For years parents have been bemoaning the lack of entertaining films for children. True there have been sporadic ventures like ‘Chota Chetan’, ‘J2M2’, ‘Makdee’, but the kids’ entertainment genre has nowhere reached the heights of big scale Hollywood productions like the Harry Potter series. With the success of films like ‘Hanuman’ and ‘Krrish’, producers are now seeking new ways to tap a lucrative market but a very demanding audience.
Lack of quality content
The kids entertainment genre has been starved of good content. Most productions have been too tacky or ‘preachy’ to keep the little ones engaged or have any semblance of commercial success. Hence, most big production houses and stars have stayed away from this genre.
However, now things are changing for the better following the success of animated features like ‘Hanuman’ and the Hrithik Roshan starrer ‘Krrish’. Production house like Saregama is out to tap this market with a full length feature for children, ‘Chainkuli ki Mainkuli’, which is slated for release in March or April 2007.
B R Sharan, Chief Creative Officer, Saregama, admitted that there was a huge vacuum in children’s films in India today. Elaborating on ‘Chainkuli ki Mainkuli’, Sharan said, “The film is set in an orphanage and is the story of a little boy living there. This boy meets Rahul Bose, who plays the character of a young man who has just abandoned his family, and helps him to see what he has.”
The film is set in the backdrop of cricket and has elements of emotional drama as well as the magical realism of Harry Potter. “We are undertaking various initiatives to promote the film as a children’s movie, and this includes inviting school prefects and captains to discuss cricket together. We are also working on various other contact programmes in schools and cricket maidans across the city,” Sharan further said.
“There is a huge untapped market. Animation and children’s films are doing well in India, but the potential has still not been tapped to the extent it can be. ‘Krrish’ did very well last year with children, ‘Hip, Hip, Hurray’, which was released 7-8 years ago also had a very high rating, even ‘Shaktiman’ has been a huge hit,” Sharan pointed out.
Toonagers and Tweenagers
Nachiket Pantvaidya, Executive Director, Walt Disney Television India, said, “Disney Channel fulfils audience’s needs that have not been met through segmented and localised content. In 2007, our plan includes 130 hours of original production in India alone. Our current local content is about 25 per cent, which will be raised to 40 per cent in the next one year.”
“With the emergence of new players in the kids television space, the category as a whole has grown. Two years ago, only 9 per cent kids used to watch kids television. This has now grown to 23 per cent,” Pantvaidya added.
“Our content is well researched and aimed at fulfilling various age brackets within the kids segment. There are the pre-schoolers or ‘toonagers’ (between 6 years and 9 years) and ‘tweenagers’ (below 14). Each age group has different consumption patterns,” he said.
According to Pantvaidya, the market was definitely growing. “We are using on-ground events like Jetix Live to provide Indian kids with an opportunity to interact with their favourite stars that they have embraced over the past couple of years,” he said.
Often, television programmes can be more habit-forming as compared to films, which are one-time watches for children. A serial is something that comes week after week, in different ways, packaged to provide the same message. Although Disney has not produced any local films in India, they have a large library of award winning global animation and live action movies from their studios, which are being showcased on Disney Channel in India.
“Movies like ‘Lion King’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and other Disney movies are hugely popular with kids and families in India. The viewing habits of kids are such that they like to watch the same content several times as against the older age groups. On our television series, there is a definite habit being built through shows like ‘That’s so Raven’, ‘Lizzie Mcguire’ and others, which are just as popular in India as they are in several other countries,” Pantvaidya said.
The return of the ‘Monkey God’
Preparations are on full swing at Percept Picture Company for a sequel to the huge hit ‘Hanuman’. Titled ‘Hanuman Returns’, the animated feature is slated for release in late 2007 and would be in several Indian languages.
Preet Bedi, CEO, Percept Picture Company, said, “The film will be fully animated, and though it is the story of a child, it is meant to be watched by audiences of all ages. We will be launching a promotional campaign sometime in the middle of the year and will use the medium of gaming and merchandising.”
“The film, obviously, is about Hanuman, who is not just any ordinary superhero, but somewhat a sacred superhero. The film will bring this out by focusing on the cultural aspects of his character, but will not really take on any religious levels,” Bedi added.
“According to me, experiential marketing works most in this genre. Since children are hooked on to the Internet and gadgets more than adults, gaming and merchandising are what work most. The trick is to use a medium which will work best with children, and interactive methods are the best,” he pointed out.
Between films and television, Bedi felt that television programmes usually found more success as children already spent time watching television. “It is a free medium available at home 24 hours. A film is something that one needs to go out and watch. If there is no quality in the film, it will not be watched in any case, the way it is done on television,” said Bedi.
“I think both television and filmmakers have missed the point of children’s films. We often present things in a childlike way because of the way we perceive it. But children do not want childish things,” he said, adding, “To make a good children film, one needs to understand a growing child’s mind.”
Monica Tata, Vice-President, Advertising Sales and Networks, India & South Asia, Turner International India Pvt Ltd felt that there was great creative animation talent in India today and most of the content was at par with international standards. “We are planning to showcase many more original productions this year and provide a platform for content that other people make, through acquisitions. There must be a balance between international and locally produced content. So, we do feel we will need to juggle and give the right mix,” she said.
Where marketing is concerned, Tata said that they employed a holistic approach that involved providing multiple-touch points to consumers. “We use as many different kinds of platforms as possible and have explored print, on-air, on-line, on-ground, consumer products, CDs, books, and even the soon-to-be-launched theme parks. For example, a kid can watch Cartoon Network/POGO on-air, enjoy a day out with their families at one of our events, or get on-line and play some games, learn from trivia about their favourite characters/shows, or even go to a shop and buy Cartoon Network/POGO merchandise,” she further said.
Tata added that both children’s films and programmes had received a good response on the channels. “The popularity of Indian animation featured on Cartoon Network is evident from the ratings,” she said.