Scripting hit toons no child's play
Priyanka Khanna [ Sun, Jul 8, 2007 ]
- New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Animation films may have emerged as one of Hollywood's most successful money-spinning formula the world over, but the made-in-India varieties are not exactly setting the box-office on fire as yet.
Nearly two years after the Indian marquees lit up with the antics of an animated "Hanuman" - the monkey-god revered by Hindus - filmmakers have been trying to recreate the magic. While one routinely hears of megabuck tie-ups, innovative breakthroughs are hard to come by.
The latest, "My Friend Ganesha" by Rajiv S. Ruia, made under the banner of Koffee Break Pictures that released Friday, features girl child actor Ahsaas Channa as a boy who befriends computer-animated avatar of young lord Ganesha. The storyline is formulaic, production is shoddy and graphics average.
The animation does not even match that seen in Percept Pictures' "Hanuman", which was made from near-obsolete technology called 2D cell animation.
Other much-hyped attempts at animation like "The Legend of Buddha", "The Warrior Prince" and "Bhagmati - The Queen of Fortunes" have not exactly yielded box-office bonanza.
In fact, "Hanuman" had heralded a turning point in animation industry in India. From outsourcing sweatshops that sketched, painted and digitised ordered content, animation firms had started signing a number of co-production deals with national and international studios post the box-office success "Hanuman".
Co-owning of products became crucial for growth of the animation industry. So far the industry with annual revenues of $310 million had depended on outsourcing of animated computer images for television, cinema and the Internet at a quarter of the cost of that in the US and Britain.
But with the growth in the outsourcing model reaching a plateau, big players began claiming ownership of their products. This co-production yielded multiple sources of revenue from merchandising to licensing.
The trend is expected to help India's animation and gaming market quadruple to $1.3 billion by 2009 and employ about 30,000 animators, says software industry body Nasscom.
According to industry organisation Assocham, the market size of the Indian animation sector is expected to reach $1 billion over the next three years compared to $360 million in 2006. Animation films may never equal live-action movies, but animation stories are getting into the genre of family entertainment in India.
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The surprise success of "Hanuman" at the box office prompted even Bollywood producers to eye the animation pie. As things stand, top Bollywood filmmaker Ravi Chopra is making an animated film about Hindu god Krishna.
UTV's animation division is making cartoon feature films including a $20 million film in co-production with Hollywood actor Will Smith's production house Overbrook. It has also teamed up with PorchLight Pictures to co-produce a $10 million film.
Shemaroo Entertainment will enter the world of animation with "Ghatotkach: Master Of Magic", a two-dimensional musical.
The film will be about Ghatotkach, son of Bhim, and his escapades, and will have magic, action, romance, comedy, fantasy and of course, music. Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, who directed the silent film "Pushpak" starring Kamal Haasan, will helm this film.
Percept Pictures are making a sequel to "Hanuman", which will be directed by Anurag Kashyap who made dark films like "Black Friday" (on the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai) and "Paanch" (a film about a group of struggling musicians).
Even Karan Johar is planning to jump onto the animation bandwagon. After making family dramas like "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna", Karan will wield the megaphone for an animated film that will have all the usual ingredients - songs, dances and emotions.
As the search for finding India's answer to "Finding Nemo" or "Shrek" continues, production house BR Films has gone ahead and virtually taken over an animation firm, Pix-n-Trix, for about Rs.400 million. The studio will pump in another Rs.700 million to expand the outfit, according to news reports.
Relatively new and independent production houses are also investing big time in animation. The Media Factory will invest $5 million in its animated 3-D film "Magik", a film that revolves around lives of five children.
Media Factory is also doing special effect for Ravi Chopra's "Bhootnath" featuring superstar Amitabh Bachchan as a ghost. It is hoped that "Bhootnath" will rival the success of "Hanuman".
The mighty Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group-promoted Adlabs has embarked on a big budget animation spree including films like the Rs.600 million "Sultan" and the Rs.200 million "Gini N Jony".
"Sultan" is a Rajnikant biopic that is being co-produced by the iconic southern star's daughter Soundarya from her Chennai-based Ocher Studios. According to news reports, the budget for the animated version will match the current box-office rage - "Sivaji: The Boss" - a sign of how serious the business of animation is metamorphosing in to.
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The biggest entrant in the world of animation in India is Bollywood's biggest banner Yash Raj Films. The production house has tied up with Walt Disney Studios to produce animated movies with voice-overs by Indian movie stars.
News reports say the venture will make at least one animated film per year. Yash Raj Films had recently come up with a highly saleable animated pair in "Hum Tum" which starred Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji. Audience could not have enough of the ever-bickering comic strip couple.
Yash Raj Films is sure to milk the concept more now that they have tied up with Disney, the biggest name in animation films. The deal comes at a time when Indian companies such as UTV Software Communications, Toonz Animation, Pentamedia Graphics Ltd, Crest Communications, DQ Entertainment and JadooWorks have signed deals with Disney, NBC Universal and Mattel to share copyrights and profits.
All that's needed now is for animation firms and filmmakers to put on their thinking caps and invest as much time in innovating.