The Indian animation industry is on its fastest ever growth track with a quiver full of world class technology, the best brains and an creative edge. However, we are yet to see an Indian counterpart of a Mickey, Pooh or Popeye take a global bow. Will the new animated avatars of mythological figures like Ganesha, Bhima, Krishna and Ghatotkach help them gain an international audience? Why is it that the Indian animation industry has not managed to create new original characters?
P Jayakumar, CEO, Toonz Animation India Pvt Ltd, observed, “The boom that the Indian animation industry is witnessing is due to the outsourcing works from across the world. Vast majorities of manpower that we have are trained only in the production stage of animation, which involves using software. The pre-production skills involving developing of concepts, storylines, characters, etc., are still a distant dream for many animation professionals. Though there is a welcome change in the scene with major studios concentrating on creating intellectual properties (IP), we are yet to venture away from Indian mythology and folklore-based productions. This has affected the global appeal of our properties.”
Stressing on the marketing aspects of the animation brands, he said, “The success of iconic characters like Mickey and Pooh lies not only on the success of the animated series or shows, but also on how the brand has been extended to various other platforms, especially merchandising, gaming, etc. This has ensured a global appeal for the character. We were able to make the Asian market take notice of Tenali Raman and Hanuman with subtle adaptations in characters and a contemporary storyline. The need of the hour is storylines that are original, characters that can demand global acceptance and can cut across geographical barriers.”
Vetrivell V, Senior Associate Director, Ken Creative Studio, Chennai, however, does not see India very far from creating international milestones in the animation industry. He said, “India is on its way to creating animated characters with global appeal. Our current production standards will make people take notice once goes on air from January 2009. Few other studios are also coming up with such concepts. Any business model will have its own growing time, for the animation industry, it has taken just 10 years to understand the business model and develop the right talents and thinking. We are very close to achieving global success.”
Agreeing with the fact that a contemporary treatment of legendary characters could give them a global look, Vetrivell said, “Indian mythological characters can be taken to the international audience, provided we change the look and feel of the characters as per the global audience. For example, Pokeman, which is from the Japanese market, has been stylised to suit the world market.”
Jayakumar said, “We have almost managed to shrug of the ‘sweat-shop’ image for large production studios from the West. The current business model is creation of IPs, either our own or as co-productions with major studios from the world. As is common for any industry, the animation boom follows a cycle. The advantage lies in our cost effective labour and quality manpower. In due course, we could lose the competitive advantage either due to increasing cost of production or due to the emergence of strong outsourcing markets elsewhere. This is where a strong domestic market would help sustain the momentum. Finding adequately trained talent is another major issue that we need to address.”
Vetrivell, while accepting the fact that India has to grow beyond the image of an outsourcing destination for the animation industry, said, “The Indian market will and should move from a mere outsourcing destination to original IP creations. This will make us move up in value chain. India has a rich heritage of story-telling, but we need to work for a global audience. ‘Jungle Book’ would be the best example, where Mowgli and other characters are typical Indiancharacters. This film was a huge success for Disney. Similarly, if we take the live action film ‘Gandhi’ featuring Ben Kingsley in the title role, this is exactly what we need to do in the animation Industry.”