Animation has come a long, long way since the first
public screening of animation with cinematic apparatus
that used hand-painted sequences on celluloid strips.
Today the global market is worth about $50 billion and
is projected to become a $70-billion industry by 2007.
global figures looks quite impressive, the share of
the Indian animation market is a mere $0.6 billion,
with just $20 million in export. It may be growing
year on year, but is not going anywhere. The Indian
animation sector is, at best, at the crossroads, while
its better-off cousins IT and business-process
outsourcing services are consolidating their
scale, reach and focus, and continue to create ripples
in the global market.
industry is beset with problems of size and scale, lack
of global presence and marketing muscle, low margins,
time and quality issues, low level of supply of quality
animators, low entry barriers, and poor domestic demand
to give the much-needed boost for such a fledgling market.
Several companies of late have shut shop overnight,
merged with parent/larger companies or scaled down,
and most stuck in the sub-$1-million scale, even after
a decade of being around.
while the world ''outsources'' more or less everything
to India, has animation missed the bus? Clearly there
are two types of companies today the first
category catering to the typical back-end ''outsourcing'',
and the second having core competencies in original
storytelling and indigenous character development for
local market fare and co-productions.
former is by and large denominated by low-end or relatively
low-value work catering to 2D animation. On an average
it costs about $30,000-75,000 for an average episode
produced in India as compared to $100,000-150,000 or
so in the Philippines, Taiwan or Japan. A standard 22/24-minute
episode if made in India costs 70% less compared to
the production costs in the US; Disney, Sony, DreamWorks,
Warner Bros and Pixar being some international firms
that are quietly reaping the benefits of this cost-advantage.
does remain a preferred destination in spite of very
strong competition from Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan,
South Korea and Mainland China. This despite the fact
that these countries have been servicing the outsourcing
needs of the West for over three decades, while Indian
companies only entered the fray in the mid-90s.
Indian animation segment traditionally owes a lot to
the advertising and TV fraternity where TV commercials
and brands accepted character illustrations like The
Amul Girl, Gattoo (the Asian Paints mascot), The
Handiplast Boy, The Bata Bubble Gumme, 30-second
''animercials'' for brands like Hutch, Amaron, Orange,
All-Out Mosquito Repellent, 7-Up, Kellogg''s, ICICI,
Morten, Good-Night and Vicks. This proves
that animation is now an acceptable medium to convey
brand properties and values.
various mythological films and serials also spun off
cartoon forms to educate the masses and complement efforts
of organisations like UNESCO, UNICEF, Doordarshan and
the ministry of health and family welfare to address
social issues using the more benign cartoon and animation
format to deliver a social message.
the same agency fraternity has not been able to grow
the market mainly because animation for them is still
seen as a distinct post-production and visual effects
process rather than as an integral component of the
master production process, thereby making it prone to
severe budget restrictions and low attention value.
Ironically animation companies depend on these ''sponsors''
to give them steady work while at the same time make
them prone to being squeezed for margins and back-breaking
work in tough times.
plethora of interest groups like TASI, APAI, ASIFA-India
and Nasscom, and concomitant duplication of efforts
and a disjointed national image that is conveyed are
not helping either. In the 2002 Annecy Festival in France,
the Oscar and in Cannes, the South Koreans had organised
their animation studios under one umbrella and stall.
studios were competitors to each other in their home
country (like in India) but projected Korea as a major
outsourcing hub (unlike in India). This ensured that
Korea as a country had a better chance of grabbing business
than any other individual entity working in isolation.
nascent Indian animation market must find ways to move
up the value chain and get out of the current mindset
by adopting a three-pronged strategy:
1. Original character development and storylines for
the significant domestic and cross-cultural audiences
2. Moving on to 3D/digital graphics, flash-and-live
action animation and taking on the resultant high-end
outsourcing work available from US studios as they themselves
quite clearly look to pare costs. This can be made possible
by a distributed workflow model, which in turn has been
made possible by common hardware, database systems,
tools and off-the-shelf software suite, enabling artists
scattered across the world to send in scene files and
have them rendered into finished frames centrally.
3. International co-production, whilst an emerging option
for sharing risks and resources, is not a particularly
new idea. It is in an experimental stage even for the
mature Indian film industry. What co-production and
owning intellectual property rights does to companies
is to leverage alternative revenue streams and footprints
that come with the turf terrestrial, video/CD
releases, print, merchandising, licensing, first-run
cable and theatrical rights. This will provide the necessary
commercial environment for development of character,
experimentation and even co-production.
is in these areas that tomorrow''s opportunities lie
and where India can become the ''most preferred'' offshore
facility for such type of high-end/high value
work. These strategies quite clearly will put them on
a path of achieving a critical mass that has eluded
them so far something which just 2D outsourcing
will never be able to put it in the big league. There
are companies in India that can ramp up and manage from
10 to 100 people in a month and to 1,000 in six months
for the right kind and size of a project, but, alas,
such projects continue to be the exception rather than
somehow, several TV channels have stepped in and provided
the much-needed fillip to the struggling industry by
running local animation fare. Even global and domestic
brands like Asianet, ESPN-Star, Sony Max, Discovery,
Nickelodeon and TNT Cartoon Channel have found ready
acceptance of local animation fare among their respective
target audiences (Tenali Ram, Hanuman, Pandava).
International''s Cartoon Channel is currently telecasting
episodes of Adventures of Chota Birbal while
a mainstream entertainment channel has commissioned
Bheema Kheema, India''s first 52-episode series
for children to be aired from mid-February 2004.
the US, the biggest market in the world, a recent partnership
between IT giant IBM and independent producers for CG
feature film production, economics of scale and size
and workstation technology will radically alter the
dynamics of the animation market yet again. And it is
true that mega-size projects ($60 million-plus) and
revenues determine who does what work where.
is no secret that Pixar''s (one of the few independent
computer-animation companies) five animated full-length
feature films have earned it more than $2 billion from
worldwide box office. And sample this. The ''hit'' of
tomorrow (Foodfight, produced by Larry Kasanoff,
TDRL, involving 138 speaking ''main'' characters, 6,254
''secondary'' characters, 174 sets that include 5,000
''buildings'' and 12,000 lights) was ''filmed'' in the garages
of Santa Monica and in the by-lanes of Taipei and Mumbai
(and not in the backlots of Shanghai and Hollywood)
at half the cost of a typical Pixar full-length CG feature