is the growth in local animation that gives a positive indication to the growth of kids segment in television in India.
Local programming can easily be divided in two broad segments – animation and live action. While international content has been outsourced on both counts, for animation life has pretty much been international content only, until recently. The leader in the segment, Cartoon Network (CN), took a noteworthy step when it acquired over seven local animations.
Speaking more on the experience of homegrown properties, Vishnu Athreya, Senior Programming Manager, CN, said, “Cartoon Network has been the home for some outstanding Indian animation productions and these have resulted in growth of viewership.”
Nick had a similar experience. The channel ventured into Indian programming significantly early when it launched ‘J Bole Toh Jadoo’ soon after it went Hindi. The show is still one of the deliverers for the channel. “Jadoo is our locally produced live action-cum-animation show in the Indian market. It continues to be among our top five shows every week and has done wonders for building our brand. So, I would say it’s been well worth it,” informed Hema Govindan.
Indian programming is a significant part of Disney’s content as well, but the channel has been more skewed towards live action when it comes to local content than animation. Elaborating this, Nachiket Pantvaidya, said, “We have used local animation quite a lot in the short form. They make for excellent insertions and add the humour quotient. For our properties like ‘Birthday Bhoot’ and on occasions like Diwali and so on, animation has been the ideal route.”
Pantvaidya pointed out that for a channel like Disney, known for internationally successfully animation, local animation in the “long form” wasn’t really required. He said, “When one has some of the best animated properties in the world like ‘Lion King’ or ‘Jungle Book’, which children from any culture can appreciate, there is no need to focus much on that domain.”
Athreya, on the other hand, quoted research to indicate that kids and parents alike viewed and enjoyed local animation properties. “All the Indian productions we have aired so far on Cartoon Network have done extremely well and their performance is comparable to any other programme on the channel. What is important to note is that the shows rate well and receive the same enthusiastic response even on repeat telecasts. This really speaks a lot for the appeal that Indian animation hold for the children here. In fact, this Diwali, ‘Ramayan – The Legend of Prince Ram’ was one of the highest rated features across all channels amongst kids. Other shows like ‘The Adventures of Tenali Raman’, ‘The Adventures of Chhota Birbal’ and features like ‘Vikram-Betaal’ show ratings that are as high, if not higher than those of their international counterparts like Tom & Jerry, Beyblade or Pokemon,” said Athreya.
It must be noted here, players do opine that Indian producers have been better at live action than animation. For Disney, even as local content is a strong tool to localise an international offering, Indian programming works better on the live action front.
“You can use Indian faces and the kids viewers will identify with that. As for animation in India, we are still dabbling much in the mythological space and that kind of story telling. Examples like ‘Hanuman’ show that animation has come of age in India and has a loyal audience too. But if local animation has to be used any more than what it is being used now, it has to be made more contemporary,” said Pantvaidya.
Govindan opined on similar lines. “The track record shows that Indian creators have been more successful with live action shows. However, what we need to understand is that the kids’ genre is something whose potential is yet to be fully realised by both the Indian market and consumers. And to top it all, animation is at a nascent stage in India,” he added.
Athreya said, “I think that Indian animation is of very good quality and that is one reason we have bought the rights to so many productions. That is also the reason why India is becoming a hub for outsourcing animation work from other countries. However, animation is still at its infancy in India and hence there are a number of aspects that one needs to still work on.”
On what can be done to grow animation further on Indian kids’ channels, Athreya divulged, “Like any other entertainment property, there are various factors that go in making local animation content work. Primarily, it’s the context or the basis of the storyline. The story line should be such that it relates and appeals to Indian kids. The animation style, language, voicing and music follow this to create magic among children and adults alike. The key challenge is to ensure a great local script and storyboard, which when animated, can translate the essence of a story to kids in their language. India is fast reaching the road of providing great animated series and I am happy Cartoon Network continues to play an important part in popularising this form of entertainment among Indian kids and families.”
Govindan added, “The most crucial factor for the success of Indian animation property would be essentially Indian stories and visual aesthetics. The mythological, historical and folk-based origins of the content – tried and tested over generations and generations – are the keys elements for its success. The one reason local animation works is relevance, an affinity with the product kids are viewing, Jadoo being a case in point.”
For Pantvaidya, it would be bringing in the contemporary flavour. A point that all players make is that for the kid viewer, the origin of the property doesn’t matter. The good thing is that the observation seems to have played a role in players experimenting with local animation than otherwise.
As is known, Hungama TV, being the ‘made in India’ channel at its inception, has dominated its programming with Indian content and largely in the live action space. The channel didn’t dabble much in animation earlier and in the later stages outsourced most of the animation shows and continued with live action strategy with shows like ‘Saniya…’.