India's animation sector is booming, with overseas entertainment giants like Walt Disney, Imax and Sony outsourcing more and more cartoon characters and special effects to India.
So what makes India a hub for animation? Why is the sector experiencing exponential growth?
In this special series, we take a look at what makes India shine in the world of animation.
Tenali Raman, for long, has been a symbol of fun and merriment for generations of Indians.
Now Toonz Animation has made the court jester even more memorable. The Adventures of Tenali Raman, produced by Toonz, has wowed television audiences with Tenali's impish pranks and repertoire of jokes.
Produced in classic 2-D animation, Tenali Raman revolves around the clever adventures of the popular Indian folklore character.
The character of Tenali Raman has not just appealed to Indians. But he is also a figure whom Americans and Europeans are enjoying. The animated film was sold to television stations in Asia, the European Union, North America and Singapore by Toonz.
"Inclination to humour," says Toonz CEO P Jayakumar, when asked about why Indian animation films studios are able to bag huge animation contracts from across the globe.
Riding on the major success of Tenali Raman, Toonz has now embarked on producing an action/adventure series The Adventures of Hanuman. The proposed series have already been pre-sold to Cartoon Network Asia, and Toonz plans to launch the property in the Western markets.
More than that, Korean Production House ANI21 Co. Ltd has engaged Toonz to produce its new animated show Twin Princes. This big-budget project involves a six-minute trailer and 26 episodes (22 minutes each) followed by another series of 26 episodes of 22 minutes each.
Toonz will also receive ownership of the series in India and neighboring countries.
Another Toonz production called Maharaja Cowboy is a film about a newly crowned boy king from southern India who escapes the responsibilities of his palace and travels to the old west in the United States to discover his childhood.
Like Toonz, animation studios across India are bagging major contracts to create cartoon characters.
Bangalore-based Jadoo Works is producing an animated film series about Lord Krishna and the crime caper Bombay Dogs. Scripting and pre-production for these series are done in the US to ensure that they have universal appeal.
The Mumbai-based Maya Entertainment has produced special effects for The Mummy and Stuart Little. Maya is animating short films starring a character called Wabo, which the United Nations is using to educate worldwide audiences on the importance of fresh drinking water.
K Arvind Reddy, a Hyderabad-based freelance animator and an expert in the field whose hands are currently full with projects from across the seas, says that two streams of animation works are coming together in India.
First, foreign entertainment companies like Walt Disney, Imax and Sony are increasingly outsourcing cartoon characters and special effects to India. Other overseas firms are also outsourcing animation for commercials and computer games created in India.
Second, Indian companies are creating their own animated films based on characters in Indian folklore and mythology. "These films are not just for the Indian audience. Indian mythological characters are designed to impact a universal appeal. And there is a good foreign audience for these animated films," Reddy points out.
Many animation studios are targeting the global market by developing proprietary properties, often based on Indian stories.
Silvertoon is now producing an animated feature film on Lord Hanuman. It plans to release it in English and Hindi in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia.
Wondertoons, a division of Oceanpark Multitech, has produced a to CD-ROM featuring stories from 35 nursery rhymes.
"On the one hand foreign animation studios are spreading setting up shops in India; and on the other, pure-play Indian firms are getting international assignments," Reddy says. "The animation industry is still in its nascent stage. It has great potential and India is cashing in on it these days," he adds.
Indian epics have colourful characters and offer a mix of rich mythology, dramas and fantasies that are considered the right content for animated cartoons.
Most animation companies follow a classical cell animation technique: every single frame is drawn by hand before being scanned, digitised and sequenced to form a complete animation story.
To bank on the animation potential, companies are also going aggressive.
Toonz, the cheerleader of animation in India, sponsors a Children'z Animation Workshop every year where thousands of Indian schoolkids submit their story ideas and character designs for consideration in making an animated film.
Also, the studio organises and promotes the animation festival, 'The Week with the Masters'. This biennial event brings top masters of animation from around the world to India to show their films and interact with Indian artists. The event also recognises the best films coming out of India in its film competition.
Experts say the future of animation in India is bright. "India has great stories, good cartoon characters from mythologies, good artists and technicians. Above all, we offer a competitive price, which nobody can match," points out Reddy.
Design: Rahil Shaikh
Don't miss the third part of the series tomorrow!